The Effect of Climate Change on Food Security

“Food Insecurity and Climate Change.” Climate Change – Hunger Risk Multiplier, World Food Programme (WFP), awellfedworld.org/food-insecurity-climate-change/

To this day, more than 800 million people around the world do not get enough food to eat, some not even having any. In developing countries, nearly 75% of “poor” people live in rural areas, causing families to rely mainly on agriculture. On the other hand, food insecurity and malnutrition is still a growing urban issue. At this rate, the global population is set to reach 9 billion people by mid-century, and the global food demand is projected to increase by 70%, expressed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) projects.

What is Food Security & Food Insecurity?

“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life,” as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security. 

“Food insecurity is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food,” as defined by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This problem is often rooted in poverty, having long-term effects on the abilities of not only families, but as well as communities and countries, to continue to develop and prosper. Hunger results from food insecurity and is an individual-level physiological condition.

Environmental issues that continue to threaten and provide uncertain impacts on food security include:

  • Climate change
  • Rising global population
  • Rising food prices
  • Rising temperatures
  • Unsustainable farming practices

How is Climate Change Specifically Threatening Food Security?

Andrew J. Challinor et al., Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (New York: IPCC, 2014), https://www.ipcc.ch/site/assets/uploads/2018/02/WGIIAR5-Chap7_FINAL.pdf.

Climate change is affecting all four dimensions of food security, which are food availability, food accessibility, food utilization, and food systems stability. Its impacts are both short term (more frequent and intense weather events) and long term (changing temperatures and precipitation patterns).

In order to identify the risks and adapt to climate change, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was founded in 1988. By releasing their assessment reports, they are able to assess all aspects of climate change and form strategies to mitigate its effects. One report from the IPCC’s Working Group II focused on “Food security and food production systems (Chapter 7).” “The questions for this chapter are how far climate and its change affect current food production systems and food security and the extent to which they will do so in the future,” as stated by the chapter authors. It detailed that climate change will increase the risk of reduced crop productivity associated with heat and drought stress and that the negative effect will likely be visible by 2030.

Climate change is also a hunger risk multiplier. It is projected that 20% more people are at risk of hunger by 2050 due to extreme weather events. The world’s most food-insecure populations are those disproportionately harmed by climate-related events, which include increased heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, tsunamis, and flooding. With more frequent extreme weather events, there will be immediate impacts on food production, food distribution infrastructure, the incidence of food emergencies, and the livelihood assets in both rural and urban areas. In retrospect, climate change’s impacts on agriculture, which varies by geography, threatens food security.

How Do We Strengthen Food Security & Fight Hunger?

The Future of Food and Farming: 2030. Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), http://www.elsevier.com/connect/how-will-climate-change-affect-food-security.

To address the issue of food insecurity, the root causes of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition need to be addressed as well. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) continues to scale up and produce comprehensive approaches to tackle this, such as:

  • Leading America’s Feed the Future Initiative – In collaboration with U.S. Government agencies and departments, the private sector, researchers and universities, etc., this is a way to strengthen agriculture-led growth, nutrition, and resilience.
  • Providing Emergency Food Assistance – Allows vulnerable and malnourished populations to bounce back in times of crisis and have a higher rate of survival.
  • Research Investments – Helps farmers in the United States and abroad to protect their harvests from pests and disease, leading to better and more crops.

“Unless immediate action is taken, it is increasingly clear that there is an impending global food security emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of adults and children,” said the UN secretary-general António Guterres. In 2016, the Global Food Security Act was enacted and in 2018, the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act was passed, which both solidifies the United States government’s ongoing commitment to reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty around the world. 

In order to feed the expected population by 2050, the world would have to double its current food production. Therefore, passing acts is not enough and we have to be more efficient in our strategies to meet these demands given the scarcity of natural resources and other challenges. Countries need to rethink their food systems and need to incorporate more sustainable farming processes. If we are able to find a way to align the short-term with the long-term, countries can provide and ensure that people have sufficient food.

Sources:

“Climate Change and Food Security: A Test of U.S. Leadership in a Fragile World.” Climate Change and Food Security: A Test of U.S. Leadership in a Fragile World | Center for Strategic and International Studies, CSIS Briefs, 15 Oct. 2019, www.csis.org/analysis/climate-change-and-food-security-test-us-leadership-fragile-world

“Food Security.” Ifpri.org, International Food Policy Research Institute, www.ifpri.org/topic/food-security.  

“Agriculture and Food Security.” U.S. Agency for International Development, 15 Apr. 2019, www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/agriculture-and-food-security.  

Christmas: A Revival

The holidays are here! Unfortunately, with it comes the chance to hurt the environment. This article shouldn’t be a slap on the wrist for all the mistakes done, but instead  an eye opener for all the things that can be done better for future holidays. With the majority of the population celebrating within the same 1-2 days, pollutants can quickly sneak up and rise to unhealthy amounts. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle and have an environmentally-friendly mindset, it is important to see what can be done better to improve the quality of life. Christmas is a great holiday to reinvent to lessen the carbon footprint that is being given off during this time. 

