Climate Change Could Put Almost 20% of the Total Human Calorie Intake in Jeopardy


Oct 10, 2019


Up to 60% of the world’s wheat-growing areas could see simultaneous, prolonged, severe droughts by the end of the 21st century, according to a study published in the journal Science Advances. This will cause a shortage equivalent of 20% of the total calories that human beings consume if climate change is not mitigated.

The risk of widespread drought at the end of the century is four times the current drought rate, which would shock the food production system, according to Song Feng, PhD, co-author of the study and an associate professor of geosciences at the University of Arkansas.

Wheat is the world’s most widely grown rain-fed crop in terms of harvest area and supply. In India, wheat is a rabi crop — sown from October to December and harvested from February to May. The wheat crop thrives in cool winters and the Indo-Gangetic plain makes an excellent home for it, according to the Indian Government’s Farmer’s Portal. India currently produces the second-largest amount of wheat worldwide — accounting for 8.7% of the world’s wheat production (98,510,000 tonnes) since the Green Revolution.

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Researchers studied 27 climate models, each with different scenarios, and found that even if global warming is brought under control — that is, kept 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to the Paris Agreement — 30% of global wheat production areas will still see simultaneous drought. “It was terabytes of information, and it took a couple of months and multiple computers to run,” Feng said.

Historically, there has always been a direct correlation between severe drought and food prices — the more widespread the drought, the higher the food prices. “If only one country or region sees a drought there is less impact,” Feng said. “But if multiple regions are affected simultaneously, it can affect global production and food prices, and lead to food insecurity.”


Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is a culture writer at The Swaddle. Previously, she worked as a freelance journalist focused on gender and cities. Find her on social media @aditimurti.


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