Climate change, according to new Curtin University research, will have a significant impact on global food production and health of consumers, food industries, governments, and international bodies do nothing.
The researchers completed a comprehensive 12-month review of published literature on climate change, healthy diet, and actions needed to improve nutrition and health around the world, which was published in one of the highest-ranking public health journals, the Annual Review of Public Health.
According to lead researcher John Curtin Distinguished Emeritus Professor Colin Binns of Curtin University’s Curtin School of Population Health, climate change has had a negative impact on health and food production for the past 50 years and far more needs to be done to overcome its negative effects.
New research has found climate change will have a substantial impact on global food production and health if no action is taken by consumers, food industries, government, and international bodies.
“The combination of climate change and nutritional quality is the major public health challenge of this decade, if not the century. Despite positive advances in global nutrition rates, we continue to face the ongoing threat of climate change to our global food supply, with Sub-Saharan Africa and parts of Asia being particularly vulnerable “According to Professor Binns.
Every day, far too many men and women around the world struggle to provide a nutritious meal for their children. In a world where enough food is produced to feed everyone, 690 million people still go to bed hungry every night. In 2019, 135 million people in 55 countries experienced acute food insecurity. Even more people – one in every three – are malnourished. One of the most pressing issues of our time is the abolition of hunger and malnutrition. Not only do the consequences of insufficient – or incorrect – food cause suffering and poor health, but they also stymie progress in many other areas of development, such as education and employment.
“For the time being, it will be possible to produce enough food to maintain adequate intakes through improved farming practices and technology, as well as greater equity in distribution, but we estimate that by 2050, global food production will need to increase by 50% to overcome current shortages and meet the needs of the growing population.”
“Our review suggests that following necessary dietary guidelines and choosing foods with low environmental impacts, such as fish, whole grain cereals, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, berries, and olive oil, would improve health, help reduce greenhouse gases, and meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which in turn would improve future food production levels.”
Over the last 15 years, there has been a significant increase in understanding of the impact of climate change on hunger. Initial studies1 concluded that increased heat and water stress would reduce wheat, rice, and maize yields the most in developing countries, with yield losses ranging from 9% to 11%. Global price increases were projected to range from 25% to 150 percent, with a corresponding increase in hunger estimated to range from 10% to 60%.
Climate change has had a significant impact on food security, particularly in terms of calorie availability and the increase in the number of malnourished children. Climate change will have an impact on child malnutrition as a result of its effects on food production, prices, and consumption. The greatest impact is expected in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of malnourished children is expected to rise by 10 million (26 percent) by 2050 compared to a no-climate-change scenario. Climate change is expected to increase the number of malnourished children by 24 million (21 percent) globally by 2050 when compared to the no-climate-change case.
While climate change will have a significant impact on food supply, Professor Binns believes that political commitment and substantial investment can help to mitigate the effects and provide the foods required to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
“To meet the proposed dietary guidelines, some changes to food production will be required, as will monitoring of nutrient content and more equitable distribution. It was also critical to increase breastfeeding rates in order to improve infant and adult health while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions and benefiting the environment “According to Professor Binns. “Continuous research will be critical in assessing the long-term effects of climate change on food supply and health in order to adequately prepare for the future.”