Every holiday, and especially major holidays, food waste is a big concern. With a big holiday like Christmas, food waste can bring major CO2 into the atmosphere. A study that was done in England reported that roughly “270,000tonnes of food [is] wasted in the UK each year” (Westwater, 2018) during the holiday season. This statistic includes seventy-four million mince pies, two million turkeys, and five million Christmas puddings. There is a lot to unpack from just this singular statistic.  From Eco-Youth’s previous article about Thanksgiving, it can be estimated that a regular 16 pound turkey can weigh 32 pounds. With just England alone, the two million turkeys would produce 64 million pounds of CO2. The puddings in England would produce roughly 7 million pounds of CO2. In England alone, an estimated 71 million pounds of CO2 is emitted just from Christmas, a 1-2 day holiday. 

BBC News. (2020). Bristol Waste says vast amounts of food waste are generated at Christmas [Photograph]. BBC. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-bristol-55386848

In America, the winter season is brutal when it comes to food waste. During this time of year “30 and 40 percent of the food supply goes to waste each year” (Russaw, 2019). This can prove to be detrimental to the environment and the surrounding landscapes. Given the fact that the United States is 40 times bigger than Britain, the 71 millions pounds of CO2 can be expected to be up to 40 times greater. There could be many reasons for this large food waste problem. Supermarkets during this time offer discounts that cause people to buy unnecessary foods that they don’t need. Christmas dinner being the star of this time of year tends to sway people to also overbuy on items in fear that there would be no variety for the dinner plate. These two trends, which often repeear during major holidays, are a great contribution to food waste. 

There can be many solutions to avoid this problem, but the main solution would be to save the leftovers! Freezing and refrigerating food is a great way to combat this issue because it lengthens the longevity of the food making it still edible for future days. Another great solution would be to compost the leftover food! Composting is great; it nourishes the soil and adds nutrients for plants to grow. Making sure excessive food doesn’t hit the landfill ensures that unneeded methane gas doesn’t go up into the atmosphere. 

Another huge problem concerning the environment and climate change is deforestation. With less and less trees, the earth is able to absorb less and less carbon dioxide which causes a ride in greenhouse gases. So, the natural choice for some people would be to opt for a fake Christmas tree. The advantages seem bluntly clear: less wood is cut down, the tree stays up and less pollution is emitted during the process. Besides, fake Christmas trees can last much longer than just one holiday season.  The Independent did an interview with Anne Mari Cobb, a certification officer at Soil Association Forestry, and she had some opposing views. She stated “‘Real Christmas trees are a renewable resource that doesn’t result in pollution, if responsibly recycled or disposed of’” (Barr, 2020). There is in fact truth in her statement.  A tree that is six feet and is properly disposed of (“burning it on a bonfire, planting it or having it chipped” (Barr, 2020)) is 7 pounds of CO2. Compared to one that isn’t properly disposed of, the CO2 emissions can go up to 16 pounds. A fake Christmas tree can have a footprint of up to 88 pounds of CO2. In order to fulfill the life of a properly disposed Christmas tree, the fake tree would need to be used for 12 years, and 6 years for an improperly disposed tree. The problem with this is that most fake trees do not fulfill the 12 years mark because the “average usable lifespan is six years” (Mitchell. 2019), but most are kept up to 10 years. The best part of growing natural trees is that “the process of growing a Christmas tree to optimum heights takes around eight to ten years” (Barr, 2020), so need for a fake tree is no longer needed because a new tree ready to be used is grown within the lifespan of one fake tree. Natural trees also have benefits that most fake trees do not have like a natural CO2 cycle within the home. The tree takes in the CO2 produced and expels O2. 

Even though a fake tree might seem like the logical approach, weighing out the pros and cons proves otherwise. Investing in a real tree can actually be more beneficial towards the planet than investing in a fake tree. With all things, try to locally source the tree so that the travel of the tree does not rack up any unneeded CO2. Buying a tree with roots rather than one that is cut from the stump can help reuse the tree annually (reducing the carbon emission even more!). People can also rent Christmas trees where trees are sourced locally from nurseries and return back to the nursery to live out the rest of its life. One company based in California called rentxmastree gives the citizens of California the option to rent a tree and return it back to its nursery after use. 

