The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the scientific community recognizes that climate change is threat to agriculture and all aspects of food systems such as crop and animal production, food processing, fish stocks and trade are vulnerable. Food system activities are directly dependent upon and inherently interconnected to climate and weather. The effects of climate change are already being felt globally and Canada is not immune to the impacts of climate change on its agricultural sector with respect to the production of safe, high quality food and maintaining a constant supply.
According to the Government of Ontario, Poverty Reduction Strategy Office of Ontario (2017), Ontarians benefit from one of the world’s best food system and enjoy the low cost associated with high quality, safe and nutritious foods. Economically, the agricultural and food sector accounts for $49 billion to Cana’s gross domestic product (GDP), $15.3 billion in Ontario and supports more than 790,000 jobs in the Province. While Ontarians generally enjoy quality food, 12% of Ontarians are affected by food insecurity (GoO, 2017).
Food insecurity in Canada and the globe will soon be a major challenge as a result of climate change because it will affect the availability, access, quality and safety of food systems due to increased demands and decreased production. This essay will discuss diverse way in which climate change affects food systems because agricultural processes are inherently nature based. The author acknowledges that the impacts of climate change will present food producers with opportunities and risks, however, for this short essay, the impacts of climate change on agricultural crop yields, the loss of crops due to an increase in pests and diseases and influence of extreme events on global trade, food transport and food prices will be discusses covering availability, access, utilization and stability which is the basics of food systems in the built environment.
Research have indicated that agricultural crop production will be affected by climate change due to changes in the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, increase in temperature and precipitation because of the variations in photosynthesis, respiration rates, water use efficiency and soil C and N biochemical transformations (Wang et al., 2014) (Long et al., 2015). Research has also shown that the seasons are getting longer and warmer in Canada and this is will affect water availability as it will affect the intensity and frequency of droughts, precipitation and there will be an increase in the intensity of storms which will affect farm production and supply of foods. Climate change will have both a positive and negative impact on food systems by increasing or decreasing crop production, storage, processing, distribution and exchange of food. According to the IPCC, as global temperature increase it will have a negative impact on crop production, (Iizumi et al., 2018) investigated the effects of temperature increase and its effects on crop yield between 1981-2010 and found that crop yield for maize, soybean and wheat decreased globally by 4.1, 4.5 and 1.8% respectively. These crops are staples for many countries especially in Africa, a decrease in food staples will have a drastic effect on the livelihoods of farmers, and it will cause an increase in food prices and affect food available. (Ketiem et al., 2017) indicated that staple foods such as mangoes, maize, wheat, corn and fruit crops have decreased in the continent, the effects of climate change have also affected India crop production as wheat yields has decreased by 5.2% between 1981-2009 (Gupta et al. 2017), however, the opposite was recorded in Asia with wheat production.
Like Gupta et al 2017, Tao et al. 2014 looked at wheat growth yield in different climatic zones for the same period mentioned before and found that the Northern region of China experienced increased wheat production while Southern China was negatively impacted. For temperate countries like Canada, an increase in temperature may increase local food production with the use of adaptation methods such as greenhouses, cold resistant fodder, longer growing seasons and hotter summers which will increase capacity to grow food (Roussin et al., 2015). An Canada has benefitted from an increase in global temperatures through an increase in productivity as some Provinces are experiencing an increase the growing season for soybeans and corn production shifting production into Saskatchewan, in British Columbia the benefits were longer periods for grazing and livestock operations, in Prince George the production of Canola and in Quebec’s Montérégie region longer growing season increased the production of soybean, corn, maple syrup and forage production (Warren et al., 2014). While some sectors have benefitted from the increase in temperatures, Canada and other countries have been affected by the negative effects of climate change as mention above, namely from water availability, pests and diseases, extreme weather events, droughts, invasive species, a reduction in crop yields. Canada will benefit from opportunities to increase agricultural exports to other countries (Warren et al., 2014), whereas, some countries would become more dependent on food imports because of a decrease capacity to grow food and supply the increasing demand for food and other agricultural products, for example, countries in the Caribbean such as the Turks and Caicos, Bermuda and the Eastern Caribbean islands which are affected by pests and diseases and extreme weather events such as extended dry seasons, decreased water availability, flooding and hurricanes.
Warmer weather can cause an increase is pests, weeds, invasive species and diseases as pests found in the south may move northwards. Changes in temperatures and humidity may increase insect-borne diseases as their temperature limits move poleward and regions long believed to be climatically protected from certain pests may find themselves open to infestation and contagion (Mozell, 2014). An increase in pests and disease will also affect global food supply, food quality and costs as farmers will have to spend more money and time fighting pests and diseases. Deutsch et al., indicated that insects consume about 10 per cent of the globe\'s food and forecasts that insects will consume between 15-20 per cent more crops by the end of the century. Deutsch et al., stated that if the global temperature should increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius, the world would lose 48 million tons of wheat, rice and corn to insects as pest are predicted to increase in their size and there their metabolic rate would also increase. Farmers will have to use more fertilizers and pesticides to increase crop yields and decrease pests, this will cause environmental and health damages and it will also cause a decrease in global supply in food which will drive the cost for staple food prices up.
The effects of climate change will increase inequality within food systems as it will affect food access, choice and availability for lower and middle income families. The effects of extreme weather events such as droughts, flooding and hurricane will have a direct impact on agricultural production, impacting global trade and transportation of food increasing international prices on grains and other food commodities traded globally. In Canada, marine transport The increase cost associated with food transportation due to extreme weather events and cost associated with implementing climate change adaptation mechanisms to reduce the effects on climate change on crop production, storage, processing and transportation of food will cause retail prices for food to increase and it will reduce the purchasing power of middle and low income families. This will have a spin off effect on the public health system as it will lead to less healthy diets, malnutrition and increase diet-related mortality as will be forced to change their will have a direct impact on the health and well-being of the most vulnerable in communities and more people will be forced to depend on government subsidies or food banks (Warren et al., 2014).
Climate change will affect all aspects of food systems (Mbow et al., 2019), especially food stability and access for Small Island Developing States and countries currently being affected by extreme climatic events food security and stability. It is important that governments develop adaptation measures and policies to turn climate risks into opportunities and benefits by decreasing their vulnerability to the effects of climate change and ensuring that the most vulnerable in their country can afford healthy, high quality foods. This can be done through funding climate risk research and development, compensating farmers for crop failure due to extreme weather events, creating a disaster contingency fund/weather insurance program, subsidizing transportation for imported food and import tax reduction on staple foods. These measures will help minimize the impact of climate change on food systems in their country by ensuring the cost for producing, processing, transporting, storing and distributing is not passed on to the most vulnerable in society. It also ensures that families will have access to healthy, high quality and sufficient food to maintain a nutritious and healthy diet.