Will Climate Change Cause Food Sources to Dwindle?

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Climate Change

Record-breaking floodwaters engulfed the plains of Nebraska in March. As-yet-untold crops, livestock, and farmlands were lost in the disaster. The Nebraska Department of Agriculture estimates that the value of the lost crops and livestock will surpass $800 million.

Nebraska’s main crops include cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat, and dry beans. The state’s estimate of losses does not include the cost of lost livelihood to the many farmers who don’t know when they will be able to farm their land again.

While the floodwaters in the Plains have begun to recede, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns that historic, widespread flooding, worsened by above-average snowfall and spring rain, will continue through May.

The heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods that have become the norm in recent years have serious implications for the food supply:

What to expect

  • Extreme heat, floods, and droughts can damage crops and make yields smaller.
  • Warmer winters cause premature budding that leads to crop loss.
  • Heat waves threaten livestock, too. Continued exposure to extreme heat can make animals more likely to get disease and cut fertility and milk production.
  • Specific crops face specific dangers. A new study, for example, has found that climate change has helped to spread a fungus that could destroy 80% of banana crops.
  • Higher rainfall from spikes in humidity in a warmer climate leads to loss of soil carbon, which is crucial for plants.

“We can expect to see more of this,” says Peter de Menocal, PhD, director of the Center for Climate and Life at Columbia University.

Experts appear certain these changes, if not addressed, will add up to less food and higher prices in U.S. grocery stores by the middle of this century. Some of the effects may begin soon or have already begun. But they are already affecting U.S. farmers, who have been forced to adapt to the new growing environment.

Changing weather has caused problems in other countries that have an effect on the U.S., too. A years-long drought in Syria that eventually caused that country’s agricultural industry to collapse was among the many things that sparked the civil war that began in 2011.

“Our ability to grow food is not unlimited,” says Lewis Ziska, PhD, a plant physiologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). “The one issue that I probably have the most concern about is the issue of food security and its role in the destabilization of countries around the world.” Read article Here WebMd


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