Change Alley

information, opinion, conversation

Food Facts

with 5 comments

I’d like to recommend an excellent CNN article about food and the environment. Here are some highlights:

  • According to the UK’s Soil Association, 50 percent of the increase in global CO2 emissions between 1850 and 1990 has been tied to changes in land use –mainly because of farming practices.
  • The Food Climate Research Network estimates that 31% of EU greenhouse emissions come from the food chain.
  • More than half of that, 18% of total emissions, comes from meat production. The “average burger man…emits the equivalent of 1.5 tons more CO2 every year than the standard vegan,” reports The Guardian.
  • According to Farmers Weekly, the amount of food that is air-freighted around the world has increased by 140 percent since 1990.
  • The UK, for example, now imports more food than it exports, with 95% of its fruit and 50% of its vegetables coming from overseas.
  • The global transportation sector contributes 14% of greenhouse gas emissions.
  • A recent report from the International Maritime Organization says that, contrary to previous data, the shipping industry globally emits twice as much greenhouse gases — 1.2 billion tons — as the aviation industry, which emits between 600 and 650 million tons annually.
  • By the end of this century, climate change-induced floods and droughts could cost India 30% of its total food production; and China 37% of its wheat, rice and corn crops.
  • The amount of arable land per person is shrinking, says the FAO, from 0.38 hectares in 1970 to 0.23 in 2000, to 0.15 in 2050.
  • The IPCC says that by 2080 3.2 billion people will suffer water shortages.
  • If the EU were to replace just 10 percent of its fuel needs with biofuel, it would require 72 percent of its arable land.
  • Poor African farmers are now opting to sell crops like cassava for use as alternative energy instead of food because they get paid more for it.
  • China, one of the world’s leading corn exporters, withheld stocks last year for the purpose of biofuels.

All of which makes Matt’s recent question “How to feed Britain?” even more immediate and pressing.


Written by Pete Smith

November 22, 2007 at 12:05 pm

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. They’re getting busy over there at CNN.

    I particularly like this from their article;

    ‘It turns out that how we eat is affecting climate change — and climate change is affecting how we eat.’

    That’s going to send most people into a tail spin!

    But essentially the example you mention of the UK importing so much food and particularly 95% of fruit (!) via plane and ship is a key problem. As my man at Defra says consumer ‘behaviour’ and how you change people’s expectations away from high carbon footprint activity is essential but damned difficult to achieve. But when people begin to face chaos ….


    November 22, 2007 at 12:21 pm

  2. “They’re getting busy over there at CNN”

    Is it my imagination or is there an improvement in both quality and quantity in US media coverage of environmental issues? We had CNN’s ‘Planet in Peril’ program (still can’t track down episode 2 for review, sorry). Then NBC had its ‘Green Week’ November 4th-11th, with a continuing green online presence at

    Seems that “climate change is affecting what we watch, but is what we watch affecting climate change?” 🙂

    Pete Smith

    November 22, 2007 at 1:22 pm

  3. Ha!

    Well, I guess as has recently happened in the UK, the US is experiencing the results of a ground swell of connectedness with environmental issues that built a growing awareness. Various separate nodes of decision making have eventuated in a number of actions surfacing within a concentrated period simultaneously. But lets not discount the power of market intelligence and competition and the consequent desire to be riding the public’s next trend wave. Environment is one of those waves right now. Some are beginning to say that it has peaked within the UK but I think not.


    November 22, 2007 at 5:02 pm

  4. Stumbled upon you/this.
    Hope you don’t mind me pinching it, and your excellent summary, in the interests of spreading the message and further raising awareness; thanks!

    Blue Witch

    November 26, 2007 at 9:55 am

  5. Hi Blue Witch,
    Thank you for the kind remarks. Of course you may use the post, it’s good to know there’s someone reading this stuff.
    Anyway, since I ‘borrowed’ the material in the first place I can’t really say no, can I? 🙂

    Pete Smith

    November 26, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: