Food Supply and Climate Change

Food Supply and Climate Change 

What are You Putting on Your Plate?

We had the hottest July this year on record for Europe, the effect of climate change and our actions. Often we hear of train delays and cancellations due to soaring temperatures or flooding. Such unprecedented weather conditions such as soaring temperatures, flooding, wildfires and storms are attributed to climate change caused by global warming. Food supply and consumption is one piece of the whole pie of actions that cause global warming

The 2015 Paris agreement by world leaders endeavour to keep global warming to "well below" 2 degree Celsius, compared with pre-industrial levels; reduce carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 in order to mitigate the 1.5 to 2 degree rise in global temp, and to zero by 2050.

Cutting carbon emissions from only cars, factories and power plants are doomed to failure, according to  (IPCC) report. More needs to be done and consistently, if we are to reach the target of zero by 2050. There needs to be a transformation in the way the world produces food and manages land.

Not only have our food production methods caused climate change, this potent causal relationship also means climate change itself has threatened the world’s food supply! The report details how climate change is already threatening food and water supplies for humans: turning arable land to desert; degrading soil; and increasing the threat of droughts, floods and other extreme weather that can wreak havoc on crops.

It makes clear that although fossil fuel-burning power plants and automobile tailpipes are the largest drivers of climate change, activities such as agriculture and forestry account for an estimated 23 percent of total human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the IPCC report:

  • Another 0.5° C warming 10 and 30 years from now could see food chains disrupted because a “high” risk of thawing permafrost, wildfire damage and unstable food supplies. And global warming by another 1.0° C in the next 50 years will cause the likelihood of those risks being “very high.”
  • Up to 30% of all food produced is lost or wasted.
  • Agriculture and forestry account for 23% of the heat-trapping gases that are warming the earth, and this figure rises to 37% once packaging, transporting food and energy consumption is taken into account.
  • Experiments show some crops such as wheat suffered a 6%-13% drop in protein in high CO2 environments. Earth’s landmasses, which make up 30% of the globe, are heating up twice as fast as the planet overall. While carbon dioxide, a major heat-trapping gas, is helping to make plants grow and become greener it also reduces nutritional value in some crops including wheat.

Tacking the problem requires big changes not only in the ways we grow food, raise livestock and manage forests but also in our eating habits.

The IPCC report detailed systematic global programme involving a radical transformation of large swaths of land currently used to produce food to be converted to growing trees that store carbon and crops designated for energy use.

The challenge is managing the trade-off of encouraging reforestation with reduction in farming and feeding a growing global population.

If there is a silver lining in such a daunting challenge, it is the fact that forests and farms play a key role as "carbon sinks" that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, but that benefit will continue only if humans use land in sustainable ways. Better land and soil management can help improve food security through improved farming practices, including better-targeted fertilizer and no-till agriculture called 'wilding the farms'. 

The good news is that the effects carried out so far have produced some positive results. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report preliminary data shows a reduction by 1% in carbon emission in 2019.    

On the individual level, we need to get engaged.

  1. So what are you putting on your plate?

Do you know that a single cow can belch up to 500 litres of methane every day? Multiply that by the 1.5 billion cattle we have on our planet and that's a lot of gas. And it has a vast environmental impact because methane is 25 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide

Try one meal a day – one meal without meat!

Eating less red meat and more plant-based food stores up to 15% more of current CO2 emissions by 2050.

  1. Reduce food waste. Food waste that decomposes in landfills releases methane, a greenhouse gas that is at least 28 times more potent than carbon dioxide.  Cutting down of food waste can also free up millions of square miles of land.  
  1. Be more aware your food packaging; whether it is food from the grocery or takeaway.  Element packaging is home compostable, compostable and biodegradable, putting back into nature, locked in the soil what is taken from it.