Climate Change and American Grocery Bills

climate changeThe world is getting a little more hostile to farmers, thanks to rising global temperatures. Among other impacts of climate change, like more storms and droughts, rising grocery bills can be expected.

That was the conclusion of a study released recently by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The report indicated that if temperatures increase more than 2-5.5 degrees Fahrenheit global food production will drop.

The draft report, leaked earlier this week, suggests a 25 percent decline in rice, wheat and corn yields due to climate change is possible, with yields declining 2 percent per decade for the rest of the century. Demand for food is expected to increase 14 percent per decade through 2050. The report predicts that malnutrition in children will go up by a fifth globally.

Droughts and forest fires can really hit hard in agricultural regions. According to U.S. Department of Agriculture data, California grows one-quarter of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables. A drought there could have a disproportionate impact on grocery bills.

Val Giddings, of the non-partisan Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, co-authored a recent report on the challenges of feeding the planet in a world changed by global warming.

Their report Feeding the Planet in a Warming World: Building Resilient Agriculture Through Innovation described the threats to agriculture in detail and discussed the need for faster innovation in agriculture. For example, diseases and fungal infections might be exacerbated by climate change. Insect pests could move to new areas.

Giddings said that rising grocery prices rather than rising hunger would probably be the first effect. The report did not contain a project of how much or how fast grocery prices might increase. In any case, climate change can be expected to produce rising grocery bills. He and his team are especially worried about this at a time when global food stocks are at their lowest in decades.

Other organizations concerned with climate change have attempted to project how much grocery prices could increase. Research published in the journal Climate Change in 2012 and reported by Think Progress projects a 20-40 percent increase in food prices globally by 2050. Rice, wheat and other grains would be especially hard hit.

according to a prior IPCC report issued in late February. That report further warns the climate changethis century.

Development of drought-tolerant crops is part of the solution. Varieties of beans, wheat, and rice that use less water could increase food production. Rice that can grow in saline soil would increase the areas suitable for rice cultivation and increase yields.

The IPCC report, Impacts, Adaptations, and Vulnerability also estimates that hundreds of millions of people by the end of the century and fuel armed conflict. The IPCC also predicts economic losses of $1.4 trillion a year.

Regardless of the details, recent work by the IPCC and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation makes it obvious that climate change is expected to increase grocery bills. This would be true for the whole world, not just the United States.

By Chester Davis

Medill Report

The Independent

Think Progress

Think Progress

Sydney Morning Herald