Climate Change Could Change Your Diet Over The Next 30 Years

19/04/2016 11:52 AM AEST | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
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A young kangaroo is looking to camera at open field.

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There's no doubt about it: Australians love red meat. However, this Aussie favourite could well and truly be under threat as climate change continues to hit food production areas.

"Over the next 30 years, we expect climate change to affect Australian agriculture in three main ways," James Cook University’s Dr Tobin Northfield from the College of Marine and Environmental Sciences told The Huffington Post Australia

"First, increased temperatures and droughts are expected to directly reduce food production. Second, increased temperatures can lead to faster growth of pests, which can reduce food production, and finally, climate change is contributing to pollinator declines, which is expected to reduce production of fruits and nuts."

Aside from fruit and nuts, the foods that are expected to be affected are grains (wheat) vegetables, meat, eggs and dairy -- essentially everything in our standard diet.

“Wheat is a major component of the Australian diet, and it’s highly sensitive to climate variations, with higher temperatures leading to lower yields.” Dr Northfield said.

"We expect the region we grow grains to shrink, meaning less grain production, and we expect increased drought and pest densities to reduce fruit and vegetable production."

According to Dr Northfield, in some cases, some vegetables may actually grow faster -- however, they will be less nutritious and more expensive.

"Recent models suggest that by 2050, global consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables will have dropped by around four per cent,” Dr Northfield said.

Particularly for those already struggling financially, increased prices will lead to consumption of cheaper and lower quality foods, worsening health issues Australians already face.

"Beef production may also be under threat, with the heat affecting both the quality and availability of cattle through stress, lower quality feed and more parasites. This may also reduce the availability of other meats, eggs and dairy."

This is worrisome to say the least. What we once thought would only affect the generations to come, might affect us in the next few decades of our lives.

"This is part of a world-wide phenomenon," Dr Northfield told HuffPost Australia.

What does this mean for the staple Australian diet? Well, it might have to change.

"Climate change-related reductions in beef and lamb could lead to more Australians eating white meat, seafood and kangaroo," Dr Northfield said.

To help prevent this from occurring, Dr Northfield said the answer may lie in reducing food waste.

"Worldwide, one-third of all food is wasted, and the average household wastes one-fifth of their food," Dr Northfield said. "This household wastage is estimated to cost Australia $5 billion per year. So, cutting down food waste will be important.

"In addition, natural and social scientists working across disciplines are needed to adapt agriculture and food consumption patterns to the changing climate."

Another solution: stop eating meat.

vegetarian

That's right, it's not news any more: Eating less (or no) meat could reduce greenhouse gas emissions, with over a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions arising from food production.



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