Red mullet (Mullus barbatus)

Food sources

How climate change could affect the future of the food we eat

Many scientists now believe we are going through a sixth mass extinction. Habitat loss, overexploitation by humans, and, in some cases, new diseases are threatening the future of countless animals and plants.

Does any of this actually matter to people, though? Undoubtedly. Despite our wealth and technology we still rely on the biosphere for our food, either wild-caught or farmed. The collapse of existing food webs could have immense consequences.

Crops are not just at the mercy of the weather. According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), bees pollinate more than 70 per cent of the 100 crop species that supply 90 per cent of the world’s food. This comes with a hefty economic implication: the cash value of insect pollination worldwide in 2005 was estimated by scientists to be €153 billion (£123 bn).

Ecosystem changes can also have serious consequences for the carbon balance. In 2005 Hurricane Katrina killed some 320 million trees, which released about 100bn kg of carbon into the atmosphere – at least half the amount of carbon absorbed by all other US forests each year.

Lead image:

Red mullet (Mullus barbatus), a warm-water speces, is being increasingly caught in UK waters, which one 2012 study suggests is related to ocean warming.

46137/Flickr CC BY


About this resource

This resource was first published in ‘Health and Climate Change’ in January 2009 and reviewed and updated in September 2014.

Ecology and environment, Health, infection and disease
Health and Climate Change
Education levels:
14–16, 16–19, Continuing professional development