Road to COP28: Our Favorite Foods’ Uncertain Future, Soon Disappear From Our Menus

Road to COP28: increased temperatures caused by climate change have an impact on agriculture and the availability of high-demand items. Here are 20 food crops that are facing shortages and uncertain futures due to the global crisis.
As the world inches closer to 2024, a quiet yet profound crisis is unfolding across our farms and fields. Climate change, manifesting as floods, droughts, extreme temperatures, and storms, is ravaging crops, threatening to upend our food supply, and leaving us facing a future where our plates and palates may be significantly altered.


The Climate Menace On Our Plate

In the shadow of a warming world, a silent yet profound crisis unfolds across our fields and tables. Climate change, manifesting as floods, droughts, and extreme temperatures, is ravaging crops and threatening the very staples of our diet. This year, as wars rage and a post-pandemic reality bites, food insecurity looms large, with 783 million people worldwide facing hunger. Governments, nonprofits, and corporations scramble to combat this crisis, yet an estimated 660 million may still face hunger by 2030, a stark reminder that climate change remains the ultimate adversary.
The study, titled ‘Extinction risk of Mesoamerican crop wild relatives,’ sounds an alarm for various native varieties – vanilla, potatoes, avocados, and more. South and Central American vanilla is most at risk, followed closely by wild cotton, avocados, and wild potatoes.
Moreover, a report by Global Citizen reinforces this alarming trend, stating that 40 percent of all edible crops are on the brink of extinction due to climate change. This looming crisis threatens to unleash harsh weather conditions, pests, and diseases that our current crops may not withstand. Here are twenty of our favourite foods that are affected by the climate crisis:
1. Tomatoes
The quintessential ingredient in kitchens worldwide faces a dire future. Research predicts a 6% yield decline by mid-century in key regions like Italy and California. Already, the UK and India reel from tomato shortages, triggering price hikes and menu changes at fast-food giants.
2. Potatoes
Potato is one of the most vulnerable crops in changing climates, with events such as long-lasting droughts, extreme heat, and unanticipated frosts. At low temperatures potatoes are at risk of frost damage, which can reduce growth and badly damage tubers. The temperature is expected to increase as the climate changes, with inconsistent precipitation patterns
3. Coffee
The morning brew is in peril, with 60% of coffee species, including arabica, under threat of extinction. Climate hazards are frequent, and a bleak future where coffee-growing land halves before 2050 looms.  
The International Development Bank casts a foreboding shadow on the future of these coffee havens, as rising temperatures loom large over the coffee fields. Latin America, revered for its idyllic climate—where balmy humidity intertwines with the perfect temperature for coffee to flourish—is now standing on the precipice of an unprecedented challenge. The delicate balance that has for so long made Central America a coffee Eden is tilting dangerously. By the year 2050, scientists estimate that the land suitable for coffee cultivation in this region will have dwindled by a staggering 50%, a blow not just to the industry but to the cultural fabric that has been woven around these aromatic beans.
4. Chocolate
In the lush, rain-soaked groves where the cacao plant thrives, a bitter twist in the tale of chocolate is unfolding. This indulgence, a guilty pleasure savored by many, faces an uncertain future as the warm, humid bastions of cacao cultivation confront the stark realities of climate change.
Nestled within the rainforests, cacao – the very heart of our chocolate cravings – finds itself at a crossroads. A staggering 70% of the world’s chocolate hails from the fertile lands of West Africa. Yet, a report from the International Center for Tropical Agriculture paints a worrying picture: a noticeable decline in cacao yields may arrive as soon as 2030.
5. Chilies
The spice of life is under threat. Chillies (Capsicum spp.) are the berries or fruits of plant belonging to the genus Capsicum of the solanaceae family. It is used as spice in a variety of cuisines all over the world as a basic ingredient. Like other crops, the growth, development and yield of chilli is also influenced by the climate change. The rise in temperature, heavy rainfall, drought, soil salinity, soil acidity, occurrence of diseases and insect pest attack has severely affected the productivity of the chilli. Moreover, Southern California’s Sriracha sauce production halt in 2022 due to severe weather impacting chilli pepper quality is a taste of what’s to come.
6. Wine
A symbol of celebration, wine production has hit its lowest levels since 1961 due to extreme weather. French winemakers grapple with altered grape quality, a direct consequence of rising temperatures.
Climate Central sheds light on a startling truth: the wine grapes that have flourished under specific climatic conditions are now at the mercy of shifting temperatures. For instance, the revered Pinot noir grapes, the soul of many a fine bottle, thrive within an alarmingly narrow temperature window of just 3.6°F. This fragility lays bare the vulnerability of a craft that has been honed over centuries.
