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Climate Change’s Impact on Global Diets Could Kill Half a Million People in 2050

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Lake Mendocino, one of two major water storage lakes on the Russian River, is nearly empty on January 24, 2014, near Ukiah, California. Photograph by George Rose—Getty Images

More than half a million people could die by 2050 as a result of climate change’s impact on global diets.

Researchers from Oxford University’s Oxford Martin Future of Food Program modeled the effects of climate change on the global food supply, and how those changes will impact health and mortality around the world. The results—the first attempt to quantify how climate change could wreak havoc not just in natural disasters and the spread of disease, but also in global diets—were published in British medical journal The Lancet on Wednesday.

The researchers found that global warming could cut the project improvement in food availability by one-third, reducing per-person food availability by about 100 calories a day. Thanks to climate change, fruit, and vegetable intake could be reduced by 4% per person.

The bulk of the predicted 529,000 extra deaths due to food availability in 2050 would be felt in South and East Asia, especially, the researchers found. They predicted that nearly three-quarters of all climate change-related deaths due to food supply changes would occur in India and China.

 

“We looked at the health effects of changes in agricultural production that are likely to result from climate change and found that even modest reductions in the availability of food per person could lead to changes in the energy content and composition of diets, and these changes will have major consequences for health,” lead author Marco Springmann said in an Oxford press release.