RIPPLE EFFECT: How Fighting Climate Change Protects Our Water And Food

05.14.20

At Food & Water Watch, our first concerns will always be safe food and clean, affordable water. But climate change is a grave threat to these fundamental elements of life, and that’s why we’re working hard to tackle climate change by fighting the broken energy and agricultural systems that drive it.

Fighting Climate Change to Protect Our Most Important Resources: Food and Water

Climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from our deeply flawed energy and agriculture systems pose serious risks to our food and water. Tackling this problem requires a complete overhaul in the way we produce necessary food and energy in our society.

Our food system is both highly sensitive to climate change and a leading cause of it. And despite all the science clearly pointing to the perils, our energy and transportation systems are still powered mostly by climate-killing fossil fuels. For a deeper dive, check out our research Why We Need Food & Water Action on Climate Change.

Corporate Agriculture and Climate Change: The Feedback Loop

Corporate agriculture willfully ignores its inefficiencies and destructive impact on the Earth and our climate. Factory farming and unsustainable crop production results in staggering amounts of greenhouse gas emissions, generates large amounts of toxic waste, and requires hazardous chemicals like pesticides and fertilizers. Our current system also does a poor job of feeding people. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. corn goes into producing ethanol, and half of all North American crop calories are fed to livestock. Many foods that directly feed humans aren’t eligible for subsidized crop insurance and other federal safety net programs, even though food insecurity remains a serious issue in countless communities across the country.

Decades of bad pro-corporate policies encourage overproduction and reward polluting factory farms at the expense of smaller, sustainable independent farms. These policies promote so-called “renewable” technologies like biogas and biofuels, which further entrench the system by claiming benefits for society that these fuels don’t deliver.

Factory farming is also water-intensive, and shifting away from it is an essential move to deal with our warming planet and the water crisis. Agriculture is both a victim of, and a significant contributor to water scarcity. Climate change will worsen this problem, producing a deepening feedback loop of food, water and climate instability.

Water Is In Peril As A Direct Climate Consequence

Due in part to climate change, an estimated 80 percent of the world’s population is already faced with water insecurity (a lack of regular access to affordable, safe, clean drinking water). An estimated 1.3 billion people currently suffer from outright water scarcity (not having enough water to meet basic needs). Climate change will only deepen this ballooning water crisis.

Climate and fresh water systems are deeply interconnected. A change in one system inevitably leads to change in the other. As drought conditions intensify, freshwater will become more scarce and groundwater recharge will become hindered. Warmer temperatures combined with increasingly extreme storm events and droughts will lead to more water pollution and less drinkable water due to saltwater intrusion, increasingly frequent and severe wildfires, and the proliferation of algal blooms brought on by agricultural pollution and climate change.

Compounding these grave problems, we also face water service disruptions from climate change-supercharged weather events, and the resulting flooding and sewage overflows. Water and wastewater services will almost certainly become less reliable as climate change deepens, especially after extreme weather. Hurricanes can take systems completely offline, displace vulnerable populations, and cause billions of dollars of damage. In the United States, our outdated water infrastructure, built based on the more stable weather patterns of the past, is unprepared and overwhelmed in the face of these challenges.The total cost of climate adaptation for our water and sewer systems grows ever higher, likely reaching $1 trillion by 2050.

Sustainable Food And Energy Systems Are How We Curb Climate Change Effects

For all these reasons, and countless more, it is imperative that we tackle runaway climate change as a means of protecting and improving our fragile, fraught food and water systems. And the most immediate and direct path to stemming climate change is by attacking it at the source: fossil fuels. This is precisely why Food & Water Watch works tirelessly to halt the continued extraction of oil and gas, and to shut down new fossil fuel infrastructure before it’s built. The fight for safe food and clean, affordable water is inherently a fight against climate change and the fossil fuel production making it worse. It is a fight we must win because this planet is the only one we get.

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