The UK could face a potential food crisis with dramatically reduced food choices in the future, unless more is done to cut greenhouse gases suggests a new report from the University of Manchester.
The report – from the Sustainable Consumption Institute – claims food that families take for granted, like meat and fresh vegetables could become too expensive if global temperature rises in line with current trends, reaching the estimated 4°C.
“The failure of the global community to turn rhetoric into reality and put meaningful policies in place to urgently cut emissions means that we are facing future temperature increases around 4°C which will be devastating to agriculture and fundamentally alter food provision,” said Dr Alice Bows, who led the research.
The team developed a series of scenarios based on a +2°C and +4°C future, looking at different implications of climate change. More drastic options included indoor farms, lab-grown meat and community cooking centres.
If the temperature were to rise by more than 2°C, shopping habits could be altered dramatically. The price of meat would soar – meaning families could have to adapt to meat-free diets – and crops and staple food sources could be devastated.
A slight rise in UK temperatures could be beneficial for the farming industry – where about 10% of our global emissions are from non-carbon sources like agriculture – as it could increase yields. However, if temperatures continued to rise, more fertiliser would be used, and some livestock would be less productive – both leading to a further rise in greenhouse gas emissions.
The picture would be bleaker in other areas where non-carbon emissions make up a quarter of total emissions. If temperatures rose by more than 4°C, rice crops could be reduced by 30% in the subcontinent, leading to food shortages and hunger.
“It is absolutely essential scientists and decision makers see the bigger picture,” said Bows. “Climate change will likely raise the greenhouse emissions from agriculture. If Government’s like the UK’s want to take action to avoid a 2°C temperature rise, they must reassess their targets to both take into account of climate change impacts, and secondly, better understand how UK consumption is linked to the emissions right down global supply chains.”