The Sustainable Consumption Institute research claims food which families now take for granted, such as meat and fresh vegetables, could become too expensive for many if global temperatures rise in line with the current trends and reach 4⁰C within the lifetime of many people. Even if families continue to take steps to lower their carbon emissions from energy use, global farming emissions will continue to rise because of our growing appetite for energy-intensive foods and a rising demand to meet just basic living standards across the world. This is new finding by University of Manchester.
The report warns that we have a good chance of minimising the harmful effects of global warming only by reducing consumption of energy, food, goods and services. Consumers could find their shopping habits are radically altered if the temperature should rise above 2⁰C. Most meats would soar in price, meaning families could have to adapt to a meat-free diets, the possibility of failing crops and staple food sources such as rice and wheat. Rice crops, for example, could be reduced by about 30% in the subcontinent in a 4⁰C world, leading to potential food shortages and hunger.
The researchers calculated the emissions of all goods consumed in the UK; including foods produced overseas but eaten there. Most models only include goods produced in the UK, reducing the levels of emissions recorded.
Many climate experts believe a slight rise in UK temperatures would be beneficial for the farming industry as it yields could increase. However, as temperatures continue to rise, farmers would need to use more and more fertiliser on their crops and some livestock would not be as productive. Both would lead to a further rise in greenhouse gas emissions as well as polluting the crops with more and more fertilisers and pesticides.
In countries like the UK, policymakers have focused so much on the CO2 emissions linked to energy, that agriculture and food has been overlooked. This report shows that agricultural emissions will be more challenging to cut, placing even greater pressure on the energy sector to decarbonise according to Dr Alice Bows from The University of Manchester.
It is absolutely essential for scientists and decision makers to see the bigger picture. The consumption patterns need to become more sustainable. This is a challenge that the food industry can and should play a key leading role in. Regardless, the findings of the report are an essential insight for business.
Featured image credit: Chillymanjaro/TW
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