Climate Change is Threatening Your Favorite Foods

Climate Change is Threatening Your Favorite Foods

With last summer’s temperatures in California reaching above 100 degrees F, tomato crops suffered. California supplies 90% of canning tomatoes for the country, so the resulting tomato shortage has put pressure on canners of tomato-based products, like ketchup and pasta sauce. The average American consumes around 30 lbs of -- mostly canned -- tomatoes per year, as it is the second most-consumed vegetable after potatoes, making the heat- and drought-induced shortage more impactful on the American diet. As conditions like heat, long-term drought, and water scarcity become more common, farmers (and not just those in California) will struggle to balance demand while keeping costs down.

PBS: ​​Megadrought causes perilously low water levels at Lake Mead, June 2, 2022.

CBS: Western drought likely to get worse and expand, climate researchers says, March 26, 2022.

Why This Matters

Extreme heatwaves are intensifying across the Western US and are 150 times more likely to occur with climate change. These, combined with the megadrought that’s causing aridification across the region and contributing to water restrictions in California, tomato farmers are struggling to meet the demand their crops aren’t producing. If tomato production continues to decline season after season, Americans will find that some of their favorite foods, like pizza, are less and less available in the future.

"Maybe pizza is running the risk of becoming a seasonal food if there aren’t enough tomatoes in the future,” says Tony Montagnaro of Ojai, California’s Pinyon, a small restaurant specializing in pizza.

NBC: Climate Change And Drought Forcing Hard Choices Across California, April 28, 2022.

Sacramento Bee: 'The Greatest Reduction Ever.’ How Drought Has Affected Rice Farmers In Sacramento Valley, May 16, 2022.

Tomatoes Are Not Alone

About 2 million farms operate across the US, with cattle, corn, and soybeans being the top three commodities produced. Just one of these farms feeds 166 people annually, both foreign and domestic. Annually, the US exports more than $177 billion worth of agricultural products. The sector is an essential part of the global economy and food system, but climate change threatens to destroy it.

Corn production in the Midwest has been hit by extreme heat, unpredictable precipitation, and disease. It could potentially be wiped out by 2100 unless new technology is rapidly developed. In Iowa, a devastating derecho in 2020 destroyed $802 million worth of soybeans, corn, and pastures and led to shortages that season. Other US agriculture is also at risk. Hurricane Ida in 2021 severely impacted production Louisiana’s fishing industry, which echoed across the country’s industry at large. Climate change, if left unchecked, will inevitably decrease food availability, increase food prices, and cause national instability in the coming years.

CNBC: Will The US Face A Food Shortage?, April 20, 2022.

ABC: ​​Farmers face tough choices amid California’s ongoing drought crisis, November 24, 2021.

CBS: Severe droughts in Western U.S. force farmers to forgo or swap crops, June 19, 2021.

Bloomberg: Increasing Risks of Global Hunger, April 7, 2022.