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It’s no surprise that changing climates will have an impact on our overall health.
But one of the more shocking effects of a warmer planet, as outlined in a massive new report from the US Global Change Research Program, an environmental research group comprised of government agencies such as NASA, EPA, and the NOAA, is what it will do to our food.
Here are some of the main changes that could affect the food we eat every day:
1. Food will go bad quicker.
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The warmer the temperature, the happier the disease-causing microbes. Apart from norovirus, which prefers cooler climates, most foodborne illness-carrying bugs love warmer temperatures. The bacteria E. Coli, Salmonella, and Campylobacter in particular are most likely to thrive in warmer temperatures, particularly on fruits, vegetables, and seafood.
Microbes overall will love warmer temperatures, which could lead to foods spoiling quicker, and fungal toxins could get moved around much farther, wreaking havoc on a wide range of crops like corn.
2. Many of our staple crops could get less nutritious.
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Hotter temperatures mean there’s more CO2 in the atmosphere. And that could have a huge impact on the nutrition present in the foods we eat. For example, the report cites, protein will decrease as C02 levels increase from 520 parts per million to 960 ppm. Beyond protein, essential elements such as iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and nitrogen will decrease as CO2 goes up, according to the report.
Although studies have established the connection between higher CO2 and less nutritious plants, researchers still aren’t quite sure why it’s happening.
3. Our fish will be higher in potentially harmful substances like mercury.
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One of the ways we get mercury in our bodies is from fish, which pick up an organic kind of mercury called methylmercury. As the report notes, fish in warmer temperatures have an easier time absorbing this mercury, which then get into our diets. Mercury poisoning at high enough levels can cause serious symptoms, such as impaired vision, hearing, speech, and muscle weakness.
4. We won’t be able to rely on stable sources of food.
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While not surprising, extreme weather that’s exacerbated by climate change can have a huge impact on food. Too much water – or not enough of it – can severely cut down on crops, plus, the report mentions, transport of food could be seriously limited during extreme weather.
For example, in cases of extreme weather that affects waterways, grains (wheat, corn, etc.), which are mostly shipped by water, could experience difficulties. In instances of extreme drought, apart from the damage to the crops, these waterways also become inaccessible.
And if food can’t get from place to place, there’s a bigger chance it will go bad in higher temperatures, especially if power outages are involved.