Vegetable sources of protein will not fare much better. Soybeans have great difficulty withstanding higher temperatures. Even heartier crops, such as millet, lentils and cowpea"the poor man's meat"can wither under too much heat stress.
Higher temperatures and unpredictable rainfall impact more than just crop yields. These changes also alter the underlying ecosystems that support agriculture. Freshwater resources, already strained is several regions across the globe, will become even less reliable as rain becomes less predictable.
"Ecosystem changes due to climate change may spawn shifts in the intensity of pests and diseases, including potato blight and beetles, that will further limit food production. Indeed, even if crops could withstand increased temperatures and decreased rainfall, their yields could drop because of these scourges," said Philip Thornton, the author of Recalibrating Food Production and a theme leader at CCAFS.
Climate impacts beyond the farm
The impact of climate change also hits before and after harvest. Every step of the food chainfrom the seed to the farm to the cooking potis at risk. Increased temperatures and flooding, which exacerbate challenges to food storage and distribution, may cause more outbreaks of food-borne illnesses. This spread of diarrheal diseases, which already kill 1.9 million people a year, and livestock-related diseases, which include zoonoses, infectious diseases transmitted from livestock and other animals to humans, will hit the poor in low-income countries hardest.
"So far, the climate change discussion has focused on the need to reduce emissions and sustainably boost crop yields, but it is crucial also to include food safety in our foresight and planning," said Vermeulen.
As farmers and food producers adapt and recalibrate their responses to climate change and its many challenges, the culture of food
|Contact: Dan Klotz