Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions or Lose 18 Percent of Food by 2050, Warns New Study

If global greenhouse gas emissions aren’t curbed in the very immediate future, we could be looking at an 18 percent decrease in food production by 2050, finds a new study.

If steps are taken now to update infrastructure and irrigation systems, while also moving food production into different regions, the decrease could be averted, the study researchers explained.

Stress on our water systems is expected to be one of the biggest obstacles in farming in the not-so-distant future, particularly if climate change isn’t addressed. Water “may become dramatically scarcer much earlier than previously thought”, Michael Obersteiner, one of the study co-authors, said in a statement.

The study notes that areas where little agriculture has existed will need to be cultivated, and international food markets “will require closer integration to respond to global warming,” Reuters reported. The study authors note that food production in southern regions will likely become more difficult while rising temperatures will make farming conditions in the north more favorable for a variety of crops.

“If you don’t carefully plan (where to spend resources), you will get adaptation wrong,” David Leclere, one of the study’s authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Europe’s food production is expected to increase with rising temperatures, but across Africa, imports will become even more important to the continent.

Climate scientists have also been warning against high levels of meat and dairy consumption, particularly in developing nations. Livestock production contributes about 15 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Plants, on the other hand, can help to replace carbon in soil.

“If climate change is managed correctly, food production could even rise 3 percent by 2050,” Reuters explained, “as a higher concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has a fertilizing effect on plants.”

Despite the mounting evidence of climate change’s impact on the planet, Congress just told a panel of nutritionists that it can’t make dietary recommendations based on a food’s impact on the climate.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: ian sane