Climate Change and Food Crisis

Recent food shortages in Egypt, Haiti, Cameroon and Burkina Faso prompted the production of a series of videos addressing the issue and how climate change is also contributing to the problem. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has subsequently called for greater action to be taken by world leaders to address the risks of a food crisis as a result of climate change. While changing climate is a contributing factor to food shortages in developing nations, there are a number of other issues also involved.

Climate change is predicted to affect the agricultural industry by shifting weather patterns and the increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events. This will result in previous arable land becoming unsuitable for crop cultivation and the destruction of crops from flooding and other storm events. This will reduce the amount of edible crops produced, raising global prices, causing the world’s poorest inhabitants to struggle to feed themselves. However there are additional causes of food shortages faced by the planet’s developing countries.

The increase in biofuel production in recent years is a major factor of the food crisis being experienced by people living on or below the poverty line. Many developed nations have introduced legislation requiring fossil fuels to contain a percentage of biofuel for the use in automobiles. Producers of staple food crops such as maize and sugar cane receive a higher return from selling their crops to fuel companies. This has caused many farmers to produce crops for biofuel production rather than human consumption. In 2008, almost 100 million tonnes of grain was used to create biofuel; grain that could have been used to feed the world’s starving population.

While biofuel production presents a significant risk to the supply of edible crops to the developing nations, there is a greater threat causing food shortages. The world’s appetite for meat has grown alarming in recent decades, predominantly in the industrializing nations of China and India. The rapidly increasing middle class believe meat consumption is a sign of affluence which is fueling an alarming increase in demand for this commodity. The resulting pressure on grain supply comes from this inefficient way of producing food. It takes 8Kg of grain to produce 1Kg of beef, resulting in vast amounts of edible crops previously grown for humans being used to feed livestock. Developed nations are also responsible for the growth in meat consumption with an increase of 50% since the 1960s. To accommodate this demand over 760 million tonnes of grain were used in 2008 to feed animals.

In order to reduce the pressure on crops intended for human consumption, our demand for meat must be reduced. Many of the videos produced for this cause explain the value of becoming vegetarian or at least reducing our weekly intake of meat and meat products. In this way the likelihood of a food crisis for the planet’s poorest residents can be minimised.

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