Global Impact

The food market worldwide is likely to be considerably altered by climate change. Biofuels are becoming an increasingly popular choice in helping to reduce GHG emissions and combat climate change, but this has implications for global food supplies, as well as food prices. The spread of crop pests is likely to rise together with the global temperature, and extreme weather conditions are predicted to have detrimental effects on agriculture around the world.

Biofuels and food supply: The more environmentally conscious we become the more we strive to find alternatives to fuels that harm our atmosphere, fuels that meet the requirements of being both portable and clean burning.

Replacement ‘biofuels’ are derived from natural sources such as maize and sugarcane, and plants like rapeseed (used to make vegetable oil). This means that we are now using food crops for other uses. While biofuels have a role to play in the fight against climate change, the issue of global food shortages comes into play as a direct result of their existence.

From about 2000 onwards global grain stocks began to decline drastically. It was proven that global use of grain had overtaken its actual production. Production in 2012 was down 3% from the record 2011 harvest, although due to another record global harvest in 2014 this balance is being reddressed somewhat. The global cereal supply and demand situation in 2016/17 has remained comfortable for the third consecutive season.

Small Elephant Hawkmoth

Crop pests: Warmer climates will also mean the spread of parasites and pests, blighting crops and trees. Human activities are often a major contributing factor in the spread of these creatures. Proper sewer systems and waste management, chemical pesticides and field burning are all known methods ofpest control. However, these methods are often harmful to humans andthe environment, or are simply not effective enough.

A powerful strain of rust fungus was discovered in Uganda in 1999 and has successfully attacked much of the world wheat crop. Fortunately, a stem rust resistant crop is being cultivated in areas of Asia to try and combat this deadly fungus, but much of this growth is through trial and error and is rarely an exact science.

Extreme weather conditions:
Examples of the effects of extreme weather conditions on agriculture around the world are increasing steadily. In the summer of 2010, a heatwave in Russia is estimated to have cost the economy €15 billion and may have led to 5,000 deaths. In addition, thousands of acres of crops were destroyed and fodder prices rose rapidly. In late 2010 and early 2011, parts of Queensland, Australia experienced severe fluvial flooding. Thousands of homes and business were destroyed and some towns were submerged as many rivers burst their banks. The Australian Bureau of Agriculture and Resource Economics and Sciences also estimated that the floods reduced agricultural production by $500 - $600 million.

Source: Conservation Council of South Australia

Irish Impact

While Ireland is quite self-sufficient in meat, dairy and fresh produce, climate change will impact on agricultural production. Due to expected water shortages, the type of crops grown in Ireland are likely to change. Droughts are also likely to lead to a reduction in crop yields. Anticipated increases in pests and diseases would also have a significant impact on the economy of the agricultural sector.

In winter, increases in rainfall will also have an impact. The use of machinery could be severely restricted due to boggy conditions, and in spring the release of livestock into the fields could be delayed due to excessive moisture still present in the ground. All these factors would have a knock-on effect in terms of efficiencies and production.

An additional consideration is that while actual food shortages may not be expected in Ireland, there is still a need to prepare for extreme events such as oil shortages or hauliers’ strikes.

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