Food affecting climate change
Chocolate, almonds, and tomatoes are just some of the foods affecting the environment. Photo Credits: Giorgi Iremadz and Raspopova Marina and Nathana Reboucas

Chips, burgers and hot dogs might be going bare after new research suggests that tomato ketchup will become a rare commodity due to climate change. 

Ketchup is made from processing tomatoes, most of which are grown in California, Italy and China, all of which are experiencing soaring temperatures.

Processing tomatoes differ from tomatoes grown for fresh consumption, such as salad tomatoes, which are usually grown in a controlled environment. Instead, processing tomatoes are grown in fields under direct sunlight and are used for tomato paste, tomato sauce and ketchup. 

A research team from Aarhus University in Denmark has created a mathematical model to see how climate change will affect a crop’s yield, which predicted a six percent decline in tomato production by 2050.

Between 2050 and 2100, the researchers’ worst-case scenario showed that tomato harvest could be halved. 

This is because warmer temperatures speed up how quickly crops grow, which reduces the length of the growing season and therefore the yield. 

Rising temperatures and drought caused by climate change affect the production of many household food items such as coffee, chocolate and wheat, but there are just as many foods that are contributing to the problem.

Here’s four snacks that you might be surprised to learn are damaging the planet. 

Avocados

A favourite toast-topper, avocado became immersed in controversy when Australian millionaire Tim Gurner implied that more young people would be able to buy a house if they stopped spending money on the popular fruit. 

Gurner was mocked on the internet for his comments, but while avocados have nothing to do with the housing crisis, they do have a part to play in the climate crisis. 

They require a huge amount of water to produce – around 9.5 billion litres daily are used to grow them – which has caused drought-stricken farmers to divert water from nearby rivers, depleting water supplies for local residents. 

In addition, avocados rack up a huge number of air miles on their journey from farm to plates. Mexico produces more avocados than anywhere else in the world, but they are consumed mostly in North America and Europe.  

A Mexican avocado has to travel 5,555 miles to reach the UK, which means that a packet of two avocados has a carbon footprint of 846.36g – that’s twice the amount of a kilo of bananas. 

Almonds

80% of the world’s almonds are grown in California, making them a neighbour to the avocado. Just like avocados, the main problem with almond production is water. 

A single almond takes around three and a half litres of water to produce, and while California continues to battle drought, the global demand for almonds continues to grow, with production showing no sign of slowing down. 

Another problem that almonds present is the impact on bees. For many commercial beekeepers in the US, the majority of their income is now made by pollinating almonds rather than selling honey. 

Beekeepers are renting out their hives to almond farms over the winter but their bees are dying in record numbers under the pressures of industrial agriculture methods. The insects thrive in biodiverse landscapes, but almond farms place them monocultures – which have decreased variety in bacteria and microorganisms – demanding a large-scale mechanisation of one of nature’s most delicate natural processes. 

As the vast majority of plants rely on pollination, any damage to the bee population will have a devastating effect on the production of other crops.  

Chocolate

Bourbons, Chocolate Limes, or the humble chocolate bar. The UK has the 7th highest consumption of chocolate in the world 

But the difficulties in producing the sweet treat are putting a strain on the environment. 

It can take an entire year for one cocoa tree to produce just 227g of chocolate, resulting in cocoa farmers in West Africa, particularly along Ivory Coast, clearing tropical forest to plant cocoa trees. It is estimated this is causing 70% of the country’s illegal deforestation. 

On top of that, these plants need constant watering – it takes 10,000 litres of water to produce only 1kg of chocolate 

Research by the University of Manchester also found that the chocolate industry contributes to around 2.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases every year. The equivalent of the combined emissions of a whole city. 

And if you’re a fan of milk chocolate, it gets even worse. Research has found that one of the key ingredients, milk powder, is a major contributor to the use of fossil fuels and depletion of the ozone layer 

Red meat

According to the UN, methane emissions from livestock are 34 times more damaging to the environment over 100 years than CO2.  

Beef is the biggest offender, generating 60 kilograms of greenhouse gas emissions per kilogram of meat produced. That’s more than twice the amount of the second most harmful meat, lamb. 

These methane emissions are driving global warming by trapping heat from the sun and contributing to extreme weather such as wildfires, as well as causing air pollution. That’s not good news if your favourite pizza is a meat feast. 

Meat further contributes to climate change through the deforestation that makes way for pasture or growing cattle feed. Since 1990, it’s estimated that 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through deforestation. If left undisturbed, this land captures huge amounts of CO2. 

And while meat consumption in the UK has fallen by 17% in the last decade, we’ve got a long way to go if we want to make a positive change to the planet.