Food security and climate change: Getting to the meat of the matter
With the global population forecast to top 9.6 billion by 2050, the biggest long-term challenge facing the world today is how to sustainably feed the planet's dramatically increasing population, especially for the poorest, and at a time when climate change is challenging established agricultural methods. How can sustainable technologies meet this challenge head on?
Krijn De Nood, CEO of cultured protein company Meatable, claims the successes and problems of the traditional meat market are similar to those of oil: "Oil is a fantastic product. There's nothing wrong with oil as a functional product, it's just that we know it's harmful to our planet. It's the same with meat. From a market perspective, it’s a huge success story," he explained.
But it's a huge success story that is creating significant environmental issues with 26% of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to food production and consumption, and one that is partly responsible for climate change. The need to improve food security without contributing to climate change as the world heads towards a population of around 10 billion by 2050 is also a major challenge.
Marisa Drew, Credit Suisse's Chief Sustainability Officer and Global Head of the Sustainability Strategy, Advisory & Finance Group points out that the problem is not food as such, but rather “the way we produce, consume, and waste food.”
Food insecurity in the world's poorest countries
Food insecurity, partially caused by climate change, is certainly an issue for the world's poorest. Moreover, the World Bank estimates that the COVID-19 pandemic will drive an increase in extreme global poverty for the first time in 20 years, which is likely to cause growth of food insecurity.
World population facing food insecurity
of the world's population face moderate or severe food insecurity in 2019
people worldwide suffer from food security
of people living in Sub-Saharan Africa face food insecurity
Food insecurity linked to health problems
Food insecurity increases the likelihood of obesity and undernourishment, both of which are significant challenges for the world. The relevance to address this was recognized by the UN in 2015 when it introduced the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG1 – No poverty, SDG2 – Zero hunger (defined by ending hunger, promoting sustainable agriculture as well as achieving food security and improved nutrition), and SDG3 – Good health and wellbeing, all refer to food security. However, progress in this field to date has been poor. Data from the FAO suggest that both the share of undernourished people globally and the absolute number have increased since the SDGs were introduced.
Therefore, addressing the food security challenge not only requires an increase in overall food production, but also importantly needs to ensure that the right food is available at affordable prices globally.
If the global community is going to successfully tackle problems such as food insecurity and global poverty, we need sustainable food solutions that will feed the growing population. It seems that alternative proteins, including lab-grown meat, may play a role in improving food security thanks to less extensive land use, lower emissions, and lower production costs.