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Food security is threatened by climate change and air pollution

Air pollution
Air pollution
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Warnings about the potential dangers for the well being of people from climate change and air pollution should not be taken lightly. Critical problems are projected to be on the horizons from these factors with researchers saying climate change and air pollution will together curb food supplies reported MIT News on July 27, 2014. Previous studies have ignored the interactions which occur between increasing temperature and air pollution, particularly ozone pollution, which is known to damage crops.

Researchers at MIT say these interactions can be very significant. In fact it has been suggested that policymakers should take both warming and air pollution into account when addressing the issue of food security. The MIT researchers investigated in detail global production of four leading food crops including wheat, rice, corn, and soy. These crops account for greater than half the calories people consume worldwide. Colette Heald, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at MIT, has explained that while it’s known that both higher temperatures and ozone pollution can damage plants and decrease crop yields, nobody has previously taken a look at these together.

The study found that overall warming may decrease crop yields globally by approximately 10 percent by 2050. It was found the effects of ozone pollution are far more complex. Some crops are more strongly affected by ozone pollution than others which suggests that pollution-control measures could play a primary role in determining outcomes. Heald explains ozone pollution is sometimes hard to identify because its damage may resemble other plant illnesses.

Projections of potential decreases in crop yields are disturbing. The researchers say by 2050 the world is expected to need about 50 percent more food because of population growth and changing dietary trends which are being seen in the developing world. Although heat and ozone can each damage plants independently the researchers have observed the factors also interact.

What this means is food production is extremely vulnerable to both climate change and air pollution with serious implications for global food security reports the journal Nature Climate Change. Warming is projected to decrease global food crop production by greater than 10 percent by 2050 with a potential to substantially worsen global malnutrition in all scenarios which are considered. This is all worsened by ozone pollution . Clearly therefore mankind is being confronted with a serious crisis from climate change and air pollution which must be aggressively addressed.