The changing climate will cause food shortages, but a “quick fix” of more petro-intensive agriculture will not save us. In fact, the continued growth of petro-dependent agriculture –with its promise of immediate increased yields through the use of “genetically modified organisms” — may hasten the agricultural collapse of many societies. This is so because their primary production system — that is, their agriculture — is becoming irretrievably tied to the expanded consumption of fossil fuels. In the coming decades, as humanity passes peak oil production, these fuels are likely to become more and more expensive. Moreover, many communities will not be able to adapt to the changes in climate and severe weather that this increased use of fossil fuels will engender.
Further, it is unlikely that humanity can survive the biologically impoverished world under the increasingly centralized control of large corporate agribusiness firms. After all, the primary concerns of these firms has not been food safety, off-farm or downstream impact, ecosystem restoration or even food production itself. Rather their goal is profit. As corporations these firms are constituted to make continuous profit for their shareholders. Other concerns are at best secondary or more frequently ignored altogether.
As many of these firms have demonstrated already, if greater profit can be made from generating bio-ethanol from corn than in providing that corn for human consumption, these firms can be expected to shift their agricultural production away from foodstuffs and toward the provision of fuel for the engines of cars and trucks. Over time, an agriculture system driven by the concerns of agribusiness alone will inevitably fail to provide food for a growing number of increasingly impoverished and desperate human communities already made vulnerable by severe weather events and the changing climate.
A proper response to climate change will involve devising effective strategies to move beyond petro-intensive agriculture toward regenerative agriculture that can work effectively to sequester carbon to the soil rather than release and expend it.