Climate Change and Global Agriculture: A Vicious Circle of Cause and Effect

By Muhammad Hasnain Hasssim, age 10 and IndyKids staff

As Earth’s climate continues to change, with days getting hotter and drier, the resources we rely on most are in danger. A team of researchers from the Institute on the Environment at University of Minnesota discovered in 2019 that crops like rice and wheat are already declining. Worse yet, while the agricultural industry is negatively impacted by climate change, it is also responsible for producing 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. 

Changing and unpredictable weather patterns have already started affecting world food production. Rice provides more than 20% of the daily calories for 3.5 billion people, and the potato is the world’s third most important crop for human consumption. But some researchers estimate that global rice yields could drop by 11% and potatoes by 9% by 2050 if temperatures continue to rise. The loss of key foods like these could lead to famine, which could cause riots and civil unrest.

Emissions from farming machinery, animal waste and deforestation produce harmful gases like methane, CO2 and nitrous oxide. Almost all of the food we eat has to be produced, stored, processed, packaged, transported, prepared and then served. During each of these stages, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere. 

At Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization which attempts to tackle the cause and effects of hunger, they teach farmers climate-smart growing techniques. At their farmer field schools, farmers are able to experiment and practice their new skills on practice plots before applying it to their own land.

To feed the world’s population by 2050, farmers will have to grow 70% more food than what is currently produced. But they also need to adapt to our changing climate and try to find new methods of food production that are more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The industry now may have to focus more on resilient crops which can withstand the changing weather patterns, meaning consumers (us!) need to change, too.

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