Guest essay by Eric Worrall
According to a new study, global warming will reduce the nutritional quality of children’s diets in poor countries. But the biggest predictor of nutritional quality was not climate, it was household wealth. Coal guzzling China was cited as being a children’s nutrition success story.
Scientists warn climate change is harming children’s diets
Jan. 19 05:32 am
By Sonia Elks
Climate change could undo decades of work reducing malnutrition, scientists said on Thursday in a study finding that children in developing countries with rising temperatures are eating poorer diets.
Higher temperatures often had a bigger impact on children’s diet diversity than the gains seen from access to education, clean water and poverty reduction, said the U.S.-led study in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
“This is deeply concerning; it indicates that in many regions these positive socioeconomic and demographic changes may not be adequate to outweigh the negative effects of a changing climate going forward,” the study said.
“Warming temperatures and increasing rainfall variability could have profound short- and long-term impacts on child diet diversity, potentially undermining widespread development interventions aimed at improving food security.”
“Future climate changes have been predicted to affect malnutrition,” said lead author Meredith Niles, an assistant professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont in a statement.
Household wealth was the biggest single predictor of diet variety. Researchers found that children ate on average 3.2 food groups out of 10 possible in the 24 hours before the survey – half that of children in more affluent countries such as China.
…Read more: https://japantoday.com/category/features/health/scientists-warn-climate-change-is-harming-children%27s-diets
The abstract of the study;
Climate impacts associated with reduced diet diversity in children across nineteen countries
Meredith T Niles, Benjamin F Emery, Serge Wiltshire, Molly E Brown, Brendan Fisher and Taylor H Ricketts
Published 14 January 2021
It is widely anticipated that climate change will negatively affect both food security and diet diversity. Diet diversity is especially critical for children as it correlates with macro and micronutrient intake important for child development. Despite these anticipated links, little empirical evidence has demonstrated a relationship between diet diversity and climate change, especially across large datasets spanning multiple global regions and with more recent climate data. Here we use survey data from 19 countries and more than 107,000 children, coupled with 30 years of precipitation and temperature data, to explore the relationship of climate to child diet diversity while controlling for other agroecological, geographic, and socioeconomic factors. We find that higher long-term temperatures are associated with decreases in overall child diet diversity, while higher rainfall in the previous year, compared to the long-term average rainfall, is associated with greater diet diversity. Examining six regions (Asia, Central America, North Africa, South America, Southeast Africa, and West Africa) individually, we find that five have significant reductions in diet diversity associated with higher temperatures while three have significant increases in diet diversity associated with higher precipitation. In West Africa, increasing rainfall appears to counterbalance the effect of rising temperature impacts on diet diversity. In some regions, the statistical effect of climate on diet diversity is comparable to, or greater than, other common development efforts including those focused on education, improved water and toilets, and poverty reduction. These results suggest that warming temperatures and increasing rainfall variability could have profound short- and long-term impacts on child diet diversity, potentially undermining widespread development interventions aimed at improving food security.Read more: https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/abd0ab
The main study hilights the positive impact of affluence;
Factors associated with reductions in diet diversity include greater distance to urban centers and roads, higher livestock density, male-headed households, poor households, and higher long-term average tem- peratures (SI appendix table S4 and figure 2). Factors associated with increases in diet diversity include child age, years of education for the household head, use of an improved toilet, household wealth, and higher-than-average precipitation in the year prior to the survey (SI appendix table S4 and figure 2). While wealth is the greatest correlate predicting diet diversity, long-term average temperature and higher-than-average precipitation in the previous year correlate with diet diversity at levels equal to or greater than many variables that are often a focus of current development policy, including market access (i.e. distance to urban center), livestock density, education, and gender.Source: Same link as above
China is cited as a children’s nutrition success, because they are a middle income nation;
… In the largest global study to date exploring the connections between child diet diversity and recent climate, we find international and regional evidence that temperature and precipitation significantly correlate with diet diversity and in many cases have a larger impact than agroecological, geographic, or sociodemographic variables. Most importantly, we find that climate factors, especially temperature, have a greater relative negative impact on diet diversity than the positive relationship of many factors that are often the target of development interventions, including education, water and sanitation, and poverty alleviation. We also find that overall child diet diversity within the study is very low, with a global average of children eating slightly more than three varied food groups daily in our sample. While there are no established cut-off points to indicate adequate or inadequate dietary diversity, these results are significantly lower, on average, than has been found in middle income countries such as China, but is consistent with child diet diversity scores in similar countries in Africa …Source: Same link as above
China, which was every bit as poor as impoverished African countries under the Mao regime, with mass starvation killing millions, is now enjoying world class nutrition and affluence.
Why? Because they built lots of coal plants, industrialised, and got rich.
China suffered a devastating agricultural disaster last year when the Yangtze river flooded, but they didn’t suffer mass starvation – they bought their way out of trouble by importing more food.
How many impoverished African countries could afford to do this?
The study conclusion doesn’t even mention wealth, though wealth is referenced in the body of the study as the single most important predictor of childhood nutrition (see above);
In this large-scale, multi-country analysis, we demon- strate the relationship between climate on child diet diversity outcomes, including temperature, which has not been previously widely recognized. Our work demonstrates that climate variables in some regions have a relatively greater impact on diet diversity outcomes as compared to other controls variables, including some that are commonly promoted for development-oriented projects. This suggests that safeguarding child diet diversity, and related nutrition outcomes, requires adaptation efforts explicitly considering climate, though our empirical understanding of these remains limited. Future research can explore these potential adaptation strategies and their out- comes, as well as examine the impact of climate on diet diversity outcomes at different scales, and ideally, with long-term panel data.Source: Same link as above
Even if we ignore the in my opinion dubious implicit inference that global warming would lead to more hot drought conditions (West Africa was a lot wetter during the Holocene Optimum), instead of concluding climate change is a problem, the study authors should have concluded poverty is a problem.
If poor countries want to avoid starvation and insulate themselves against crop failures, they need to copy what China did – build lots of coal plants and make a huge pile of money, to act as a buffer against any problems which arise. Then they can afford all the food imports and air conditioning they need, just like China, regardless of what problems they experience with their agriculture.
Thankfully African nations have already figured this out – according to CNN, the Chinese are helping to build at least 32GW of coal capacity in Africa. Many of the new plants are due to come online in the next decade.