7. Corn 
Corn, alongside wheat and rice, forms the cornerstone of the human diet, collectively accounting for about 42% of the world’s food calories. The implications of this projected decline are far-reaching, touching every corner of the globe. A 2022 paper in Scientific Reports further underscores the gravity of the situation, revealing that global warming by 2°C (3.6°F) – relative to the years 1986-2005 – would result in a significant decrease in corn yields worldwide. Even a slightly more moderate warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F) would still see corn yields faltering, albeit less drastically.
This revelation isn’t just a matter of statistics or agricultural forecasts; it’s a harbinger of a much graver crisis. The “much more serious” loss risk of corn with a 2°C rise in global temperatures signifies a tipping point. We stand on the precipice of a world where the golden fields of corn, a symbol of abundance and sustenance, could dwindle under the scorching sun of climate change.
8. Soy
While the growing popularity of soy is driving deforestation that contributes the higher carbon levels, the effects of climate change on soybean yields are mixed. That concerning finding comes from a new study published in Nature Food that analyzed historical data to project how drier heat waves will affect soy fields around the world.
9. Blueberries
Peru’s blueberry exports have plummeted due to El Niño-induced high temperatures, affecting global markets and prices. The industry has experienced adverse meteorological effects, leading to crop destruction, slowed production processes, and reduced yields. Intense rains, hail, and high radiation rates have impacted plants, resulting in insufficient fruit in markets and affecting consumer demand.
Recent heat waves have significantly impacted Peru’s blueberry season, delaying fruit production by affecting plant photosynthesis. Now, ongoing threats come from forecasted heavy rains, with the Multisectoral Commission of the National Study of the El Niño Phenomenon projecting the meteorological event to persist until at least the fall of 2024. The main blueberry-producing regions, located in the coastal and northern regions of the Peruvian highlands, are at risk.
Authorities anticipate warm air temperatures from November 2023 to February 2024, leading to intense rains on the north coast, central coast, and northern mountains. This poses a threat of floods and landslides, particularly in vulnerable regions that account for nearly 95% of blueberry crops and virtually all export production.
10. Oranges
In the US, orange juice prices soar as Florida’s orange yields plummet, hit by a series of hurricanes and freezing conditions. Orange production could be 5% lower than last year, with a larger harvest in Egypt offset by lower production in the European Union and the United States. HLB disease and hurricanes in Florida have severely affected crops in these regions.
11. Limes
In Peru, lime production has drastically reduced following extreme weather events, echoing similar challenges in Mexico. According to a recent USDA report, global citrus production will slow in 2023 due to adverse weather conditions and rising agricultural input costs.
Specifically, this is expected to result in a decline in the production of oranges, tangerines, lemons, limes and grapefruit in several countries, including the United States, China, Morocco, Turkey, Mexico and Argentina.
12. Micronutrients
A lesser-known but vital aspect of our diet, micronutrients in plants are diminishing due to increased CO2 levels, affecting the nutritional quality of major food crops. Essential for development, disease prevention, and overall well-being, these nutrients are now at risk, caught in the crosshairs of our changing climate. A 2019 study sheds light on a troubling phenomenon: heightened levels of carbon dioxide, a direct consequence of our industrial activities, are diminishing the nutritional quality of our food. Proteins and minerals in crops are decreasing by 5–15%, and B vitamins by as much as 30%.
Harvard Chan School’s research further corroborates this alarming trend. Their findings suggest a bleak future: by 2050, if current CO2 levels persist, our fundamental food crops could lose up to 10% of their zinc, 5% of their iron, and 8% of their protein. This alteration in the nutritional landscape is not just about micronutrients; it’s a change that affects the very building blocks of our diet.
As we navigate what is shaping up to be the hottest year on record, with an unprecedentedly warm October behind us, the implications for our food supply become increasingly stark. Both plant-based and animal-derived foods – from fruits and vegetables to meat, milk, and eggs – are under the shadow of climate change.
13. Cheese
Dairy cheese was found to be a top contributor of carbon emissions by a new study, revealing that quitting the real deal for plant-based could cut the cheese market’s climate impact in half. Nonetheless, cheesemakers struggle to meet traditional quality standards amid climate-induced changes in pastures.
In the storied tradition of cheesemaking, where every nuance from pasture to palate is steeped in time-honored practices, a subtle yet seismic shift is underway, as reported by the New York Times. The art of crafting fine cheese, an intricate process that encompasses everything from the diet of grazing animals to the delicate aging of the final product, now faces an unprecedented adversary: the changing climate.
14. Meat and poultry
The livestock industry stands at a crossroads, marked by its significant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions – a staggering 14.5% globally. Yet, as recent findings in the Open Veterinary Journal suggest, this industry is not merely a contributor to climate change but also a victim of its unforgiving progression. Rising air temperatures, a hallmark of our warming planet, are poised to inflict heat stress and escalate disease occurrences among livestock, reshaping the very dynamics of animal farming.
