Say it isn't so
First we told you that climate change would take away your coffee, then we brought you news that it's raising orange juice prices. Now it appears that cereal will suffer devastating consequences if this whole climate change thing continues as predicted. A new study has found that climate change is occurring thousands of times faster than certain grasses can adapt—5,000 times faster to be exact. The grains effected are all the ones that matter, including wheat, rice, maize, rye, barley, and sorghum. This leaves you with a breakfast consisting of a sad, sad bowl of milk. (Please tell us climate change will at least spare the cows.)
The study, which looks ahead to 2070, examined how 236 different species of wild grass would react to changes in their local environments. The verdict: not well. While these species could potentially survive by evolving or moving to an environment with more suitable conditions, a process that occurs with natural seed dispersal, it will be impossible for them to do so at the alarming rate at which climate change is occurring, and crops that don't adapt will go extinct. Unsurprisingly, we can't expect grasses that have historically changed "relatively little and relatively slowly" to start adapting 5,000 times faster to keep up with the environmental mess we've made, according to study co-author John Wiens.
The news is troubling given that these grasses make up half the calories consumed by humans around the world. It’s worth noting, though, that the study looked at wild relatives of the stuff that actually makes up your Shredded Wheat and Rice Krispies, and it did not come to any definitive conclusions about food security. But, let’s be real—if their wild cousins, species with greater genetic diversity, can’t stand up to climate change, the outlook for our domestic wheat, maize, and barley crops is decidedly not good.
Commence nostalgia for grits, Cream of Wheat, and even Grape Nuts... now.