Researchers from Oxford University’s Oxford Martin Future of Food Program have projected the effects of climate change on the global food supply to see how these changes may impact health and mortality rates around the world. The study, published on Wednesday in the Lancet, has shown that by 2050 an extra half a million deaths may be caused by changes to our diet due to the impacts of climate change. How? Because fruit and vegetable production will be hindered due to lower crop yields, causing a 3.2% loss in food availability to the average person. The lower crop yields will be as a result of changing weather patterns, increased droughts and an increase in severe weather events.
This change in food production will mainly impact south and eastern Asia, yet richer nations will also be affected. A reduction in red meat production is also expected to occur (0.9%) which is predicted to reduce deaths, but this is far outweighed by the amount of deaths that will occur due to people being malnourished and underweight. Not only this, but a change in food availability is also expected to increase the occurrence of life-threatening conditions such as cancer, strokes and heart disease according to Dr Springmann.
As well as this, the reduced production will lead to an increased demand, which the supply will not be able to meet, therefore food prices will be driven up. Many people may not be able to afford this rising price, and their health will therefore suffer as a consequence. This phenomenon will also be exacerbated by the increasing population size.
Climate change mitigation will be an important step in trying to prevent these unnecessary deaths from occurring, as well as trying to tackle the issue of food security and human health to try and deal with the changes that may occur in the future.