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Climate Change Will Alter the Future of Our Food System

When people talk about climate change, they usually reference the recent changes in average temperature, precipitation, and frequency of natural disasters as a result of an abnormally rapid increase in the average temperature of the earth’s surface.

In Earth’s history, the climate has been recorded to warm and cool over time, but the current change is happening too quickly as a result of human activity, and we aren’t seeing enough cooling. The disastrous effects are already being felt worldwide and disproportionately impact communities of color. 

One human activity that is intertwined with climate change is farming. Humanity needs access to healthy foods, especially ones that aren’t contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals. But some conventional farming methods contribute to the greenhouse gas effect and, most significantly, are hindered by the effects of climate change, such as droughts, excessive rain, and extreme temperatures. 

While more warm weather in some places may sound like a good thing for agriculture, the negative impacts of climate change will outweigh any beneficial ones. Not only do some conventional farming practices contribute to climate change, but they also become less productive as the climate changes. More and stronger natural disasters, including droughts, floods, forest fires, and hurricanes, damage crops and reduce farmers’ ability to grow.

Changing growing seasons and habitat ranges make it harder to grow crops because specific climates are needed for certain crops. For example, in the United States extremes in precipitation through decreased freshwater supply in the southwest and increased flooding in the northeast threaten crop productivity. Indirect impacts make agricultural production even more difficult. Pests, diseases, and invasive plants will all increase in abundance. And an increase in temperature can only lead to a decrease in the quality and quantity of food produced. 

Changes in the ozone and an increase in greenhouse gases will continue to impact the future of our food systems. Food insecurity is a global problem that will be intensified as conventional farming becomes less productive. The supply chain is stressed, food availability will go down, and food will become more expensive, let alone there is a potential that an increase in pesticides and chemicals will be needed to keep produce and other foods healthy.

Current farming practices depend on reliable precipitation, predictable seasonal changes, and known temperatures and will have to adapt as global warming changes these previously reliable resources. One potential solution, vertical farming, eliminates the reliance on a variable climate by moving the agricultural production of specialty crops indoors. In order for us to stabilize our food supply, and have the ability to increase it as our population continues to grow, we need to invest more in more controlled ways to grow our food.