Climate change has been judged for years as the greatest threat to global health. Beyond natural catastrophes and fast spreading diseases, climate change is now to blame for hurting the global food production and supply. A new study, conducted by several health and nutrition specialists, published in the journal The Lancet, issues the frightening warning that the effects of climate change on global food supply could lead to more than 500,000 deaths by 2050. Such research builds on previous studies that focus on the impact of global disasters on global crop production, such as this one published in the science journal Nature.
Richard Choularton of the United Nations World Food Program says that “it’s not just about getting enough calories. Calories aren’t good enough without micronutrients. Cognitive and physical development depend on eating the right things.” But the “right” things will become less and less available, researchers find. In fact, by 2050, the consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are vital in curbing heart disease, strokes and diet-related cancers, will decline by up to 4%.
The study also confirms previous research on the matter, according to which deaths by undernutrition are most likely to occur in Southeast Asia and Africa now as well as in the coming decades. As food grows scarce and its prices increase overall, of course the poor are going to be most affected.
The research featured in the The Lancet concludes that “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”.
Therefore, the authors call for measures to be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (invoking the Paris Agreement). What’s more, addressing food waste — a practice specific to many developed countries like the U.S., who tend to throw away half their usable food — could also help address the prospect of increased malnutrition, according to the same study.