Current projections suggest continuing demographic growth in the coming decades, reaching a global human population of 8.5 billion by 2030 and nearly 10 billion by 2050. This trend, combined with population concentration in cities and increasingly westernised lifestyles, including diet, raises a number of questions.
An environmental impact that is likely to grow
The environmental pressure due to the current agricultural model raises the issue of whether it is possible to accommodate so much demographic growth sustainably. With rapid rises in water withdrawal, continuing loss of arable land and already-significant greenhouse gas emissions, the challenges involved in meeting future demand for food are considerable. If current trends continue without our practices being questioned, the impact projections are indisputable: for example, it is estimated that water requirements would almost double by 2050 (source: UNESCO), while greenhouse gas emissions due to the agricultural sector would increase by nearly 30% (source: FAO) and global waste production by about 70% (source: World Bank).
Technical progress, necessary but not sufficient
To meet these challenges, production methods, lifestyles and individual behaviour will have to change. Solutions are being developed, such as more economical irrigation techniques, reductions in inputs and organic waste recovery, including developing
animal feeds made from insects and nourishing soils, which are increasingly deficient in organic matter. But technical progress alone will not be enough to reduce the impact while ensuring global food security (source: I4CE). The impact of meat-rich diets, food losses and waste (a third of global food production, according to the FAO) and food wasted by retailers and end consumers these are all challenges which, if addressed, could enable the world of tomorrow to be fed while preserving resources and the climate. In late 2018, a study estimated that cutting food losses by half and limiting the global rise in demand for meat to a third by 2050 (compared with 50% if current trends continue) would make it possible to feed the future human population while keeping warming to 2 °C (source: World Resources Institute).
Raising awareness to encourage change
Several studies also consider these levers compatible with nutritional and accessibility requirements for food products (source: I4CE), but they will require in-depth work on the environmental perception of these products and consumer willingness to adapt their own behaviour.
TRENDS CLIMATE EMERGENCY DEMOGRAPHIC CHALLENGE DIGITAL REVOLUTION PUBLIC EXPECTATIONS RISKS AND OPPORTUNITIES11