By 2050, the world’s population is expected to reach over 9 billion – that’s a lot of mouths to feed.
World hunger statistics are jarring and within just these few decades it is predicted to only get worse. To top things off, add 4.8 million more children suffering from chronic hunger. But if this our future, then what does our present look like? After years of steady decline, global undernourishment has actually risen in the last two years. After a deeper look, what we find points us in the direction of climate change.
Today, 95 million people face both climate shocks or extreme weather events resulting from climate change, and crisis-level food insecurity. Communities in developing countries are hit hardest and climate-related food insecurities lead to the need for humanitarian aid for almost 29 million people.
Taking a hard look at our food systems aren’t exactly easy; after all, we need food to survive and a massive overhaul of production practices could be tricky. Nevertheless, new and sustainable farming methods will have to be developed to combat a future of world hunger, confront climate change, and keep us nourished.
Food production and consumption causes anywhere from 19%-29% of all greenhouse gas emissions, and by 2050 these emissions from crops and livestock could grow by 32%. Greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are a big player when it comes to climate change, contributing to highly destructive and highly unpredictable weather events that devastate precious farmland and kill existing crops – but it doesn’t end there.
With more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, fields actually become less productive both in yield and quality of crops. Our staple crops like rice and wheat show lowered nutritional value when grown in high CO2 environments, including reduced levels of iron, zinc, and protein content. Affecting the two billion people already living with nutrient deficiencies, the risks for vulnerable populations only continues to grow.
With Starvation Comes Infection
Today, world hunger starves around 821 million people and is, unfortunately, continuing to grow. As climate change evolves and our food systems struggle to adapt, it’s the people that eventually begin to suffer. People already living in poverty cannot necessarily afford to “make up the difference” in changing nutritional value of staple foods by simply buying more of it. What results are high levels of food insecurity, disordered eating, and the difficult choice of purchasing cheaper, low-nutritional, high-calorie foods. For impoverished communities in particular, non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even some cancers are becoming more and more common.
With children, some of the highest demographic affected by undernourishment, the risks are even greater; poor nutrition before the age of two can cause irreversible damage including stunted growth, delayed development, and chronic, lifelong poor health. Even agricultural workers themselves are under pressure; as many as 122 million people are at risk of falling into poverty as a result of low crop yields, climate shocks, and other environmental factors, contenting a vicious cycle of under-nutrition and poverty from unsustainable farming.
Reducing the Death Sentence
Climate change effectively means a death sentence not only for our planet, but for humankind as well. Getting control of our food systems will not only help stem the tide of climate change’s destruction, but will also help maintain the nutritional integrity of our food, feed undernourished populations, and end world hunger.
From updating unsustainable farming policies to looking at our own eating habits, every person can play a part in caring for our earth and caring for one another. This infographic details the current state of our farming systems, our global food consumption, and what changes need to happen now to build a healthy and well-fed future for all.