Climate change is upon us, there is no doubt about it. Although there are still some skeptics, who desperately try to deny it, the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is rising rapidly, increasing the average temperatures, increasing the severity and frequency of natural disasters and affecting species distribution and abundance.
One particular system, which is both directly and indirectly affected by the raise in temperatures, is agriculture. It deserves special attention, on one hand because agricultural practices as we know them have been developed for tens of thousands of years, but on the other hand, because functioning agricultural system prevents food supplies from going scarce.
A recently published book by Lester Brown entitled “Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Scarcity”, and chapter 8 in particular, discusses exactly the influence of rising temperatures on food availability and prices.
The author provides substantial evidence to how each of the world’s agriculture will be affected as temperatures increase. Dehydration of plants, and consequently pollination and reduced photosynthesis, are the immediate and direct effects as a result of climate change. At the same time, reduction in the size of glaciers and ice melt, which sustains rivers, affects the irrigation systems, increasing further the thread on agriculture.
Brown gives examples from various parts of the world, showing how increased droughts, heat waves, wild fires and glacier melts affect communities. He is certain that economic instability is inevitable. With more and more agricultural land becoming unusable, and with projections of global population to hit 10 billion in 2050, the world’s food supplies might no longer be even close to sufficient.
Let’s hope that burning of oil, coal and natural gas is soon put to an end and the projected rise of 6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century does not come true. Else, modern society is very unlikely to be able to ensure global food security.