climate change threatened foods
Pexels from Pixabay

Peter Dykstra: A foodie tastes climate change

Some samples of where food is going… or gone.

Pity the poor climate reporter. Tasked to write about the costly future and gloomy topic of climate change, we often turn to food to try to relieve our misery. But in our case, that means writing about it, not eating it.


This past week, I distinctly heard the sound of a butter knife clinking against the bottom of a four-ounce jar.

Dijon mustard had joined the list of edible climate victims.

NPR sent its veteran Paris correspondent Eleanor Beardsley to the Bordeaux region. Not to report on the threat to Bordeaux wine, mind you, but on the region’s Dijon mustard. It turns out that genuine Dijon requires mustard seeds from Canada, and last year’s brutal, record-setting “heat dome” ruined the hot mustard crop.

And there’s more concern at the other end of the condiment aisle.

Olive output has suffered in recent years as more frequent winter waves of warm and chilly Mediterranean weather impact the trees’ flowering and fruiting. And as olives go, so goes olive oil.

And with our olive oil, so goes tomato sauce for pizza and pasta. About thirty percent of the world’s canned tomato crop comes from California’s Central Valley, where near-catastrophic drought threatens not a bad year, but a bad forever in one of the world’s key food-producing zones.

So, if Marie Antoinette were around to witness this, would she offer a tomato sauce workaround? Maybe, “Let them eat white clam sauce?”

Well... even for those of us who can stand white clam sauce, clams and other mollusks are vulnerable to the oceans’ rising levels of acidification.

And then there’s the wheat flour that’s turned into traditional pasta. Breadbaskets like Ukraine and the U.S. heartland are increasingly subject to drought, and nutritionists predict that rising CO2 levels could rob wheat, rice and other grains of nutrients.

As early as 2011, a study predicted problems for all manner of fruits and nuts grown throughout the world’s temperate regions. Pistachios, walnuts, cherries and peaches are among the crops that need warm summers and chilly, but not frigid winters to prosper. Warming winter temps may be a problem from Israel to Georgia.

So let’s take a break

Enough about our food for now. Let’s have a drink to relax. Are you a wine person? Well, get some Bordeaux while you can. It’s expected that the world’s prime grape-growing regions may shift with the climate.

Beer? Subtle changes in hops, barley –the yeast that turns sugar into alcohol– and other brewing essentials may not kill your favorite microbrew, but we have no idea how it will taste.

And if you prefer to inhale your escape, the folks at www.mjbizdaily.com have some news for you. The publication, which seems to regard itself as the Wall Street Journal of weed, projects marijuana growers as following the vineyards’ paths on the where cannabis will struggle, and the new places where it could thrive.

The 800-pound steer in the room

Liam Ortiz from Pixabay

Of course, our current diet is a big factor in the climate crisis. Beef, pork and chicken, all raised factory-farming style, greatly contribute to methane release and other air-pollution issues. In regions where cattle are still raised on pasture, they are to blame for the clearing of tropical rainforests, like the Amazon, wiping out one of the world's great carbon sinks.

I could lose five pounds just writing down why I’m a climate-writing, meat-eating, climate-destroying hypocrite.

Prefer seafood? Sensitive to water temperatures, forage fish like sardines and anchovies are de-camping for warmer waters. On the North American East Coast, lobsters are deserting the southern New England coast for the cooler waters of Maine. But lobstermen worry that the crustaceans are merely biding their time to dodge the thermal draft and eventually will head to Canadian waters.

For their part, North Carolina fishermen, rigged and experienced to capture summer flounder, have to chase their target hundreds of miles up the coast to New Jersey.

So some of our food is leaving us. Other food is running and hiding.

Thanks, climate change!

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

republican climate change denial
Speaker of the House Mike Johnson. (Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Opinion: House Speaker Mike Johnson’s climate change playbook — deny the science, take the funding

The two-faced charade of climate denial while diving into the pot of federal renewable incentives and tax breaks.

It took no time for Mike Johnson to establish a hefty carbon footprint as new Speaker of the House.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
Lake Winnipesaukee
Image by John French from Pixabay

Climate change impacting Lake Winnipesaukee ice-out and ice-in dates

Climate change is impacting weather patterns all around us, including milestones at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire's largest body of water.

global warming
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

2023 is about to smash the record for the hottest year

For the sixth month in a row, Earth set a new monthly record for heat, and also added the hottest autumn to the litany of record-breaking heat this year, the European climate agency calculated.

Seeking higher ground: Western resorts take skiers where the snow is

New terrain development at ski resorts, primarily in Colorado, aims to chase and preserve snow, an invaluable commodity.
electric vehicle charger
Photo by Robert Linder on Unsplash

Biden’s EV tax credit rules are finally here

A year after the federal government promised new rules governing how electric vehicles can qualify for tax credits, the Treasury Department’s official guidance is finally here.

cop28
Big Stock Photo

Who is pledging climate finance at COP28, and how much?

At this year's U.N. climate summit, countries, development institutions and businesses are pledging more money for everything from the energy transition to health care initiatives, technology investments, disaster relief and more.

Least-studied areas of Brazilian Amazon at high risk from climate change

In the Brazilian Amazon, between 15 and 18% of the areas most overlooked by research are at high risk of severe climate and land-use changes by 2050, according to a new study.

From our Newsroom
childrens health climate change

Delays in joining the RGGI regional climate program means excess ER visits and child illness in Pennsylvania

Up to 128 premature deaths from air pollution could have been prevented if the state had entered the program in 2022 as planned.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Carlos Gould on wildfire smoke and our health

“Information matters a lot — trying to explain not just that there’s a problem, but how to do something about it.”

fracking PFAS

“Forever chemicals” in Pennsylvania fracking wells could impact health of surrounding communities: Report

More than 5,000 wells in the state were injected with 160 million pounds of undisclosed, “trade-secret” chemicals, which potentially include PFAS.

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

Poor recordkeeping on hazardous waste disposal points to potential for bigger problems, according to a new study.

drought climate farming

Opinion: Climate change and soil loss — the new Dust Bowl?

How we can save our soil, stabilize the climate, and prevent a new Dust Bowl.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.