Food production and climate change

A modelling study published in  The Lancet says that there could be 314 000–736 000 climate related deaths in the world by 2050 due to the effects of climate change on food production.

Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change: a modelling study

One of the most important consequences of climate change could be its effects on agriculture. Although much research has focused on questions of food security, less has been devoted to assessing the wider health impacts of future changes in agricultural production.

In this modelling study, we estimate excess mortality attributable to agriculturally mediated changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors by cause of death for 155 world regions in the year 2050.

  • The health effects of climate change from changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors could be substantial, and exceed other climate-related health impacts that have been estimated.
  • Climate change mitigation could prevent many climate-related deaths.
  • Strengthening of public health programmes aimed at preventing and treating diet and weight-related risk factors could be a suitable climate change adaptation strategy.

The model projects that by 2050, climate change will lead to per-person reductions of 3·2% (SD 0·4%) in global food availability, 4·0% (0·7%) in fruit and vegetable consumption, and 0·7% (0·1%) in red meat consumption.

These changes will be associated with 529 000 climate-related deaths worldwide (95% CI 314 000–736 000), representing a 28% (95% CI 26–33) reduction in the number of deaths that would be avoided because of changes in dietary and weight-related risk factors between 2010 and 2050.

Twice as many climate-related deaths were associated with reductions in fruit and vegetable consumption than with climate-related increases in the prevalence of underweight, and most climate-related deaths were projected to occur in south and east Asia.

Adoption of climate-stabilisation pathways would reduce the number of climate-related deaths by 29–71%, depending on their stringency.

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This map shows that climate related deaths may reduce in some countries but increase, in some cases substantially, in most countries.

The biggest potential problems are in China, Russia and south east Asia.

New Zealand is shown as being at risk of a moderate increase which is odd, because of the huge amount of food production here over what the country’s consumption requires.

Lower production would mean less exports but enough for us?

But if there are world food shortages then higher demand will mean higher prices for export, making food less affordable in New Zealand.

What the report doesn’t say in it’s summary is what the risks of war due to food shortages could be. That would be difficult to predict and can’t really be modelled.