Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of clay Magazine or TPS.
According to reports released by a United Nations panel, a food crisis resulting from climate change, could be closer than we think. Reporter Denise Chow writes, “If climate change is left unchecked, rising temperatures, extreme weather, and land degradation could trigger a global food crisis” (MACH). However, it is more than just the change in the temperature that could lead to such extreme events.
The change in climate, whether it is a natural occurrence or caused by man, has led to extreme weather events and patterns. Studies have proven that as the temperature of the earth rises, more intense downpours during storms and extended extreme heatwaves are occurring. Recently, scientists have observed that the earth’s climate has increased about 2 degrees Celsius overall. Rosamond Naylor, the Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, addressed the severity of this increase by saying, “In the past, bad weather in one area has been compensated by perhaps better weather in another, but some of our research has shown that as we move toward 2 degrees Celsius of warming, the probability of major cereal producers facing synchronous shocks in the same season goes way up” (Naylor). For example, the record-breaking heatwave that Europe experienced this summer has resulted in a decrease in the production of grains by farmers in France. As the grain production diminishes, so too does the production of cereal throughout the European Union. What is seen here is a domino effect of sorts; as the earth warms up, even by as little as 2 degrees Celsius, weather patterns become more erratic. If heat waves become more severe and heavy rain patterns occur frequently, weeds and pathogens reproduce more quickly than pesticides can control.
Furthermore, the relationship between agriculture and the environment is a tricky one. Although agriculture could majorly suffer from climate change in the future, agriculture itself is responsible for roughly 13% of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. Forests are being clear-cut to make space for agricultural development, which is problematic because trees naturally absorb and store carbon dioxide. This is called deforestation and has been a growing problem in South America, particularly in Brazil as it contains the Amazon Rainforest (NASA.gov). On the other hand, many conservationists believe that problems resulting from climate change can be remedied by human behavior. For example, Pamela McElwee, associate professor at Rutgers University, believes that conservation efforts are not quite enough to solve the solution. Reducing food waste, factory chemical pollution, and automobile emissions may help reduce the rate of climate change according to some scientists. James Gerber, a lead scientist at the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota, believes that if people eat just a tiny bit less red meat, they can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which is when carbon dioxide and other gases create a blanket effect over the earth that prevents gases from escaping. This results in the earth growing warmer. What does your burger have to do with it? When farmland is used to grow cattle and other animals for consumption, much more acreage and feed is required than for vegetables. The extra acreage results in more deforestation to make space for farmlands. Additionally, farm animals such as cows produce methane gas as a by-product of their feed, which some scientists believe contributes to climate change via the greenhouse gas effect.
Although much of climate change is a natural occurrence, whether it be the earth’s natural cycle, or from solar influences, climate change is not solely the fault and responsibility of humans. We are called to care for the earth and everything in it. Genesis 1:26 states, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ ” Clearly, God expects his people to be conscientious stewards over the care of His creation, so it is our responsibility to use earth’s resources wisely.
Chow, D. (2019, August 8). Climate change could trigger a global food crisis, new U.N. report says. Retrieved from https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/news/climate-change-could-trigger-global-food-crisis-new-u-n-ncna1040236
Clark, D. (2012, September 19). How will climate change affect food production? Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/sep/19/climate-change-affect-food-production
Dunbar, B. (2016, April 21). Landsat Top 10: International Deforestation Patterns in Tropical Rainforests. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/landsat/news/40th-top10-amazon.html