Our project is the publication of a book that makes the connection between climate change and food – we all eat so it will be highly relevant to everyone. The book is organized like a menu starting with before meal beverages and ending with dessert and we describe all the changes that are occurring to the menu as we progress through the book. Once published we intend to use the book as the basis for a climate change and food website and as a focus of continuing education opportunities such as a TED Talk and other public presentations.

Most people don’t adequately appreciate the extraordinary and intimate details of how our staple crops are at risk because of climate change let alone our favorite ingredients. For example, increasing storms are forcing production of vanilla in Madagascar inland. Rising temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns in Kashmir are making it difficult for farmers to grow saffron, the world’s most expensive spice. Coffee is under stress globally for similar reasons plus damage from a couple of spreading pests who like the new climate.

Consequently, the entire menu, including the before-dinner drink, appetizer and salad, main course, and dessert are all changing. Whether you’re a consumer, chef, baker, distiller, food processor, restaurateur, or the owner of one grocery store or a chain, it’s critical to know what is happening to our incredibly diverse and interwoven global food chain.

This book is intended to provide a wakeup call by depicting the sweeping changes coming not only to the staples we depend on but also to many of our delectable favorites. We discuss impacts on the menu—from appetizers to desserts—using specific ingredients. And we point out the subtle to catastrophic storm clouds looming over our food supply if we continue on our current path. Rising seas are scary enough, but the loss of coffee is outright terrifying. With this book, we will have many more reasons to tackle the grand challenge of climate change.

More info:

Dr. Hoffmann's TEDx Talk, It's time to raise our voices -

Objectives and beneficiaries

Our overall objective is to raise awareness and action about climate change through the foods we need and love.

Specific objectives include helping the reader be better informed about 1) the joys of food including flavors but also health benefits and history; 2) where food comes from, who grows it, and what it takes to grow it, process, and get it to our table; 3) the monetary value of the food system including that of specific commodities and ingredients and the jobs created by the food system – from farm to fork; 4) why specific beverages, foods, and ingredients are in trouble due to a changing climate, such as from direct impacts of changes in temperature and precipitation but also because of new pests that love the new conditions; 5) what can be done to help our favorite foods remain on the shelf and what we can all do to address the grand challenge of climate change; and 6) climate change, the causes and the local to global impacts.

Strong points of the solution

The book and associated educational efforts will be of interest to a wide-ranging audience including those involved in the food and beverage industry from farm to fork: chef, baker, distiller, restaurateur, owner of one grocery store or a chain, or food processor or distributor.

It will appeal to most age groups because it will be written in simple terms and with plenty of visuals and infographics and the educational level of the reader should not be a limiting factor in appeal. It also has potential to be used as a textbook for culinary and food security-related courses and of interest to those establishing government economic and trade policy, domestic and international.

Given the relevance of this book to food, an essential to human existence on the planet, we would hope that it would also be read by those still hesitant to accept the climate change facts or not yet ready to speak up and get engaged.

No book of this type currently exists.

Expected results and benefits for climate change adaptation and mitigation

The publisher will market the book but the authors also intend to do book tours as well as more public speaking about climate change and the food and beverages we all enjoy and need.

This already occurs successfully at a modest level but with the publication of the book, this effort would expand significantly. There is already a standing invitation to come to Rome to speak on this topic.

We are also in the early stages of studying how the risks posed to food by climate change affects people’s beliefs and actions about climate change. Do a person’s beliefs change when seen in real terms of loss of coffee or chocolate? No one has conducted research to answer that question.

Although anecdotal, the feedback we have received so far about the book has been exceptionally enthusiastic. Most believe it will make a difference. Even making small advancements in raising awareness about climate change through food would help.

Scalability potential of the solution

There is no limit to the number of books that could be distributed in the US as well as worldwide. The associated educational activities would also reach a very large audience. The book – Our changing menu: What climate change means to the foods you need and love - will be written in English but offering in other languages is an option.

We have already developed a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) that includes a segment on our changing menu. Over 2800 individuals from over 70 countries participated in the first two offerings. We are also developing an online course for businesses in the food sector to help them understand what climate change means to their business. We believe strongly that the combination of climate change and food will resonate and result in a very scalable solution.

[Editor's Note: All information published as submitted by the author(s). Minor edits may have been made for length and clarity.]