Ask Ignacio: The Future of Food

Spring 2013

"Will climate change really change the way I eat?"
-Nowhereman

Not to get all gloom and doom, but climate change is upon us. Among the medley of things that await us is less food security.

So let's break it down.

The global average temperature increased by more than .7 °C over the last century. This depends on the latitude; the average temperature in the Arctic rose by almost twice as much. But it doesn't stop there!!! Add in the changing precipitation patterns, a rise in sea level, ocean acidification, and melting glaciers and you have a disaster about to happen.

How does this affect our food?

First, let's examine what is needed to grow food. Crops require land, water, and nutrients. Compromising any of these affects food output. Well fancy that! Climate change will affect access to land, water, and some nutrients.

Fortunately, American food production will actually be fairly stable until 2050, at which point California will be hit hard with reductions in wheat, tomato, rice, and cotton yields of about 10-30%. You might be thinking, "we can handle that," until you learn that about 20% of our food is actually imported.

This will be a worldwide problem. It will affect every continent.

On the other side of the world, Australia faces severe droughts.

At 1 °C of warming, Australia will suffer reduced rainfall in the eastern hills, leading to a 15% drop in the adjacent grasslands. This would reduce the average weight of cattle by 12%, significantly reducing beef supply, and dairy cows would produce 30% less milk.

At 2 °C of warming, livestock numbers would decrease by 40%.

As temperatures in Australia are projected to rise by 5 °C within 60 years, the total future losses are difficult to calculate but will surely be devastating.

Keeping it real.

Honestly, I don't like scare tactics. I did just make it sound like this scary domino effect will encompass the world, but I just want you to think about this.

Don't worry, it's not like wheat will become extinct in the next generation. We won't be giving up on agriculture any time soon. Long before extinction, what will happen when our crop yields decrease?

Ding! Ding! Ding! That's right, with decreased supply and the increased demand of the growing population the price goes UP!

Accounting for inflation, the world market export prices of corn, wheat, and rice will increase by, 177%, 120%, and 107%, respectively by 2030.

Boom! Right in the wallet.

If you want to challenge Ignacio, writer of the world famous Ask Ignacio column, come to Earth Fest. I will be manning the Future of Food tables. I invite all challengers.

Strength and Honor,
Ignacio