Flaccus, Gillian. (2018). In this November 2018 photo, Casey Grogan, owner of Silver Bells Tree Farm and president of the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Assosication, trims noble fir at his 400-acre Christmas tree farm in Silverton, Ore. [Photograph]. AZCentral. https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/politics/fact-check/2018/12/19/real-fake-christmas-trees-better-environment/1892885002/

The Holidays also bring about another environmental issue: overuse and waste of wrapping paper. There is a lot of wrapping paper used in the wrapping of presents (226,800 miles). This much wrapping paper equates to roughly “2.3 million pounds of plastic wrapping paper that is reported to end up there every year” (Haraczek, 2020). This could be fine if ALL the wrapping paper was just paper and completely degradable. However,  there was all sort of wrapping paper you could find in the store. Some have glitter, extra decorations, grooves, and other decorations that taint the paper with unnecessary chemicals. When this paper is thrown out in the regular garbage, it ends up in landfills while discharging harmful chemicals into the soil. Wrapping paper doesn’t have to end up in landfills and slowly harm  our environment. To add onto the hazards of wrapping, an experiment was conducted using an air quality tracker, Awair which proved that when gifts were unwrapped, VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) were released into the air making the air quality poor. The goal of this experiment proves that wrapping paper sold in stores can end up harming the environment by releasing toxins that end  and oneself while just existing and spreading joy. 

The harsh truth about the recycling process and wrapping paper is that not every center will accept them. So the best option would be to contact your local recycling center and make sure they accept what you need to be recycled. A test by Popular Science can help determine if a given wrapping paper is recyclable or not. All that needs to be done is “crinkle the paper up into a ball—if it stays that way when you let go, it’s fine to put in the recycle bin” (Haraczek, 2020). To every problem, there is a solution!

There can be great substitutes to use instead of using wrapping paper. These can include using gift bags instead of boxes and wrapping paper. The boxes that gifts come in are often thrown out, but by using a gift bag, it can be recycled for other gifts and future holidays. It is a cheaper and less pollutant option to wrapping paper. Another option is using newspapers and twine. This option is recyclable and biodegradable. Just remember to use hemp twine as it is biodegradable! A fabric bag is great to use and can even be used later as a regular bag to carry with you. Overall, the tip is to get creative with wrapping gifts and trying to stray away from commercially produced wrapping paper. A home wrapped option opens the door for creativity and the option to lessen your carbon footprint. 

The Pioneer Women (2020). [DIY wrapping paper with twine and winter scene painted on presents] [Photograph]. The Pioneer Women. https://www.thepioneerwoman.com/holidays-celebrations/gifts/g32703477/christmas-gift-wrapping-ideas/

Christmas can be seen as a time of joy and celebration, and it should be. In a time like this, however, it is important to also pay attention to common pollutants and try to minimize what we use. Big holidays like Christmas give consumers the chance to splurge and buy unnecessary things like food and excessive wrapping paper that might end up being not composted or not recycled. If given the chance, minimize how much of a product is being bought and also always check to see if it is environment friendly. Try to drift away from mass produced things and if given the chance, do some DIYs to help lessen the carbon footprint. 

From Eco-Youth to your family – Happy Holidays!

Works Cited

“74 Million Mince Pies Thrown Away Every Christmas.” Unilever UK & Ireland, http://www.unilever.co.uk/news/press-releases/2012/74-million-mince-pies-thrown-away-every-christmas.html.

“Are Artificial or Real Christmas Trees Better for the Environment?” The Independent, Independent Digital News and Media, 30 Nov. 2020, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/christmas/christmas-tree-real-living-artificial-plastic-environment-carbon-footprint-a9235551.html.

Awair. “Could Some Wrapping Paper Be Unhealthy for You?” Awair Blog, 14 Dec. 1970, blog.getawair.com/is-unwrapping-gifts-unhealthy.

“Calculating the Carbon Cost of Christmas – in Puddings!” University of York, http://www.york.ac.uk/news-and-events/news/2007/carbon-christmas/.

Horaczek, Stan. “2020 Is the Perfect Year to Quit Wrapping Paper.” Popular Science, http://www.popsci.com/story/diy/quit-wrapping-paper/.

“How Much Food Goes to Waste During Christmas, and How Can We Prevent It? – Respect Food.” Grundig – Respect Food, http://www.respectfood.com/article/how-much-food-goes-to-waste-during-christmas-and-how-can-we-prevent-it/.

“How to Solve Britain’s Overstuffed Christmas Food Waste Epidemic.” The Big Issue, 18 Dec. 2018, http://www.bigissue.com/latest/how-to-solve-britains-overstuffed-christmas-food-waste-epidemic/.

“Pricing out a Real vs Artificial Christmas Tree.” Old World Christmas, oldworldchristmas.com/blogs/the-yule-blog/pricing-out-a-real-vs-artificial-christmas-tree.

“Rent a Living Christmas Tree.” RentXmasTree.com | Rent a Living Christmas Tree, rentxmastree.com/.

Russaw, Jeanine Marie. “5 Ways to Reduce Food Waste This Holiday Season, According to the Experts.” Newsweek, Newsweek, 13 Dec. 2019, http://www.newsweek.com/stop-holiday-food-waste-tips-bea-johnson-1477037.