The climate change and food security effect

Climate change and food insecurity are both global issues that are deeply intertwined. Because of that, their solutions must go hand in hand.

Global food supply

We often talk about food security—the reliable access to healthy food that results in positive short and long-term health and nutritional outcomes. But food security is not just about individuals, it’s also about our collective future. In a broader sense, global food security refers to our ability to grow enough food to feed, well, everyone. Currently, the world produces enough food for the global population, but not everyone has equal access to food, due to systemic factors such as income inequality and political conflicts.

Climate change and food security

Besides geographic and economic inequality, there is another looming threat to our global food security: the climate crisis. Climate change affects our agricultural system in many ways and threatens to cause significant decreases in vital crop yields. A warming climate increases the risk of heat stress, which causes plants to conserve their energy and nutrients rather than use them to grow and reproduce. Hotter temperatures also increase evaporation from both plants and the soil, negatively impacting the moisture content in plants and decreasing crop yields. 

Another key aspect of climate change is increased intensity and variability of extreme weather. Drought poses major risks as rising temperatures cause soil to dry out, and there is less rain when it is most needed. More extreme precipitation patterns also result in more intense and frequent flooding in certain regions, which can destroy crops and devastate farming communities, while changing seasonal patterns will disrupt agricultural cycles. In addition to weather changes, sea level rise will contaminate coastal freshwater aquifers with salt water, affecting agricultural production in those regions.

Climate-minded solutions

There are many solutions offered up to address the impending impacts of climate change on global food production. They range from technological fixes, such as genetically engineering crops for increased yields, to ideas like regenerative agriculture, which aims to restore soil for better agricultural production and healthier ecosystems. These and other solutions should be diligently researched as we prepare for the effects of climate change. 

But, there’s another simple solution right in front of us—reducing food waste. We already produce enough food for everyone, much of the food supply ends up in landfills. In the United States, an estimated 38% of food produced is wasted.  Upstream gaps in harvesting, storing, transporting, and purchasing of food can cause food to be wasted. However, a greater share of food waste actually occurs downstream, at the consumer level, meaning we must change our habits in addition to looking at the larger food system. Food waste itself decays very quickly and making more of the surplus food available would not only improve food security, it would also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, thus lessening agriculture’s own contribution to the climate crisis. 

It’s important to note that food waste looks different in different parts of the world. In the Global North, or “developed” countries, food waste primarily occurs at the consumer and retail stage. However, in the Global South, or “developing” countries, food is mostly wasted at the harvest and storage stages. Effective solutions must match the needs of each region, including education about food waste and expanding infrastructure to keep food fresh and redistribute surplus. 

We also need to recognize that food is a basic human right and continue to work towards equitable access to enough nutritious food for all people, no matter their nationality, race, gender, age, sexuality, gender identity, ability, or refugee status. Mitigating food waste will make more food available, but it will not guarantee that it is equitably distributed. To do that, we must continue to fight for food justice, and Share The Abundance™ that is around us. You can take action to support our efforts by donating your fruit or funds, or by volunteering with us!