Global Warming : Threat To Food Security
In the first four years of this century, world grain production has fallen short of how much we consume as a global population, according to the Earth Policy Institute's paper entitled
"Outgrowing the Earth : The Food Security Challenge in an Age of Falling Water Tables and Rising Temperatures." Along with current trends towards scarcity, research now shows that even a one degree Celsius rise in average temperature will lead to ten per cent decline in wheat, rice and corn, three major staples of the modern diet. The fact that climatologists currently predict that temperatures will rise by several degrees this century is an incredibly damning one for our food supply. While many may not make the connection between climate change and food supply, it's an important one, because it directly affects whether or not humans as a species can survive.
Above: Wheat is among the crops aversely affected by rising temperatures.
Climate Change and Groundwater
Gas isn't the only essential power source that's running out. Even more threatening is the fact that underground
water reservoirs are being depleted. Considering that water is what gave us life in the first place, this is a chilling fact. Not only do we drink it, but we use it to grow the food we eat, a lack of water for farmers results in a lack of food for the rest of us. Seventy per cent of water use is put towards irrigation. Already in many places around the globe the demand for water is greater than the
sustainable yield of freshwater supplies (like aquifers and rivers). In the US, water tables are being depleted underneath the Great Plains and all over the southwest. India, and China are also suffering major water shortages, especially in the north of China, which is where most of their agricultural production takes place. Because of this, China's food supply is falling short, which means they'll be looking elsewhere for food and water supplies.
China: Population on the Brink
Recently China has become the globe's biggest importer of wheat, and will continue to import more as their population grows at an alarming rate. China already has 1.3 billion people to feed, and with a growth rate of 0.6% that means that in ten years if the current population growth rate persists China will have over 2 billion people. This is particularly frightening, especially combined with the fact that China's own levels of grain production have fallen consistently since 1998 and they are just now running out of massive government grain stores. Now that these government stores are gone, they are looking to the world market to feed their population. And wheat is not all they eat in China--there will also be rising Chinese demand on the international market for rice and corn. Because the Chinese represent a huge proportion of US trade, the Americans won't be able to put up barriers to protect their
local markets as they have done in the past. This means that as food becomes more and more scarce, Americans will have to compete with the Chinese for their own foods. It's a dangerous situation we're in, and continuing to ignore the problem will only make it worse.
Scarcity on the Rise
The nature of food scarcity is generally cyclical. Impoverished countries don't have a strong enough local economy to support their people. People go hungry, and hungry people aren't productive, which makes for a weak economy. When people are poor, governments are afraid of taxing them for fear of revolt, but they need to collect taxes if they want to pay for universal health care and education. So with little social programming and education, it's virtually impossible to work your way out of poverty. Impoverished uneducated people have more children, because they don't have access to birth control methods, or because religion does not permit it. Stuck in the cycle,
huge populations grow in poverty.
China is not the only country with a population boom. Africa, India and many Southeast Asian countries are also booming. In fact, the whole world is booming. There has been more
growth in our world's population since 1950 than in the 4 million years previous. How is it then that we're going to continue to feed more and more people? Scarcity will continue to increase for all these vital crops because of both increasing demand and dropping crop yields caused by global warming. Our world economy is growing, but the Earth itself is not. We are now tapping into resources that will not be able to renew themselves if we continue to use them up so quickly. There is little promotion of sustainability in our economic system, and this needs to change, and soon.