One of the most acute challenges facing this sector is water availability. The journal Climate Risk Management highlights a startling reality: about 8% of the world’s freshwater is currently allocated to livestock production. With temperatures soaring, the water consumption of livestock could surge by two to three times. This increase comes at a time when, by 2025, an estimated 64% of the global population is expected to grapple with water-stressed conditions. Such a scenario intensifies the ethical dilemma of prioritizing water for animal agriculture over human needs.
15. Peaches
These delicate fruits are increasingly vulnerable to weather fluctuations, notoriously difficult to farm, both labor-intensive and sensitive to minor fluctuations in weather. During the fall and winter, peach trees enter a dormant period. Depending on the variety, the tree needs a specific number of “chilling” hours during this time – basically, hours spent at temperatures between 32 and 45F. During this season, peach trees are pretty hardy and resilient to freezes. Once the weather warms, the trees begin flowering and eventually producing fruit. But, at that point, the tree and its fruits are a lot more vulnerable to cold and destructive weather, such as hail.
16. Shellfish
Beneath the vast expanse of our oceans, a silent crisis is unraveling, threatening the very existence of shellfish, a staple of maritime diets and ecosystems. According to insights from the Washington State Department of Health, these marine delicacies are facing a formidable foe: ocean acidification. As the oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, a sinister transformation occurs, turning this gas into carbonic acid. This acid is an unrelenting force, dissolving the calcium carbonate shells that protect clams and their kin, eroding the armor nature bestowed upon them.
With the mercury rising, our oceans are becoming breeding grounds for algae that thrive in warmer waters. This burgeoning algae growth is more than just a bloom; it’s a harbinger of marine bio-toxins. These toxins, insidious in nature, find their way into feeder organisms like shellfish. Research published in the journal Toxins reveals the alarming risks of bio-toxin exposure through shellfish consumption, highlighting dangers such as paralytic shellfish toxins and ciguatera fish poisoning.
17. Almonds
In the agricultural tapestry of the United States, almonds occupy a paradoxical space – a crop of nutritional richness shadowed by its environmental cost. Known for their intensive water usage, almonds are primarily cultivated in the drought-prone locales of the United States. As NPR highlights, California, a state already grappling with water scarcity, is responsible for a staggering 80% of the world’s almond supply. Yet, this bastion of almond production is facing a decline, with the relentless drought and heatwaves of recent years taking a toll. Between May and July 2020 alone, the state’s almond yield plummeted by nearly 400,000 pounds.
18. Honey
The USDA Agricultural Research Service paints a dire picture: farmed honeybee populations are vanishing at an alarming rate of 40% annually, a statistic that resonates with a profound sense of urgency.
At the heart of this decline is the inescapable grip of climate change, tangling the delicate balance of ecosystems in which these vital pollinators thrive. Shifts in the cycles of flowering plants, a direct consequence of our changing climate, are placing nutritional stress on bee populations. This stress, in turn, heightens their vulnerability to colony collapse disorder and a myriad of other pathogens, setting off a domino effect within the natural world.
Yet, the significance of the honeybee extends far beyond the realms of honey production. The USDA underscores a critical fact: honeybees are responsible for the pollination of 80% of terrestrial flowering plants and a vast array of fruits and vegetables that form the staples of our daily diets. Their ecological value transcends honey, touching every facet of our terrestrial biodiversity.
19. Avocados
Groundbreaking research from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany heralds a stark transformation. The fertile regions of Peru, Indonesia, and the Dominican Republic, once the global powerhouses of avocado production, are facing a future where their lands may no longer be hospitable for cultivating this beloved fruit.
While the prospect of avocados disappearing by 2050 is not imminent, the challenge it presents is undeniable. It beckons a collaboration of scientists and agriculturalists, a union of minds and methods, to pioneer sustainable ways to grow avocados at higher altitudes and breed varieties resilient to harsher climates.
20. Rice
In China’s major rice-producing regions, Guangxi and Guangdong, droughts have led to the worst conditions in 20 years. A projected 20-40% decrease in rice productivity looms, signaling a significant deficit in the balance of production and demand.
In India, the world’s preeminent exporter of rice, a critical conundrum is unfolding. The nation’s rice production, typically a rhythmic dance between human effort and nature’s bounty, is now beleaguered by a dual threat: unrelenting droughts and torrential rains. This climatic double-edged sword has forced a dramatic pivot in policy. On July 20, in a move emblematic of the growing distress, the Indian government declared a ban on exports of non-basmati white rice. This decision, more than a mere regulatory adjustment, has sent ripples across the globe, nudging international rice prices upward.
As we hurtle towards potentially the hottest year on record, our food systems face unprecedented challenges. The consequences of inaction are stark – disrupted food supplies and a future where our dining tables bear the brunt of climate change. Yet, hope remains.
As Rodger Voorhies of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation asserts, with purposeful global action supporting agricultural innovation and nutrition, we can still sidestep the worst impacts of climate change and forge a healthier, more equitable future for all.

Lead image courtesy of  Pablo Merchan from Studio Colombia