Climate change is changing the way we live, slowly but surely. It is affecting our health and causing largely irreparable damage to our planet. One such area that is starting to feel the weight of rising temperatures and erratic weather patterns is our food supply.
The weather continues to change more and more as each year passes, and as such, the conditions in which crops need to grow are no longer optimal. This, coupled with events like droughts and heatwaves, makes it hard for crops like coffee beans, peanuts and maple sap to be produced in large amounts.
Here are just a handful of foods that at risk of going extinct due to climate change.
We’d say “get that bread” but, uh, maybe you shouldn’t due to the following news. It turns out wheat is threatened by both drought and rising carbon dioxide levels.
In fact, even if we manage to stop global temperatures from rising two degrees, wheat-growing areas affected by drought will still double in the next 20-50 years.
As for carbon dioxide? The rising levels of it could end up stripping significant amounts of nutrients from wheat. And it could affect other plants, including barley, potatoes and rice.
Health nuts — pun intended (and yes, we know it’s technically a seed) — start mourning. It turns out almonds are at risk of going extinct. Why?
Because 80% of the world’s almonds are actually grown in California, which regularly faces water shortages and droughts. And you know what almond crops need to go? A ridiculous amount of water.
Not only is it the shortage of rainfall affecting them, but the lack of snowmelt also affects them too. It turns out California farmers rely on snowmelt from the Sierra Nevada mountains, which flows into the state’s irrigation canals. Less snow, which melts earlier (climate change), less water. In turn, thirsty crops suffer.
This is another crop that’s particularly vulnerable to drought (see a theme here?). Droughts can decimate half a crop of chickpeas, while disease can wipe out an entire crop.
It’s not all bad for this source of protein — which apparently, 20% of the world relies on as a primary source.
Researchers are hoping to breed a plant that’s more resistant to the outcomes of climate change — drought, extreme heat — by collecting seeds and DNA from wild chickpeas in Turkey and Kurdistan. Our current domesticated chickpeas are not up to task.
If you haven’t been put off of seafood from the Seaspiracy documentary on Netflix, maybe this news will be the one to do it.
Scallops are at risk because of rising carbon dioxide levels — yep, just like wheat. This time, it’s because CO2 increases the oceans’ acidity. And when the ocean is more acidic, the number of carbonate ions in water declines — and this is what scallops use to construct their protective layers.
Without this ability to build their shells, they either die or grow more slowly — the latter which puts them at increased vulnerability of predators.
Apparently, the population of scallops could decline 50% in the next few decades because of ocean acidification, according to one report.
Another staple in people’s diets that’s at threat. Rice is in fact a staple for more than half the world’s population, it’s fundamental to global food security.
Rice crops thrive in wetlands, so it’s particularly susceptible to droughts, and unpredictable rainfall.
It’s also incredibly susceptible to rising sea levels —in Bangladesh, it’s already impossibe to cultivate rice fields due to coastal flooding salting the earth. One study states that 200,000 coastal farmers will be forced out, all due to rising tides over the next 120 years.
Say it ain’t so. The world’s favourite morning beverage (11 million people drink it in Australia alone) is in danger of extinction. Climate change is interfering with the production of the two most common coffee beans we drink, says the University of Queensland.
Of the 124 wild varieties of coffee beans we use worldwide, UK researchers said that 60% of those are in danger of vanishing for good. This is down to high temperatures and shifting weather, which according to The Guardian, has resulted in “coffee rust” — a fungus that has become the norm on coffee plantations and reduces the yield of beans on trees.
While the quantity of coffee beans is dwindling due to climate change, so is the quality of the beans, says Robert Henry, a plant geneticist at the University of Queensland.
“It’s going to have to be a fair effort to try and keep up the supply of good quality coffee,” Professor Henry said. “Certainly some of the wild relatives might offer us options for breeding some of those in the future.”
Another blow, we know. Rising temperatures and dwindling water supplies in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire (where more than half of the world’s cocoa beans are sourced) will lead to a decline in bean production by 2030, says a study by the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).
“There will be areas that remain suitable for cocoa, but only when the farmers adapt their agronomic management to the new conditions the area will experience. There will also be areas where suitability of cocoa increases,” the study said. “Climate change brings not only bad news but also a lot of potential opportunities. The winners will be those who are prepared for change and know how to adapt.”
— Wine Grapes
If you thought the news about coffee was bad, this is arguably even worse. Warming temperatures and fluctuating moisture levels have the potential to hit winegrowers in Europe, Australia, North America and South Africa hard, says The Guardian.
According to a 2013 study, Australia would most likely suffer the worst under these “major global geographic shifts” which could see 73% of the land become unsuitable for growing grapes by 2050, which drastically reduces the output of wine worldwide.
A team of scientists led by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research developed a computer simulation to determine how crops would fare as temperatures rise. According to researchers, if emissions aren’t significantly reduced in the coming years, soybean crops could see a 40% reduction.
“We know from observations that high temperatures can harm crops, but now we have a much better understanding of the processes,” said Bernhard Schauberger, lead author of the study. “The computer simulations that we do are based on robust knowledge from physics, chemistry, biology; on a lot of data and elaborate algorithms.”
— Maple Syrup
Forget maple syrup-soaked pancakes because climate change is interfering with the Canadian condiment. According to Business Insider, maple syrup production relies on the weather. Sap is produced when the temperature rises above freezing during the day and drops below at night.
The temperature change is important for the production of maple sap but is being affected by rising temperatures. In the United States, the USDA has developed the Climate Change Tree Atlas that maps which maple trees are likely to lose habitat as it gets warmer.
“While maple trees won’t necessarily vanish from the landscape, there could be fewer trees that are more stressed, further reducing maple syrup availability,” says the USDA.
Sad news for peanut butter devotees. Peanuts need a pretty stable environment to flourish and grow and with unstable temperatures brought on by climate change, this can affect the growing process. According to Business Insider, too much rain and peanuts can grow mouldy. Too little rain, on the other hand, and they simply won’t germinate.
In the United States, peanuts are mostly grown in the southern states, which are susceptible to both heatwaves and droughts. In 2011, farmers in the US produced roughly 1.8 tons of peanuts — a 13% decline from the year before thanks to a dry summer which affected the peanuts ability to germinate properly.