Thursday, March 10, 2011

Local Food Security Issues Impacted by Climate Change

The following text had previously been submitted as a letter to the Editor of the Sudbury Star, in response to an article written by Andrea Deemer, "Looming food-price spike must be addressed now", and published in the February 28th edition of the Star. At this time, the letter has not been published.


Andrea Deemer, in her article, drew specific attention to where the impacts of global climate change are likely to be felt by Sudburians. Deemer indicated that we can expect higher food prices and shrinking availability of food products as a result of the climate crisis and higher energy prices.

On February 24 through the 26th, I had the pleasure of attending the “Moving Forward Together Conference on Climate Change and Social Justice”, hosted by the Nickel District Conservation Authority and the Greater Sudbury Social Planning Council. At this conference, the issue of food security was top of mind for social justice advocates and for those looking for local solutions and strategies to address the climate crisis.

Those attending the conference heard Dr. Liette Vasseur of Brock University (formerly of Laurentian University) indicate that a warming global climate will likely add an extra 3 weeks to Greater Sudbury’s growing season over the next 90 years. However, with less summer moisture forecast, and with more precipitation occurring in the winter in the form of rain rather than snow, water levels in lakes and aquifers are likely to decrease, causing problems for irrigating local farms.

Nevertheless, our agricultural sector here in Greater Sudbury is likely to be less impacted than other major agricultural areas, particularly in the American south and throughout the tropics. The problems for these breadbasket areas are also Greater Sudbury’s problems, as we get most of our food from parts of the world which will be more seriously impacted by a changing climate.

Food scarcity as a result of climate impacts, coupled with increasing transportation costs, will continue to drive the price of food ever higher. For those living on fixed incomes, this will mean fewer healthy food choices, and a greater reliance on less-expensive (and less healthy) processed foods.

Certainly, that’s a bad situation for those living in poverty. Consider, though, what your own financial circumstance might be in a future where continued economic growth is no longer occurring, due to disruptions brought on by global food shortages, climate change and the end of inexpensive energy. Maybe this isn’t just a problem for the poorest amongst us after all.

The longer we delay taking meaningful action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to address the climate crisis, the more we continue to risk our future economic health. When it comes to climate change, the cost of inaction will certainly be a heavy burden for the majority of Canadians.

Through the efforts of local businesses, the not-for-profit sector, and governmental organizations, Greater Sudbury continues to show leadership throughout Canada by demonstrating that we are thinking ahead and planning for the future.

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