Food security is most simply defined as the ability to provide sufficient levels of food for all people. Scientists believe that by 2050 the impact of climate change could increase the risk of food insecurity by 20%. This is because the world's population is expected to grow from about 7 billion to an estimated 9.1 billion. Within that population, 8 billion people are expected to be living in developing countries, where food security is already a rarity.
According to the World Food Programme, if we fail to curb the huge impact of climate change on the environment we risk dramatically increasing levels of hunger, and also risk the breakdown of reliable food systems for a great number of communities all around the world. One of the biggest impacts of climate change are the droughts that are being experienced around the world. Without water, crop growth is limited. The decline in precipitation has led to the drying up of wetlands and severe degradation of ecosystems.
Another factor posing a great threat to global food security is over-fishing. There's only a limited amount of fish in our oceans, and those resources are becoming more depleted. 3 billion people depend on fish to provide at least 20 percent of their animal protein, and if fish stocks continue to decline, more than 500 million people will be deprived of their primary source of protein. In 2018 the United Nations issued an alert that the Mediterranean was world’s most overfished sea, and stated that that one-third of global fish stocks are now fished at unsustainable levels.
Marine plastic debris is another contributing factor to the ongoing threat of worldwide food insecurity. The deluge of plastic detritus — from the large to the microscopic — swirling about in our oceans weighs in at 269,000 metric tons. It results in reduced fish stocks and outbreaks of diseases. These microplastics can carry toxic contaminants and pose a real risk to food security and human health if they enter the food chain via the fish we consume.
Another huge threat to global food security is soil erosion. According to the WWF, over the last 150 years we’ve lost half of the topsoil on our planet. This is a direct result of overgrazing, and of the use of pesticides. Topsoil gets washed away, polluting rivers and lakes in its wake, and killing the soil’s biodiversity, and ultimately contaminating our food.
Initiatives such as sustainable livestock production, and international policies for deep-sea fisheries and the protection of marine biodiversity, serve to strengthen food security. And are vital steps in ensuring that the world’s growing population has enough food.