Climate change could bring about more than 500,000 extra adult deaths a year by 2050 – simply by reducing the supply of fruit and vegetables available to millions.
Although restricted food production could reduce health risks linked to the growing epidemic of obesity worldwide, any such benefits will be wiped away by the greater toll of undernourishment, according to new research that says three out of four of those extra deaths could happen in China and India.
Marco Springmann, post-doctoral researcher in population health at the Oxford Martin Programme on the Future of Food at Oxford University, UK, and colleagues report in The Lancet that their study of the impact of climate change on diet and bodyweight is the first of its kind, and the first to estimate the possible number of deaths in 155 countries.
“Much research has looked at food security, but little has focused on the wider health effects of agricultural production,” Dr Springmann says.
“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, as well as death from those diseases.