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Global Nutrition After Climate Change

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Climate Change

After years of decline, global undernourishment has risen in the last two. Environmental damage from irresponsible agriculture standards and climate change are hurting our nutrition by hitting it at the source – our farmland. Climate shocks or natural disasters linked to climate change, like droughts, floods, hurricanes, and heat waves were responsible for emergency-level food insecurity. For the 821 million people already living with undernourishment, 95 million of them also face regular climate shocks on top of hunger. Because of massive climate-related food insecurity levels, 29 million people needed humanitarian aid with many of them requiring urgent and life-saving assistance.

Climate Change Is Happening Fast

By 2050, the effects of climate change on our food systems could completely change the landscape of global nutrition. If current trends continue, 4.8 million more children could be chronically undernourished, food prices could skyrocket, and the very availability of food itself could drop drastically. Already the effects of climate change on our food systems are apparent; food production and consumption are responsible for 19%-29% of all greenhouse gas emissions. As a major source of GHG in the atmosphere, fields also become less productive and foods less nutritious. Lower levels of iron, zinc, and protein are seen in staple food crops that are grown in high CO2 environments. Extreme weather events, heat, in particular, slow plant growth and destroy existing crops. Vulnerable populations are most at risk for these negative effects, including children, impoverished communities and countries, and even the agricultural workers themselves. Our unsustainable food systems are slow to adapt and change, making it harder and harder for these vulnerable populations to keep up.

What Can Be Done?

Today, United States federal crop insurance actually encourages farmers to continue planting on degraded land. Offering payout incentives for the “below-average” crop yield, this irresponsible policy could be setting the scene for another Dust Bowl. Short-sighted policies like this paired with excessive land tilling, overuse of chemical pesticides and herbicides and use of heavy machinery on farmland exposes carbon in the soil to the air, creating CO2. Large scale changes coming from agriculture practices and policies could do a lot to respond to the effects of climate change on farmland. Cover cropping and crop rotation help rebuild soil fertility to ensure its integrity for the future. Planting extra trees especially around farmland reduces soil erosion and reducing excessive tilling keep carbon locked into the soil. On an individual level, small changes can not only help reduce one’s carbon footprint but also help on the front of global undernutrition. For the average adult, switching to a healthier balanced diet by cutting down on processed foods and meats, could reduce their GHG footprint by 17%.

We human beings have only ourselves to blame for the effects of climate change, and it’s up to us to adapt and make positive changes that not only save our planet but save our health as well. Take a look at this infographic for more detail on the state of climate change, the resulting extreme weather events on our rapidly depleting farmlands, and how changes both big and small can reverse the course we’ve set ourselves on to ensure a healthy and hunger-free future.

Climate Change

Brian Wallace is the Founder and President of NowSourcing, an industry leading infographic design agency , based in Louisville, KY and Cincinnati, OH which works with companies that range from startups to Fortune 500s. Brian also runs #LinkedInLocal events nationwide, hosts the Next Action Podcast, and has been named a Google Small Business Advisor for 2016-present and joined the SXSW Advisory Board in 2019. Follow Brian Wallace on LinkedIn as well as Twitter.

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