When you see the abundance of food at the
local supermarket-the bins of fruits and
vegetables, the seafood on ice, the water
bottles on the shelves-you may not always
think about where it all comes from or what
would happen if nature could no longer
provide for us. Currently there are 7.3 billion
the planet. According to a report by the
United Nations, the world’s population is
expected to grow to 9.6 billion by the year
2050. Global demand for food, water, and
energy is predicted to increase by 35
percent, 40 percent, and 50
percent, respectively, by 2030. This will
further test nature’s ability to provide for us,
as will the expanding middle class around
The unprecedented consumption of critical natural resources poses enormous challenges for the entire planet.Some countries are already feeling the effects with depleted fisheries and diminished food stocks resulting from the inability of agricultural production to keep pace with demand. In recent years, more food was consumed around the world than produced.
Take a look around and it becomes clear that nearly everything surrounding us-the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, the butcher-block table in your kitchen, the paper used for this magazine-comes from nature.
The changing climate compounds these
trends, as the increasing number and
severity of storms (like Hurricane Sandy,
which battered the East Coast in 2012), f
loods, and droughts threaten global food
and water supplies.
Competition for increasingly scarce resources can lead to social and political instability, conict, radicalization, and possibly even failed nations. According to the US National Intelligence Council, “[resource] scarcities are likely to hit hardest on poorer states, leading in the worst case to internal or interstate conflict and spillover to regional destabilization.” Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, the country's premier foreignpolicy think tank, agress.
The simple truth is that humanity cannot survive without nature: for our food, fresh water, lifesaving medicines, and so much more.
“Resources are linked to both the stability of countries and to the stability of regions,” he says. Resource shortages and competition need to be on “the list of possible sources of friction or conflict” and are “potentially a contributing cause of instability within countries and conceivably a source of instability between countries"
But resource scarcity is not just a problem
for other countries; it is also a threat to the
United States’ economic interests and
How is the changing climate affecting us now?
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an international body that reviews scientific research on the changing climate, stated in a recent report that it is “unequivocal” that the global climate is warming: “The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.”
The IPCC notes that concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased and projects that if the current rate of greenhouse gas emissions continues, the climate and oceans will continue to warm during the 21st century. That could result in sea levels rising anywhere from 21 inches to three feet by 2100, endangering cities worldwide, from New York and Miami to London and Sydney. Coastal flooding and erosion are expected to increase with rising sea levels. The panel also found evidence that human health, agriculture, water supplies, and in some cases people’s livelihoods have already been impacted by climate change.
Increased acidification of the oceans (from the absorption of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere) has harmed marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs and fisheries, potentially threatening our food security. The IPCC predicts climate change is projected to impact the availability of fresh water and increase water scarcity, which could result in competition for the resource.
“Protecting nature is not an optionit is essential for the well-being of people.
it is not someone else’s problem.
We are all in this together.”
The production of crops like wheat and rice is also projected to be negatively impacted by the changing climate. Risks to human health may also rise due to stronger heat waves, decreased food production, and a greater prevalence of disease, according to the panel. One place that is already feeling the impact of the changing climate is the remote nation of Kiribati, which sits just a few feet above sea level in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, more than 1,000 miles south of Hawaii. Kiribati is composed of 33 tiny e of the storm, could literally be swallowed up by the sea.
and intelligence communities are increasingly focusing on the impact of climate change on resource scarcity, food security, and stability within and among nations