Food and Climate Change

Climate Change and Food: Facts

  1. 75% of the world's poor & food insecure people rely on agriculture & natural resources for their livelihoods
  2. World food production must rise by 60% to respond to demographic change
  3. Rising global temperatures are predicted to reduce catches of the world's main fish species by 40%
  4. Although global emissions from deforestation have dropped, deforestation & forest degradation, often as a result of demands for agricultural land, are responsible for 10-11% of global greenhouse gas emissions
  5. Currently, 1/3 of global food production is either lost or wasted. The global costs of food wastage ≈$2.6 trillion/yr, including $700 billion of environmental costs & $900 billion of social costs
  6. Global food loss & waste generate about 8% of mankind's annual greenhouse gas emissions (Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations, 2017)

Climate Change and Food Production Ireland

Irish agriculture accounts for 33% of national greenhouse gas emissions, the majority of which comes from methane from livestock, and nitrous oxide due to the use of nitrogen fertiliser and manure management (EPA, 2016; Teagasc, 2017). Ireland’s agriculture emissions are significantly higher than those of the rest of Europe. By sector, agriculture is the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions nationally, with transport and energy (approximately 20% each) being the next biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions.

While Ireland is relatively 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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