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Rejoining Paris Agreement: Good Sign for Global Food Supply

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About 9% of the population globally is food insecure. (tong2530/Adobe Stock)
About 9% of the population globally is food insecure. (tong2530/Adobe Stock)
 By Eric Tegethoff - Producer, Contact
February 22, 2021

SEATTLE, Wash. -- The United States has rejoined the Paris climate agreement, an indicator the Biden administration plans to get serious about reducing the country's carbon emissions.

Kristie Ebi, professor of global health and environment at the University of Washington, said it's not only good for the environment; it also could help secure the world's food supply. A changing climate means more heat waves and floods.

But Ebi added rising carbon dioxide levels will also make food less nourishing.

"Experiments putting plants out under higher concentrations of carbon dioxide show that as we have even higher concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the nutritional density of major cereal crops decline," Ebi explained.

Ebi noted the studies were done on wheat and rice, crops that provide the largest proportion of calories around the world.

The warming climate will also affect crop yields. About 9% of the global population is food insecure.

Ebi pointed out with the U.S. rejoining the Paris Agreement, federal agencies like the Department of Agriculture can focus on climate change again.

"[It] will provide the support, human and financial resources, that are needed for the U.S. to understand the magnitude and pattern of shifts and to identify approaches to protect our own citizens, as well as citizens in other countries," Ebi contended.

Historically, the U.S. is responsible for a quarter of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

The Trump administration announced the U.S. would leave the Paris Agreement in 2019 but the country's departure didn't become official until Nov. 2020.

Ebi emphasized organizations are researching how to make crops more resilient to climate change, but more needs to be done.

"There's lots of opportunity for innovation in this space to start thinking of how we can organize our agricultural sector a bit differently so it produces fewer greenhouse gases and the food that's produced is of higher quality," Ebi concluded.

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