A new study has revealed that climate change could cause significant changes to global diets, leading to more than half a million extra deaths by 2050. The research is the strongest evidence yet that climate change could have damaging consequences for food production and health worldwide and is the first of its kind to assess the impact of climate change on diet composition and bodyweight, and to estimate the number of deaths they will cause in 155 countries in 2050.
Researcher Marco Springmann from the University of Oxford said that much research has looked at food security, but little has focused on the wider health effects of agricultural production. Changes in food availability and intake also affect dietary and weight-related risk factors such as low fruit and vegetable intake, high red meat consumption, and high bodyweight. These all increase the incidence of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease, stroke and cancer and death from them.
Springmann added that the results show 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.
The countries that are likely to be worst affected are low- and middle-income countries, predominantly those in the Western Pacific region (264000 deaths) and Southeast Asia (164000), with almost three-quarters of all climate-related deaths expected to occur in China (248000) and India (136000). On a per-capita basis, also Greece (124 deaths per million people) and Italy (89 deaths per million people) are likely to be significantly affected.
The study is published in The Lancet.