Tuck in now, everyone. The era of cheap food may come to an end within decades, thanks to the depredations of climate change.
US consumers face rising food prices in the next few months, because adrought in the Midwest has pushed up the cost of corn. But that is just a taste of things to come. A new report suggests that by 2050 many UK consumers will be unable to afford current staples like meat, – and the same pressures will apply globally.
Farmers around the world will face two challenges, both of which will drive up food prices, according to the report – What’s Cooking? Adaptation & mitigation in the UK food system. They will have to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions and at the same time cope with the consequences of the climate change that does occur such as more extreme weather events.
These two pressures will play out around the world, but the effect on the cost of food production may well differ from country to country, says Mirjam Röderat the University of Manchester, UK, who is one of the authors of the report. Other countries may rely less on imported food, or have more resources to help them adapt their food production infrastructure.
The report, which is based on Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change scenarios for the 21st century, suggests that rising prices may force UK consumers to cut their consumption of meat and dairy products by as much as 80 per cent by 2050. Cereal consumption could also fall 20 per cent.
However, governments may act before prices rise too sharply, says Andy Challinor at the University of Leeds, UK. If farming policies designed to tackle climate change drive up the cost of food enough to cause shortages in rich countries, governments might well abandon policies to cut agricultural emissions.