By: Lauren Saccone
You might not be able to tell from the average American waistline, but global food supplies are in serious trouble of running low in the very near future. This apocalyptic bit of info comes via a leaked report from the United Nations, in which experts claim that within the next few decades world food supplies could deplete to critical levels. Such a turn of events would jack up the cost of the average meal to astronomical proportions and leave much of the world in dire straits.
What could bring about such a bleak (and hungry) future? The report, officially due out in March, points to global warming as the main culprit. The conclusion is a bit of a backtrack, as scientists originally believed that the increase in temperature could actually serve to benefit some crop production. Ultimately, though, it appears that the bad far outweighs the good. Heat waves have already begun to seriously impact crops in certain areas, and as temperatures rise worldwide the situation is only expected to get worse. The extreme weather and harsh conditions will wreak havoc on crops, reducing output by as much as 2% every ten years.
To make matters worse, world population is expected to continue to grow. A lot. By 2050, it's estimated that the world will support 9.6 billion people — a pretty dramatic leap from the current count of 7.2 billion. Even at current food production levels it would be tricky to keep everyone fed. With the potential decreases in global food supplies, malnutrition and starvation will become increasingly serious problems.
So does this mean we should panic? Should we be rushing to the store and filling bunkers with non-perishable foods? Not just yet; scientists have a few plans before we start treating refried beans like gold. The US Agency for International Development has put forth a challenge to the great minds of the world: solve the water problems that lead to these agricultural crises. This would have the additional benefit of dealing with the impending water shortage that will also be of great concern in coming years (doesn’t the future sound fun?). The winners of the challenge will receive up to $25 million in grants to put their plans into action.
Scientists have also pointed out that reducing emissions could help to diminish the negative impact of weather on crops. Although steps have been taken to improve emissions outputs across the world, they believe that a large and dramatic gesture must be made if we’re to have any positive impact on the climate — and our struggling food supplies.
But if worst comes to worst, we can always reexamine that idea about using bugs as a major food source.
[Pic via Flickr - Patrick Feller]