Food production accounts for up to 29 per cent of man-made greenhouse gases, twice the amount the United Nations has estimated comes from farming, a study published on Wednesday said…
“The world’s agricultural systems face an uphill struggle in feeding a projected nine to ten billion people by 2050. Climate change introduces a significant hurdle in this struggle,” it said. The world population is now just above seven billion. The study also said that global warming, blamed by a U.N. panel of climate experts mainly on the burning of fossil fuels, meant risks to food production far beyond fields.
“Every step of the food chain — from the seed to the farm to the cooking pot — is at risk,” it said. Higher temperatures or floods could make it harder to store and transport food, for instance, meaning more outbreaks of food-borne illnesses.
Two companion pieces were just released. The first was an article entitled, “Climate Change and Food Systems,” which describes widespread global calamities on the entire food system — loss of crop yields, pests and diseases, lower food quality and genetic diversity, poorer food safety, reduced food security, more animal diseases, declines in fishery catches, increases in foodborne diseases and multiple affects on the storage, processing, transport and sale of foods — all due to climate change.
Food systems contribute 19%–29% of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, releasing 9,800–16,900 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2008…. The impacts of global climate change on food systems are expected to be widespread, complex, geographically and temporally variable, and profoundly influenced by socioeconomic conditions. Historical statistical studies and integrated assessment models provide evidence that climate change will affect agricultural yields and earnings, food prices, reliability of delivery, food quality, and, notably, food safety.
Coordinated actions are required for climate change adaptation and mitigation in food systems. Improved food security under climate change requires policies and actions both to make food systems more resilient to climatic variability and change and to mitigate GHG emissions and other climate forcing…
[For] both adaptation and mitigation, specific technical and policy interventions must be situated within a broader holistic approach to agricultural and food system management. For instance, net mitigation effects only occur if greater on-farm efficiency does not displace emissions to other parts of the landscape or food chain. Likewise, mitigation and adaptation actions need to be balanced against other environmental and social services, such as water-use efficiency or equitable access to wild resources held in common property.
In a second publication, a call to action, the CGIAR and CCAFS released a policy brief, Recalibrating Food Production in the Developing World: Global Warming Will Change More Than Just the Climate. Its key message is that the world’s agricultural system faces a significant hurdle to feed a projected 9 to 10 billion people by 2050. It claims that climate change, increases in pestilence and disease, and continued global deforestation will necessitate a “complete recalibration” of food crop production, and substituting lifestock and fish with different plants, breeds and species. It warns that the changes necessary around the world to adapt to climate change “will eventually extend beyond what is grown and raised” to what is on dinner tables.
The brief concluded with global recommendations issued by the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change:
- Financing initiatives to help agricultural production systems become more resilient to weather variability and shocks, while contributing significantly to mitigating climate change. This includes supporting national climate risk assessments and developing mitigation and adaptation strategies.
- Reshaping food access and consumption patterns to …foster healthy and sustainable eating patterns worldwide, and then promoting these changes through innovative education and outreach campaigns.
- Significantly raising the level of global investment in sustainable agriculture and food systems….
- Developing specific programs and policies to assist populations and sectors that are most vulnerable to climate changes and food insecurity…
- Establishing robust emergency food reserves and a financing capacity that can deliver rapid humanitarian responses to vulnerable populations threatened by food crises.