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Environment, Health, Safety & Security

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Climate change and food security

| By Dorothy Lozowski

A new, extensive report examining the impacts of climate change around the world warns that the effects of climate change are more widespread with further-reaching consequences than previously thought. Compiled by 270 authors from 67 countries, the report [1] was released on February 28 by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC;, the United Nations (UN) body for assessing the science related to climate change. With the world focused on the immediate global concerns of the devastating war in Europe and the pandemic that has not yet loosened its grip around the globe, news of the stark warnings outlined in the IPCC report may have been somewhat overshadowed.

Losses, damage and displacement of people due to extreme weather events, including droughts, wildfires, heatwaves, cyclones and floods; stresses to our food supply, water scarcity and an increase in disease are some of the devastating effects of climate change cited by the report. Along with a warning that extreme events are projected to increase in magnitude and frequency with irreversible changes, the report calls for urgent global action to avert the worst-case scenarios. Stressing the importance of immediate action, IPCC Working Group II Co-Chair Hans-Otto Pörtner said “The scientific evidence is unequivocal: climate change is a threat to human wellbeing and the health of the planet. Any further delay in concerted global action will miss a brief and rapidly closing window to secure a liveable future.” The next report by the IPCC, focusing on mitigation of climate change, is expected to be released in April of this year.


Food insecurity

The projected impacts of climate change as outlined in Chapter 5 of the IPCC report include that some regions will no longer be suitable for crops or livestock, outdoor workers and livestock will be more exposed to extreme weather conditions, food safety will be impacted by higher temperatures and humidity, and fisheries and aquaculture productivity will decline. There are, of course, other factors in addition to climate change heightening concerns about global food security, such as increasing population, economics and effects of the pandemic.

Alternate sources of protein for food are being pursued to help address food shortage concerns. One alternate protein source for human consumption mentioned in the IPCC report and also recommended as an area where chemical engineers can have an impact in the report “New Directions for Chemical Engineering” by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (Washington, D.C.; is laboratory-grown meat. Also called “clean meat” or “cultivated meat,” this protein source is produced by growing animal cells in a controlled environment. According to McKinsey & Company [2], the cultivated-meat market could reach $25 billion by 2030, depending on consumer acceptance and price. Approval of consumption of the laboratory-grown meat by regulatory authorities is also a factor. Interest in this field is growing quickly, with pilot plants already in operation. For more, see our Newsfront in this issue, “A Taste of Foods to Come,” pp. 13–16.■

Dorothy Lozowski

Dorothy Lozowski, Editorial Director