How Climate Change Impacts Nutrition

How Climate Change May Impact Nutrition

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How Climate Change May Impact Your Nutrition

After years of decline, global undernourishment has risen two years in a row, affecting 821 million people in 2017 一 Is climate change to blame?

Changing Climate, Changing Food

In 2017, climate shocks* and extreme weather led to emergency-level food insecurity

Nearly 95 million people face both climate shocks AND crisis-level food insecurity

Due to climate-related food insecurity
29 million people needed humanitarian aid
3.9 million people needed urgent, life-saving assistance

By 2050, the effects of changing climate on our food system could cause
4.8 million more undernourished children
Skyrocketing food costs — Prices up to 84% higher
33% less food availability worldwide
70% higher food demand overall

An Unsustainable System

Our food systems are major sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
Food production and consumption causes 19-29% of GHG emissions

By 2050, GHG emissions from crops and livestock could grow by 32%
With more GHG in the atmosphere, fields are less productive
Higher temperatures slow plant growth
Extreme weather events decimate crops
Staple food crops become less nutritious when grown in high CO2 environments
Lower levels of iron, zinc, and protein

2 billion people are already facing nutrient deficiencies worldwide
Annually, 63 million years of life are lost to zinc and iron deficiencies, while low protein diets lead to far greater risk of heart disease

Struggling to Adapt

Vulnerable populations lack the resources to adapt to changing food systems

Infants: Undernourishment before age 2 can cause irreversible damage, including poor health, stunted growth and delayed development

Agricultural workers: As many as 122 million people could fall into poverty due to lower crop yields from climate shocks

People in poverty: Cannot spend more on food when prices skyrocket or nutritional value falls

Food insecurity, due to higher prices or less availability, leads to unhealthy eating
Stress and physiological damage leads to long-term disordered eating
Choosing cheaper, low-nutrient, high-calorie foods leads to more obesity

Non-communicable diseases become more common
Type 2 diabetes
Coronary heart disease
Some cancers

Ecological Disasters

Dust Bowl: 1930s
In the 1930s, farmers in the Great Plains faced the worst ecological disaster in U.S. history: drought, high winds, and deadly dust storms so severe that many abandoned their homes to seek work and safety

What caused the Dust Bowl?
Federal policies and rising prices encouraged over-farming
New technologies made plowing easier, leading to more soil erosion
In 1930, a shift in the jet stream caused years of intense drought

Impact on Nutrition

Breadlines and soup kitchens served millions
Many were hungry, but deadly disease was a greater concern
Processed food became common, replacing more nutritious fresh foods

El Niño, 2015-2016
The El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a climate phenomenon that affects temperatures and precipitation around the world
In 2015-2016 El Niño was one of the strongest events of the past 100 years
Record-breaking Extremes
Regional temperature anomalies
Extreme heat in some regions (e.g. Brazil)
Lower than normal temps others (e.g. Kenya)
Cyclones, flooding, severe droughts and extreme temperatures

Impact on Nutrition
Reduced food availability
Increased food prices
More people undernourished

Hurricane Florence, 2018
When Hurricane Florence hit North & South Carolina, it devastated local agriculture
Killed an estimated:
3.4 million chickens and turkeys
5,500 hogs

Cotton, sweet potato, peanut and tobacco crops
Flooding breached toxic sites
Municipal landfills
Animal waste facilities
Coal ash pits

Climate change is already affecting production of wheat, rice, maize ㄧ Can we prevent another disaster?

Sustainable Solutions

Sustainable Farming
Today, U.S. federal crop insurance encourages farmers to continue planting on degraded land by offering payouts for below-average crop yields — Setting the scene for another Dust Bowl

Modern farming practices that expose carbon in the soil to air, creating CO2
Overuse of chemicals
Excessive tilling
Use of heavy machinery

Practices that would increase soil productivity and reduce CO2
Cover cropping or crop rotation to rebuild soil fertility
Planting trees and cover crops to reduce soil erosion
Reducing or eliminating tilling, to keep carbon locked into the soil
Farmers should switch to more nutrient-dense, climate-resistant crops

Creates new crop strains with added nutrients
Achieved through selectively breeding or genetic modifications
Seed testing can help select the best varieties for planting

The food of the future? Jackfruit
Nutrient-dense, starchy tree fruit
Heat, drought, and pest resistant
Rich in potassium, calcium, and iron

Sustainable Diets
For the average adult, switching to a healthy, balanced diet would reduce their GHG footprint by 17% — Cutting down on processed snacks and animal products would reduce emissions by 40%

Reduce GHG Emissions
By 2050, Dietary changes could reduce per person GHG emissions
Mediterranean: 30%
Pescetarian: 45%
Vegetarian: 55%

Better Health Outcomes
Switching to a Mediterranean, Pescetarian, or Vegetarian diet reduces mortality rates by up to 18%

Reduces risk of:
Type II Diabetes: up to 41%
Cancer: up to 13%
Death from coronary heart disease: up to 26%

Simple changes can make a big impact on our planet and your health

How Climate Change May Impact Nutrition