The global population is expected to increase to over 9.6 billion by 2050 according to the United Nations. With an increased number of mouths to feed, global demand for food could increase as much as 60 to 100 per cent. However, the impact of climate change (i.e., high temperature, drought, extreme weather, rising sea levels and increasing levels of carbon dioxide) is one of the biggest challenges that society faces today. More precisely, the issue of increasing agricultural output to meet the demand of feeding our growing population.
So, how does climate change affect our food system? Climate change causes a vicious circle, with the impacts on our ecosystems already observable around the world. Physicochemical changes impact the ecosystems, economy and agricultural sectors. Eventually, the availability and utilization of food and physical or economic access will all be affected.
The effects of climate change are already being experienced throughout the entire world, with varying degrees of severity and consequence.
Impacts of Climate change on food security and nutrition
Climate changes threaten food security and nutritional quality. The stability of the four dimensions of food security including physical availability, its use, its economic and physical accessibility have already seen long-term effects caused by climate change.
For instance, with saltwater and freshwater fishing at risk, the fishing industry is expected to experience significant disruption. Plus, a recent study shows that climate change will have a negative impact on the yield and nutritional quality of vegetables and legumes.
A transition based on the sustainable developments goal (i.e., “zero hunger”) is needed to preserve the environment and ensure food and nutritional security for society. Including production, conservation, and processing techniques that are compatible with constantly increasing demand for more sustainable production. With local and regional markets that are adaptable to the diversity of the food system.
Impacts of climate change on consumer behaviour toward food consumption
When it comes to sustainability, food consumption is always one of the main drivers of damaging environmental impacts. The current trends of food production and consumption are far away from reaching sustainability. However, the introduction of plant-based alternatives has influenced a trend in the food market. As issues of climate change are now being highlighted, the consumption patterns of consumers are slowly changing. An effective, environmentally friendly diet usually starts with eating less meat. A study shows that switching to an entirely plant-based diet reduces at least a ton of carbon dioxide annually. Also, larger reductions in meat consumption would equate to far less land use.
Another factor of concern is frozen food, which requires more energy during transportation and storage. Locally grown foods enable a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions that is omitted during the food transportation procedures. It could be said that climate change is starting to have a somewhat positive influence on the consumption behaviour of households, as people are becoming more cautious about climate issues.
Impact of climate change on food industries and production
To address the threats of climate change, not only must consumer behaviour change, but also food industries must improve and adapt their capacity to prevent climate change and its adverse effects.
More and more food companies like Mycorena AB are working on a more sustainable production process. Mycorena’s improved fungi production technology brings unparalleled advantages in the production of high-quality protein. The technology can be validated and run at a very small scale and produce up to several thousand tons per year. As opposed to traditional agriculture processes, fungal fermentation is independent of climate or geographic location and very robust to the type of nutrients used.
By using these production methods within the development of food, many future challenges presented by climate change, such as food and environmental security can be dealt with.
All in all, we must learn to improve and adapt the food supply system on a regional and global scale in a short amount of time. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and our impact upon the environment is tremendously important for the future of the planet.