Food-Supply Problems From Climate Change Could Kill Half a Million People by 2050

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Dead pomegranate trees taken out of agricultural production due to California drought
The future of crop production.Photo: Jenny E. Ross/© Corbis. All Rights Reserved.

Climate change, which may or may not exist except for the fact that it absolutely exists, could kill 500,000 people by 2050, according to a new study from the University of Oxford. The study, which was published Wednesday in the British journal Lancet, looks at how climate change will affect global crop production and, in turn, the human diet. By linking agricultural modeling data to a risk assessment of changing food consumption and body weight, they found that food availability would drop by 3.2 percent per person (including a 4 percent reduction in fruit and vegetable consumption and a 0.7 percent drop in red-meat consumption). Lousier nutrition, especially fewer fruits and vegetables, will result in 529,000 deaths worldwide, mostly in south and east Asia.

Climate change is likely to have a substantial negative impact on future mortality, even under optimistic scenarios,” Marco Springmann, the study’s lead researcher, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “Adaptation efforts need to be scaled up rapidly.” According to the study, such efforts — including curbing emissions and strengthening public-health programs aimed at preventing and treating diet-related risk factors — could reduce deaths by “29 to 71 percent, depending on their stringency.” That’s assuming the ocean doesn’t swallow us first.