From The Editor: how climate change is impacting our food systems

We need to change how we produce, process, and consume our foods

Unpredictable weather patterns are affecting crop yields. (pxfuel)

Unpredictable weather patterns are affecting crop yields. (pxfuel)

In 2020, between 720 and 811 million people went without an adequate amount of food. By 2050, the world will have to find a way to feed two billion more, as climate change poses a consequential threat to our food systems.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its AR6 report on the current and future state of the climate crisis. The 3,900-page report revealed that increasing warming levels and extreme heat, which we have recently experienced, will exceed critical thresholds for health and agriculture.

Because of the unpredictable weather patterns, like too much rain or snow, droughts, and high winds, farmers are finding new ways to sustain their farms as climate change impacts the food supply. One of those ways is by investing in smart farming equipment. 

Smart farming equipment can improve the efficiency of a farm and promote sustainability. 

“Farms that decide to be technology-driven in some way, show valuable advantages, such [as] saving money and work, having an increased production or a reduction of costs with minimal effort, and producing quality food with more environmentally friendly practices,” reads a report by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. 

Still, these farming technologies are vulnerable to getting hacked, which can cause financial loss if data is leaked. “An attacker can suspend the activities of the installed smart farming network,” reads a report on sensors by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute. Other forms of attacks could lead to fraud and destruction. 

But, no matter what kind of technology a farmer could have, climate change is already making it difficult for some foods to grow. A few of those foods include scallops, sardines, almonds, wine grapes, corn, rice, coffee, and oysters.

The danger to our food system doesn’t stop there. Deforestation, overgrazing, and agrochemicals assist in the climate crisis by causing soil degradation, which leads to the displacement of animals such as wild bees, which are now considered endangered.

Wild bees are essential for crop pollination and diversity by fertilizing plants so they can produce fruits and vegetables. If they go extinct, it will destroy ecosystems and greatly affect our food supply. 

With farmers struggling to keep up with the changing climate and wild bees slowly disappearing from many agricultural sites, our food production will become more expensive, and that could lead to more people struggling to put food on their table. 

COVID-19 has also added another layer of stress by leaving many individuals jobless and food insecure. Around 660 million people could still face hunger by 2030, due to the lasting effects of the pandemic, according to an article by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 

Similarly, access to healthy diets is out of reach for 3 billion people due to the rising cost of organic and healthy produce. 

Unlike underdeveloped nations that experience food insecurity, developed countries are food secure but experience overconsumption

Overconsumption is also dangerous because it produces food waste that is harmful to the environment and leads to health concerns because it causes many individuals to become overweight, commonly resulting in heart disease. 

If climate change is affecting our food system, perhaps we need to change how we eat.  Typical diets consist of fat, sugar, and salt. Most of the fat comes from animals, which produce high greenhouse gas emissions from meat production. 

About  “75 per cent of the world’s food is generated from only 12 plants and five animal species,” according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. And almost half of our calories, 40 per cent, come from three staple crops: rice, wheat, and maize. Rice and maize are two of the foods that are currently impacted by climate change.

An alternative to meat production could be insect farming. It’s sustainable, doesn’t produce as much greenhouse gas emission, and its vertical farming reduces land use. 

It isn’t too late to save our food systems from the impacts of the climate crisis. By 2050, most developed nations might not feel food insecure, but underdeveloped countries will keep on struggling until there is nothing left for them. 

To make sure the climate crisis doesn’t continue to impact our food systems, we need to eliminate overconsumption and experiment with new foods that reduce greenhouse gas emissions to keep on feeding our growing population.