These 5 foods are already facing the effects of climate change in the US

Climate change has resulted in a series of harmful effects on the planet, including rising sea levels, extreme weather events, drought, melting ice caps, and more.

The drastic changes have also impacted global food production by substantially endangering crops and livestock.

This is catastrophic not just for the country's food security but also for the economy— the United States agriculture generates more than $300 billion from producing crops, cattle, and seafood.

Experts predict that climate change will worsen over the coming decades, ultimately putting greater strain on global food supplies. According to the University of Montana's Environment Reports, the balance between food production and supply is insufficient to keep up with population increase, even without the impacts of climate change. 

Beyond hunger and economic fall, food insecurity also gravely compromises global solidarity. Lack of food supply can result in loss of livelihoods, deepening social disparities, and worldwide turmoil and disorder.   

Climate change is fast replacing our current reality with a new trajectory that is not in our favor. Changes are already evident in certain foods in the United States. 

Let's look at the five foods that climate change has put at risk here in the United States: 

  • Peaches  

peaches

Extreme weather has never been shy of attacking food crops, and peaches are one of its targets. The future of juicy American peaches is at risk in the face of the mounting consequences of climate change. States like California, Georgia, and South Carolina have earned quite a distinction because of their bountiful, luscious peaches. However, with weather changes, farmers are noticing a reduction in what is known as chill hours, particularly in regions where temperatures have been warming. Climate change hit peaches the hardest during the warm winter temperatures of 2017, damaging over 80% of Georgia's peach harvest and 90% of South Carolina's peach crop. It also caused a premature bloom in some regions. An estimated 70% of the total losses from Georgia peach production were linked to insufficient cold, resulting in significant economic harm throughout the region. Chill hours are vital for peach crops, and climate change is altering the agricultural terrains of peach-growing states. This is making it harder to grow valuable produce like peaches in the country. 

  • Almonds  

The climate of California, where temperatures usually do not drop below zero degrees, makes it ideal for the cultivation of almonds. The state's historical rainfall levels have also contributed to rich soil over the decades. However, as our climate gets hotter, the trees require more water which is not sustainable with the state's ongoing droughts. Such shortcomings are threatening the growth of almond output. While California's almond business didn't slow down despite the pandemic's effects on global trade (produced more than 3 billion pounds of almonds in 2020, a 37% growth from 2018), things may eventually change if the current climate change rate persists. Farmers are seeking innovative ways to sustain the almond boom, such as using less water and moving to different regions. Nonetheless, it is imperative to prioritize mitigating climate change as almond trees take anywhere from five to twelve years to mature.

  • Corn  

There is nothing like American corn, a productive and versatile crop that is in just about everything we eat. The United States, the world's largest corn consumer and producer, consumed roughly 12.4 billion bushels of corn in 2021/22, with per capita consumption at 4.4 pounds. Unfortunately, we may be at risk of losing this beloved food. NASA predicts a drop of 24% in corn production by 2030 due to climate change. Without significant technical advancements in agricultural operations, climate change will render the U.S. Corn Belt unsustainable for corn cultivation by 2100, according to a study from Emory University.

  • Apples 

Temperature fluctuations, windstorms, wildfires, and polar vortexes can quickly wipe out an entire season's worth of crops and farms, and climate change only exacerbates the risks of such catastrophic events. The impact of heat waves, late-spring frosts, and other unpredictable climate variables have apple farms in the U.S. suffering. Apple growers throughout the nation are dealing with more erratic weather year after year. Fresh-market apple holdings in June 2021 declined by nearly 19% compared to the previous year due to late-spring frosts and triple-digit heat temperatures. Growers are taking precautions to lessen their exposure to extreme occurrences that can harm crops and field workers. They are investing in heat mitigation techniques like shade cloths, overhead cooling systems, and orchard fans to lower the danger of spring and fall frost damage. External factors are causing rapid disruptions in the orchards, and weather-related stress is increasing, with climate change being the main source of these issues.  

  • California Wine Grapes 

California grapes

Image by cfda (California Department of Food and Agriculture)

Extreme weather events brought on by climate change are taking a toll on America's top wine producer, California. The state that makes 84% of all U.S. wine (the world's 4th leading wine producer) is at the risk of dropping almost 4% of production in 2022, harvesting only around 3.5 million tonnes of wine grapes. The inland regions of California are getting too hot for the cultivation of high-quality wine. Warm conditions and vineyards do not see eye to eye, and studies indicate suitable lands in the wine-growing regions will decrease, with significant parts becoming unfit for high-quality wine grape production in the coming decades. Climate change poses a major threat to the country's wine, increasing the likelihood of unpredictable changes across the entire industry. 

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