quinta-feira, 5 de março de 2015

Climate Change Poses Serious Threats to Food Distribution

This story was produced in collaboration with the Food & Environment Reporting Network, an investigative journalism non-profit focusing on food, agriculture and environmental health.

By now there has been a steady stream of news about climate change’s impacts on food production. Heat waves, drought, and wildfire are damaging harvests in California, Australia and Brazil. Warming and acidifying oceans threaten seafood stocks. Rising temperatures are causing declines in crops as different as wheat and cherries, while extreme precipitation and floods have destroyed crops across the US and Europe. Increasing temperatures and CO2 levels are reducing the nutritional value of grasses and increasing heat stress, in the process impairing animals’ ability to produce eggs, meat, and milk.

At the same time, climate change is also beginning to disrupt another key aspect of food security: how food gets to market. The same effects that are hurting food production – storm surges, floods, and other extreme weather events all around the world – are also highlighting the vulnerability of food distribution systems that rely on long-distance transportation, centralized wholesale markets, and the often concentrated food production sources.

Farmers everywhere are getting used to the idea of a very different future as they deal with changing patterns of precipitation, temperature, and soil conditions. “Like a lot of growers, I was a little bit in denial, hoping the climate was not changing,” says Elizabeth Ryan, who owns and operates Breezy Hill Orchard, which grows apples in New York’s Hudson Valley. Now, she says, “we’re seeing acute weather swings” and “hail that used to be episodic and occasional is now frequent.”

That the US produces such a massive volume of food does not mean that food security here is invulnerable to climate change, says Diana Donlon, director of the non-profit Center for Food Safety’s Cool Foods Campaign. By way of proof, she points to huge losses that resulted when Hurricane Irene hit Vermont in 2011 and the epic 2013 floods in Colorado. Donlon also notes that in economically developing countries an estimated 40 percent of all food waste already occurs because of problems associated with getting food to market. Recent studies suggest that solving these distribution issues will be key to maintaining adequate food supplies as climate changes. According to Nevin Cohen, a professor of food policy at The New School in New York City: “The food system as a whole is being disrupted by climate change.”

Read story in full here.

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