• 01/04/14
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Fife Diet Poster - Low Carbon Food-1bc

wg2coverBy Mike Small

It’s with no sense of satisfaction that Fife Diet reads the new IPCC report, confirming what we’ve been saying for most of a decade, that the effects of climate change are being felt everywhere, and will fuel potential deadly food shortages and natural disasters throughout the world.

It warns the effects are likely to be “irreversible” and could lead to wars, as extreme weather and poverty cause social unrest.

It’s clearer than ever that climate change is “the mother of all externalities“. The effects of climate change are pervasive. They are system-wide.

Jeff Masters who pens a highly regarded commentary on the subject writes:

“To me, the most important finding of the report is the climate change’s threat to reduce global food supplies, which have already been negatively impacted, and are at risk to get much worse: “Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts. Climate change has negatively affected wheat and maize (corn) yields for many regions and in the global aggregate.” For the future, the report acknowledges that some areas will likely see increases in food production, due to increased CO2 in the air and more favorable precipitation, but the overall global trend in food supplies will likely be downward (Figure 1 below). This downward trend in yields will occur in the face of rapidly increasing demand, as the population grows by 2 billion, resulting in “increased likelihood of under-nutrition resulting from diminished food production in poor regions.”


This is the second of the IPCC reports in a series of three, and some say their most hard-hitting. Though to be honest with the sort of collective amnesia that we suffer from as a growth-obsessed society it may not make much difference. Only the willfully stupid can not ‘know’ what’s going on. Sadly we are ‘led’ by such figures. Michel Jarraud, secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organisation, said people could have damaged the Earth’s climate out of “ignorance” in the past, but “Now, ignorance is no longer a good excuse”.

But, as George Monbiot argues ignorance might not be an excuse but it’s prevalent in decision-formers:

When our environment secretary, Owen Paterson, assures us that climate change “is something we can adapt to over time” or Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian today, says that we should move towards “thinking intelligently about how the world should adapt to what is already happening“, what do they envisage? Cities relocated to higher ground? Roads and railways shifted inland? Rivers diverted? Arable land abandoned? Regions depopulated? Have they any clue about what this would cost? Of what the impacts would be on the people breezily being told to live with it?

Perhaps a more positive light would not be to rage against the Denial Community and their vested interests and focus instead on the solutions. After all the third part of the IPCC report, to be finalised this month, will examine what steps mankind can take to reduce the problem. The real horror of climate change is not that we face an intractable problem for which we could find no solution. The real horror is that we have many of these solutions right here and right now in front of us. One of these is to completely re-cast how we organise our food systems as part of a massive transition to a low carbon society.

The IPCC report makes clear that, while there is an important role for adaptation, this cannot be a substitute for mitigation: many of the more extreme impacts go beyond our adaptive capability. Whilst we have ‘world leading targets’, we’re not meeting them, and they’re going to get tougher.

Statistics released by the Scottish Government this year revealed that, for the second year running, Scotland has failed to meet the legal targets it set itself to reduce carbon emissions. Emissions in 2011 were 848,000 tonnes over the target. Emissions fell by 2.9% between 2010 and 2011, but fell just short of the 2011 target for adjusted figures, which take into account the EU Emissions Trading System. But Fife Diet estimates that our 5,000 members saved 1019 tonnes C02 equivalent in 2012-13. If everyone in Scotland made similar changes to their food habits, up to a million tonnes of carbon could be saved.
Why aren’t we doing this?
We’re not doing it because business as usual still trumps real change, vested interests still control our food economy and the growth paradigm of the capitalist economy still wins, despite overwhelming evidence of its failure.
Here’s the first of a series of posters we’ve created to go into schools and around the country. Fife Diet will continue to offer solutions for sustainable food systems. We can and should be creating food in short supply chains, based on seasonality and sustainable agriculture systems. We can produce health food for everyone that doesn’t cost the earth. We can create local resilient economies producing healthy nutritious food for all. Let’s do it.
Fife Diet Poster - Low Carbon Food-1b