Food and climate: Three paradoxes in handling climate change

/Adaptation Series & One Health Series/

Each year new scientific evidence proves, that immediate action is needed to deal with current environmental crisis.
Despite the states committed in Paris 2016 to keep the global rise of temperature below 2°C compare to pre-industrial levels, the global temperature keep rising and will rise between 2.9° and 3.4°C in 2100. It also means, that +1.5°C degree globally will be reached in around 20 years from now [1].

How is climate connected to what we eat? Which are the paradoxes in handling climate change?
This blog is a part of our Food and Climate Series

First Paradox: 

Climate change put pressure on agriculture, food production and deforestation, which are major drivers of climate change, disrupting biodiversity, land systems, bio-chemical cycles and fresh water resources. More than 820 Million of people globally are in state of food insufficiency and many more consume unhealthy diet causing premature deaths [2]. Even if global population will not further increase, any further expansion of agricultural land, biodiversity loss, increase in methane and nitrous oxid emission are acceptable. Furthermore, significant decrease in water use, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and keeping zero net carbon emission are inevitable to avoid unpreceded changes in Earth system.

Food system is so-called leverage point where one reinforced change can catalyze large scale changes – in climate change, human health, land restoration, water security, biodiversity, soil health, biochemical cycles, poverty.

Therefore, the lack on coordinated global action on food system transformation
is the first climate change paradox.

Second Paradox

In the suggested state of planetary emergency [3], environmentally destructive behaviour remains the accepted standard. The environmental destructive behaviour is not sanctioned, nor costly, because true-cost accounting of above mentioned  environmental impact is not in place. In this way, the income is being made on the cost of current and future generations.   Many of those involved in the production and supply chain struggle with the market conditions and unfair competition  living in th despair of not able to make things differently.

Third Paradox 

The customer is considered to be the one upon whom shoulders rest the responsibility to make the environmentally conscious choices. Through this the customer should be able to influence the market and create demand for food production in sustainable manner.

May the custormers be informed and perfectly environmentally concious, the food produced in sustainable manners is often luxuriously expensive or simple unavailable. 

The environmentally conscious customer with limited financial resources is being frustrated about the everyday compromise towards their own belief. Notwithdrawing the fact, that they struggle to get information on the multiple environmental impacts of complete product-supply chain on the way to customers plate.

The environmentally unconscious customers freed from this dilema, opt for the cheaper products. Thus the demand for food produced in sustainable manner remains limited. Together with the (environmentally) unfair competition in which not true costs are included, the development of  strong structures of sustainable local production and supply chains is hindered.

The paradox here it is that in this manner the environmental unfair competition takes from the hand of  customers their basic tool to tackle the climate – their ability to consume healthy environmentally conscious products.
The unequality in ability to tackle climate change via personal behaviour has been born.

[1] United in Science, 2019.
[2] Eat Lancet Comission, 2019. Planet Food Health.
[3] The Club of Rome, Postdam Climate Institute, 2019. Planetary Emergency Plan.