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.