Five Favorite Foods Threatened by Climate Change


Five Favorite Foods Threatened by Climate Change

by Irene V. Nemesio, Staff Contributor

Next week, millions of Americans will celebrate Thanksgiving by gathering around tables to feast from the most delectable of food dishes. But while you munch on your turkey leg this year, the delicious meat filling you with both nourishment and joy, consider this food for thought: climate change could limit the supply of some of your favorite foods, and not just the specialties you are enjoying on your Thanksgiving table, but those you consume daily.

Here is a preview of what climate change may have in store for some of our favorite foods:

(1) Chocolate

This week, the Washington Post reported that the world is now facing a chocolate shortage, which is expected to grow. Although the shortage is in part due to increasing demand around the world, it is also being caused by dry weather in West Africa, particularly in Ghana and Ivory Coast, which produces more than 70% of the world’s cocoa, according to the report.

According to a study by the International Center for Tropical Agriculture, the cocoa-growing topography in these areas will be very different by 2050. The study predicted that farmers in these regions could begin to see declines in cocoa production by 2030.

In sum, some have gone as far as predicting that chocolate will become just as rare and expensive as caviar.

(2) Coffee

Not only is your sweet tooth in trouble, but so is your morning wake-up routine. Americans drink an average of 3.1 cups of coffee a day, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. Meanwhile, climate change is threatening coffee crops in each of the world’s major coffee producing regions, says a report.

The report attributes the dramatic reduction in coffee supplies to “higher temperatures, long droughts punctuated by intense rainfall, more resilient pests and plant diseases,” all of which are associated with climate change.

Not only is the quantity of coffee crops decreasing because of climate change, but so is their quality. Another report explains that higher temperatures cause the coffee plant’s metabolism to race, leading to lower yields and “a failure to accumulate the right mix of aromatic volatile compounds that deliver coffee’s distinctive taste.”

The result? Climate change is leading to pricey, bad-tasting coffee.

(3) Beer and Wine

Grains and grapes are also at risk from climate change. According to a study, more frequent and severe droughts caused by climate change affect the quality of different grains, including the barley that goes into beer. Thus, scientists predict that people will have to pay more for the same quality of beer.

In another study, researchers forecasted sharp declines in wine production in wine production as a warming climate makes it more difficult to grow grapes in traditional wine-growing regions, such as the Bordeaux and Rhone regions in France, Tuscany in Italy, and Napa Valley in California. By 2050, California’s wine country is projected to shrink by 70 percent due to climate change.

So should beer and wine lovers brace themselves for the uncertain future of their favorite drinks? Potentially. Fortunately, alcoholic drink makers appear to be leading the way in devising technology to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

(4) Seafood

Climate change poses a huge threat to the oceans, trickling all the way down to your dinner plate. Climate change, according to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), produces a variety of negative impacts on the ocean, including stock displacement and shellfish mortality from acidic water. It has also affected the distribution and abundance of marine organisms, decreasing primary production by ten percent from 1998 to 2010.

(5) Meat

Americans consume more than 37 million tons of meat annually. Not only have researchers warned that eating meat contributes significantly to climate change, they have also established that climate change threatens livestock production.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, changes in climate can have a direct effect on animals. For example, heat waves, which are projected to become more severe due to global warming, can make livestock more vulnerable to disease, reduce fertility and reduce milk production. Furthermore, drought may threaten pasture and feed supplies, reducing the amount of quality forage available for grazing living stock.

The impact of climate change on our food supply may seem bleak. As we sit down for our Thanksgiving meals this year, these statistics will hopefully lead to a deeper gratitude for the bounty that many of us are fortunate enough to be able to enjoy today – as well as a gratitude that will motivate us to take more careful steps to preserve our fragile food system for the future.