Harvard] It is the year 2080. As climate change continues, unhindered by weak regulations and international disagreement, temperatures have risen several degrees Fahrenheit. In tropical and arid areas, water is in short supply. In other parts of the world, heavy rainfall causes devastating floods. The rate of extreme weather events has increased — catastrophic natural disasters seem to be almost a normal part of life. Food insecurity has soared; advances against hunger in developing countries have been all but erased. Yet the United States and Europe are growing richer: an increase in temperature has spurred crop growth in their temperate regions, and yields are rising. Developing countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are forced to rely on developed countries, which have little incentive to reduce their own emissions, for aid. As international inequity grows, so do political tensions.
Consider another case. It is the year 2080. Concerned about the
effects of climate change, governments of developing countries, assisted
by international committees, have incorporated climate considerations
into national policy. Food producers, from major corporations to family
farms, have adapted to changing conditions with improved packaging,
diversification, and transportation. Trade has kept food prices
relatively stable, and Aid for Trade programs have helped boost
economies while regulating carbon emissions. Developed countries,
recognizing both the benefits of these policies and their own
vulnerability to climate change, have made a commitment to cooperation.
While 2080 does not look like 2016, international trade, foreign aid,
and bilateral and multilateral partnerships have helped the world escape
the most devastating effects of climate change.
Neither of these scenarios is likely to occur exactly as described; the
future may fall somewhere between them. However, climate change will
almost certainly have significant effects on global food production. The
most detrimental impacts will occur in developing countries, as a
result of their economic reliance on climate-sensitive sectors, limited
capacity to respond to changes, and geographic conditions, which will
worsen inequality. Meanwhile, in temperate areas of developed countries,
food yields could actually increase in the short term. However, climate
effects will reduce the quality and safety of food in these areas.
Adaptive measures will be difficult and costly, requiring significant
international financing and a cohesive global plan. Ultimately, though,
if nations recognize the possible consequences and their own stakes in
changing them, these measures have the potential to successfully
mitigate the effects of climate change.
According to the International Food and Agricultural Trade Policy
Council (IPC), climate change has five major consequences that
universally alter food production. The magnitude of these consequences
can vary with location; some negatively impact the availability of food,
while others can actually increase crop yields, despite their
detrimental effects on other aspects of life. First, climate change
causes changes in temperature, which in turn affects plants, animals,
pests, and the water supply in a variety of ways. Second, changes in
precipitation patterns also affect the water supply, which then alters
plant growth. Third, increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide directly
affect crop yields as well; carbon dioxide acts as fertilizer,
increasing the productivity of some plants, but also allowing weeds to
grow more quickly. Fourth, climate change leads to extreme weather,
which can have catastrophic consequences for agriculture and
transportation systems. Finally, a rising sea level can lead to flooding
and reduce the availability of arable land.
As a result, according to the 2014 National Climate Assessment,
climate change will likely have a major impact on international markets
and food prices. Climate change increases variability in crop and
livestock yields because it leads to extreme weather and alters
precipitation patterns. In turn, this causes uncertainty in production
totals, which can affect domestic and international markets. Global food
prices decreased steadily throughout the second half of the twentieth
century, but they have been increasing since 2000, according to the 2015
Food Security Assessment of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).
This increase can be partially attributed to the detrimental effects of
and the uncertainty caused by climate change. Read More