There’s no question that climate change will have a major impact on our ability to grow and produce food. Farms depend on reliable seasons and predictable, consistent temperatures and precipitation to grow specific crops in specific regions. And the increasing risk and severity of extreme weather globally means farms everywhere are in greater and greater danger from drought or devastating floods, which can wipe out their yields entirely in the blink of an eye.
Which got us thinking: Won’t someone think of the pizza!
While the above-mentioned goodies have their partisans, they also have their detractors. Booze isn’t everyone’s thing, after all, and plenty of folks just don’t have a sweet tooth. And that’s fine. But who doesn’t like pizza?
The list of things we (like, the big We… all of us) agree are truly awesome is pretty short. The Beatles are great, and so are sunny spring days. That’s about it. But we think pizza can safely be added to that list – and climate change has its nefarious gaze set squarely on this most adored food.
We all like different toppings on our pizza (pepperoni and mushrooms, please!), but trying to break down the crisis’ impact on each and every one is a fool’s errand – one that opens the door to deeply controversial subjects like, “Should pineapple even be on a pizza?” (No.) So, for the purposes of this investigation, we’re going to stick to the big three ingredients required for a pizza to truly live its best life: dough, cheese, and tomato sauce.
Oh, dough, you delightfully gooey mix of flour, water, and some other stuff.
In the past, we’ve gone into great detail about the climate crisis’ impact on water – read it here, here, and here – so let’s focus on flour. Flour is made of grains ground into a fairly fine powder, and is a worldwide staple of food production.
Scientists project that warming temperatures mean yields of grains – including wheat, one of the world’s most important crops – will decline. By a lot. A study released in early 2017 found that in the US alone “the spike in average temperatures that is widely predicted by climate models for North America could hurt its agriculture sector.” Under a high emissions scenario, future yields of wheat are estimated to drop by 22 percent.
So, you know, say goodbye to the very foundation upon which mankind’s greatest culinary innovation is built – unless we double-down on climate solutions, that is.
Heat stress from warmer temperatures can put a real strain on how much milk cows can produce. Add in greater threats of less water thanks to more frequent droughts in key agricultural areas and you’ve got some seriously unhappy cows producing less milk on your hands.
Less milk means less cheese. And less cheese means less pizza. And less pizza is unacceptable.
As with all things climate crisis, the impact on vegetables varies greatly from place to place and vegetable to vegetable – but suffice to say, as with wheat, the news for tomatoes isn’t particularly good.
Any farmer or gardener will tell you that tomatoes are picky plants. They like it warm; they like it wet; and they like a pretty specific soil pH. The climate crisis has the warm thing under control, but unreliable precipitation patterns as well as more frequent drought, in particular, will harm tomato yield.
Tomato plants grow long roots, requiring deep watering. Deep watering is important wording here, because while the impact of drought on the plant is obvious, even areas that see increases in annual precipitation due to the climate crisis may not provide optimal growing conditions for tomatoes. This is because when that rain falls, it often comes down in buckets, leading to runoff and flooding because the soil is not able to absorb the moisture at the rate it’s falling. Steady, consistent rainfall is far more valuable to tomato growth than a literal washout.
So there you have it. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. Climate change is coming for your pizza.
But now that you know, you can fight back.
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