Climate change is steadily decreasing the reliability of food security in the 21st century. As scientists search for alternatives to fossil fuels, new research has focused on the advancement of biofuels as alternatives for petroleum. Emergent reliance on biofuel energy has spiked the prices of crops such as corn, with negative implications for people living in countries which are already suffering from hunger and high food prices. Tirado et al. (2010) discuss the several implications of food insecurity due to climate change and a growing economy for biofuel production which may result in severe malnourishment, hunger, and social unrest in the future of developing countries — Bailey Hedequist
Tirado, M.C., Cohen, M.J., Aberman, N., Meerman, J., Thompson, B., 2010. Addressing the challenges of climate change and biofuel production for food and nutrition security. Food Research International 43 1729–1744.
M.C. Tirado and colleagues at the University of California, Los Angeles conducted a cumulative study of the effects of climate change on food security. Several factors play into the increasing uncertainty of crop availability due to climate change, including elevated prices for food, amplified focus on biofuel technology and production, and changes in crop yield due to climatic factors and elevated atmospheric CO2. The authors discuss the many interconnected and complex issues surrounding the effects of climate change on food security, which will be amplified in developing countries whose economies depend on agribusiness. Populations are expected to suffer from health problems such as stunting, malnourishment, water contamination from crop run-off, and social unrest due to the direct and indirect effects of climate change on global agricultural economy.
The authors used the World Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO’s) four-dimensional food security framework to determine the effects of climate change on food security. The framework includes the following definitions of food and nutrition security as defined by the FAO: food availability, stability of food supply, access to adequate quantities and varieties of safe, good quality food, and food safety and nutrition. The study approached food insecurity from a human rights standpoint based on international human rights principles, and including womens’ rights related to food insecurity. Terminology of food insecurity (malnutrition, undernourishment, stunting, etc.) used to describe public health was also gathered through the FAO. Poor health conditions are expected to escalate as drought, natural disasters, and temperatures become more frequent with climate change.
Ecosystem changes will significantly impact access to healthy food and water, especially in poor countries. Sea-level rise will result in frequent flooding, most likely to result in the contamination of food and water from chemical contaminants such as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POP’s) and dioxins. Global temperature rise has different effects on crops depending on region, and studies have shown that changes in atmospheric CO2 may benefit crop yield in certain areas. However, warming as high as 3°C has negative effects on crop yield in all regions, namely in dry and tropical environments. Decreased access to healthy foods due to climate change is expected to result in several different health conditions including malnourishment, stunting, low birth weight (LBW) babies, and increased infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Additionally, biofuel production increases the chances of risk for health problems related to food security. Demand for ethanol and biodiesel has resulted in the spike of food prices and further decreased availability of foods used in the production of biofuels. Poor communities are expected to face greater challenges accessing crops which are used for biofuels, resulting in substitutes which are higher in starch and are more likely to be processed. Consequences include low amounts of caloric intake, subsequently effecting weight loss, nutrition, cognitive development in children, and adequate nutrient levels. An expanding market for biofuels is also projected to decrease the availability of safe drinking water due to irrigation demands during droughts and chemical run-off related to crops.