Friday, August 09, 2019

Climate Change: Don't starve

Since scientists started studying climate change, they have warned that it will reduce food production. And now, its happening:

The climate crisis is damaging the ability of the land to sustain humanity, with cascading risks becoming increasingly severe as global temperatures rise, according to a landmark UN report compiled by some of the world’s top scientists.

Global heating is increasing droughts, soil erosion and wildfires while diminishing crop yields in the tropics and thawing permafrost near the poles, says the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Further heating will lead to unprecedented climate conditions at lower latitudes, with potential growth in hunger, migration and conflict and increased damage to the great northern forests.

Our food crops require a specific environmental range - so much moisture, this much heat. Outside that range, they produce less, or just die. And our CO2 emissions are taking the climate in our food-growing regions further and further outside that range. Ironicly, a lot of those emissions are driven by food production itself - deforestation to clear land for agriculture, nitrous oxide from fertiliser, methane from cows and rice paddies. But regardless of the source, the net result is the same: an increased risk of famine, and all the associated disruption it causes.

Somewhat predictably, the media is focusing on the recommendation that rich, western consumers with choices eat a bit less meat - something which is neither particularly hard, nor the end of the world, but which has an outsized impact on emissions and heating. But that's not enough. Food production is responsible for between 23 and 37% of global emissions, and food is essential, so we can only reduce those emissions so far. Avoiding a collapse in global food supplies means solving the climate crisis, which in turn requires the rapid decarbonisation of the economy while planting forests to offset (and ultimately draw down) what we can't cut. And that requires policy change on a national and international level. So the most important individual action you can take is to vote for that change, and to vote out politicians, parties, and governments who oppose it.