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Expert commentary: If we fail to halt the progress of climate change you can kiss kebabs goodbye

Dr Marcus Randall is a climate modelling expert and an Associate Professor at Bond University's Centre for Data Analytics.

If we fail to halt the progress of climate change, be prepared to kiss the kebabs goodbye and say hello to insects as your major protein source. 

Don’t let the recent deluges on Australia’s east coast fool you – the planet is getting hotter and drier and it’s going to have a major impact on some of the world’s most common crops. 

After a series of natural disasters driven by climate change, many Australians are already having to change the way they eat due to shortages of basic foods and price rises caused by supply chain disruption.  

It’s something we might all have to get used to.  

While the current situation is caused by a big wet, all the climate models tell us we’re heading towards a drier, hotter planet, and that’s when food insecurity will truly begin to bite for larger and larger swathes of the world’s population. 

Growing water-hungry crops like rice – a dietary mainstay for billions of people – will simply become unviable in many parts of the world. And steak? Forget it. 

The water usage on beef is thousands of litres. When we no longer have access to enough water to support that, we’re going to have to look for alternatives. 

That’s where the insects come in – they don’t require that amount of water and can be a high-protein alternative. It might not sound all that appealing, but it could become what we need to survive when the planet is too dry to support the farming of meat and dairy products. 

It’s also something indigenous cultures have known for tens of thousands of years, and insects remain a common food source in many parts of the world.  

One of the major problems we will have, if we fail to act on climate change, is the loss of our rivers and aquifers. Industry and agriculture require huge amounts of water and we’re all competing for a resource that will continue to become less and less available according to the climate modelling. 

Even with an increased reliance on alternative proteins and drought tolerant products, we have to remember that all crops require resources – you still have to be able to grow them. Science and technology can only solve so much.  

So, what can be done? To begin with, we need to change the way we think about and grow food. In some parts of the world, we will quite simply have to stop growing certain types of crops and learn to rely on others. 

We will need to accept that as the temperature starts to rise the crop quality and nutrient quality lowers and we need to eat more to get the same level of nutrition from crops. 

Looking at the way we farm is a key issue. Not just the type of crops we are growing, but how we grow more sustainably.  

Stacked greenhouses are an example of a change to farming practices that has shown some success, but this and other measures are being implemented in very piecemeal ways. Unless we take collective, global action, we’ll simply end up shifting the problem from one location to another. 

The real problem is a political one – the short-term implications of the major changes needed to preserve our future for the longer term are often impossible to sell. It will result in industries slowing or closing down, job losses for some. But there are ways to minimise the short term pain – tax incentives for more sustainable practices and financial support for radical and innovative ideas.  

With climate change seemingly back on the agenda at the demand of voters, there’s now a chance we can keep kebabs on the menu for a little longer. 

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