International Day of Climate Action – Oct 24

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Food and Farm (from

Food shortages and climate impacts

There is a growing movement around the world centered around the way food is grown and distributed. In many places, access to food is still a severe problem, and food costs are rising. Overall, the aggregate global price of food has doubled in real terms over the past eight years, while in many places, the workers with the lowest incomes are seeing those incomes fall. As if this weren’t enough, climate change impacts weather patterns, leading to increased rainfall in some places, and decreased rainfall in others. The African continent is especially harmed, and as drought impacts growing regions, farming and grazing for cattle and other animals compromises yet more peoples’ access to food.

Locally produced food as a solution

The concept of “food miles” and the carbon footprint of food is becoming more widely known. The basic concept is: as we have increasingly globalized our food supply, we use more petroleum flying food all over the world. Locally produced food doesn’t bring this problem, and it also provides many additional benefits. So what is local food, and why is it so great? Instead of going to the supermarket and buying food that comes from another country, your money helps support your local community, where it stays within the local tax base, and provides local jobs. All while helping to stop climate change.


Factory farms require huge carbon inputs and produce huge carbon outputs in the form of methane. It takes more than a calorie of fuel to produce every calorie we eat and, in industrial meat production, the ratio of calories-in to calories-out can be as high as 58:1. Eating livestock from your local community lessens this problem, but it still has a higher carbon output than a vegetarian diet.

Industrial agriculture

Growing commodity food on an industrial scale requires huge carbon inputs in the form of pesticides and fertilizers. Many fertilizers are petroleum-based. Small- and mid-scale diversified farms are actually carbon-negative: they store carbon in the soil.

Production of Corn-based ethanol

To quote food justice advocate Raj Patel, “It should hardly be surprising that the decision to burn rather than eat a large share of the US corn harvest would push up food prices. Estimates of the impact on global food prices vary from a high of 30 per cent to a low of around 5 per cent.” While it’s impossible to single out one cause for the global food crisis, taking corn out of the food supply and into the fuel supply had a very quick impact on global hunger. People rioted in protest in many countries, especially in India. While this issue is quite complicated, and this is a simplification, one key take-away is that climate solutions that rely on agriculture are not cut-and-dry fixes to the problem, and they bring with them consequences just like any other alternative.

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