This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 12th (it came out in 2015), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

If you are a user of my textbook and would like to suggest a blog post idea, please email me at: john.weeks@sdsu.edu

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Climate Change LIkely to Lower Food Supply

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is working on its latest report, to be published in March. However, a blogster apparently opposed to the work of the IPCC has obtained and leaked a copy of the current draft, according to the New York Times. The news is not good, whether or not you like the IPCC. 
Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.
In a departure from an earlier assessment, the scientists concluded that rising temperatures will have some beneficial effects on crops in some places, but that globally they will make it harder for crops to thrive — perhaps reducing production over all by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century, compared with what it would be without climate change.
Here are the key numbers: (1) "global warming could reduce agricultural production by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century;" and (2) "...demand is expected to rise as much as 14 percent each decade...as the world population is projected to grow to 9.6 billion in 2050, from 7.2 billion today, according to the United Nations, and as many of those people in developing countries acquire the money to eat richer diets."

Obviously, declining supply in the face of increasing demand is a recipe for disaster. Reducing emissions to try to limit the impact of climate change is already under way, although the US, in particular, has been dragging its feet on this. Improving food distribution systems is also a possibility, moving clearly away from the unrealistic notion that every nation must be food self-sufficient. And, the idea of a "richer diet" probably also needs to go into the scrap heap. What we need is a better diet, not a richer one. In particular, if meat were a declining share of diets we would help both the problems of agricultural productivity and climate change, as I've noted before.

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