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CLEO’s 2018 ECCC Symposium Panel

How vulnerable are we? Impacts of Climate of water, food & health.

Impacts of Climate Change in Food Systems & How Food impacts Climate Change

  • Food and agriculture are significant contributors to and heavily impacted by climate change:

  • Food production generates up to 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and accounts for substantial proportions of land-use change and global water consumption.

Humans waste about ⅓ of the food we produce for consumption or 1.3 billion tons! According to FAO, if Food Waste were to be a country, it would be the 3rd largest greenhouse emitter in the world after China and the US.

The overall impact of climate change on agriculture & food systems is expected to be negative, reducing food supplies and raising food prices.

  • Global and national modelling studies suggest that yields of major cereals will decline under scenarios of increased temperature, especially in tropical countries. Many regions already suffering from high rates of hunger and food insecurity, including parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, are predicted to experience the greatest declines in food production.

  • Elevated levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) are also expected to lower levels of zinc, iron, and other important nutrients in crops.

  • Changes in rainfall patterns- from flooding and drought- threatens our farmers were both extremes can destroy crops. Flooding washes away fertile topsoil that farmers depend on for productivity.

  • Certain species of weeds, insects, and other pests benefit from higher temperatures and elevated CO2. Just like with vector-borne diseases, like Zika, shifting climates also mean agricultural pests can expand to new areas where farmers hadn’t previously dealt with them.

  • Rising sea levels, meanwhile, heighten flood dangers for coastal farms, and increase saltwater intrusion into coastal freshwater aquifers—making those water sources too salty for irrigation.

  • Biodiversity loss, including of critical crop pollinators, and loss of soil quality will both have substantial impacts on global fruit and vegetable supply and thereby on population health.

Diets and consumption patterns affect climate change. As countries develop, diets tend to change in ways that negatively affect both the environment and health. Reducing meat consumption could reduce emissions substantially. And the right diet changes could positively impact not just climate change, but also health. There’s no question that the responsibility for eating lower on the food chain falls heavily on countries like the U.S. with the highest per capita consumption of meat and dairy but in a changing-warming world where water scarcity threatens the world to continue its present agricultural growth, and agricultural land faces pressure with infrastructure development and with protected areas can our planet sustain the 9 billion mouths is bound to have in 2050, just 32 years from now?

Questions to the panel:

  • Please weigh in on the facts and our current food systems state with regards to climate change impacts? How vulnerable are we? What are the current projections telling us?

  • Can we have feed a growing world population and meet the climate goals?

  • Are we seeing climate change impacts at a local level here in South Florida? Give us examples

  • What are the opportunities at a local policy level? What can be done that we are not currently doing?

  • What can we do as citizens?

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