Climate Change's Yellow Lining: Bananas

As global warming worsens, we may need to rethink traditional agriculture.
(Photo: Bruno Vincent / Reuters)
Nov 1, 2012· 1 MIN READ
Jenna is a Editorial Intern at TakePart and a high school senior in New York City.

As our planet warms, farmers may have no choice but to start adapting what they grow to the increasing temperatures. This could mean growing more foods, such as bananas, which were previously only suited for tropical climates. Meanwhile, foods that grow in cooler conditions, such as the potato, may get shafted.

The real possibility of bananas upending the potato is outlined in a new report from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The report was produced at the request of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the U.N.

"The main that the climate is changing and the suitability of particular places for particular crops is going to change," said Philip Thornton, the report's author, to TakePart. "It may be necessary to think about growing other crops that may have other characteristics better suited to future climates."

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Potatoes, the fourth largest food crop, grow best in cold climates. We can expect potato yields to decrease as the temperature rises. To replace the lost vegetable, the CGIAR report says we may have to turn to fruits: “climate change could provide an opening for cultivating certain varieties of bananas in higher altitudes...possibly even those places that currently grow potatoes.”

But even the banana is not a foolproof solution—the plant is a drain on a precious resource, water, that climate change is making even scarcer.

Thornton says farmers may turn to breeding certain banana species that are more drought-resistant.

While we may be a few years off from turning in our baked potatoes for baked bananas, this is already a reality in many developing countries.

"There are parts of East and South Africa where we’ve already been seeing some of these changes," says Thonton. "There’s high probability of crop failure so some famers are switching to some of these more climate resilient crops. In fact, developing countries are paying the price for the wasteful lifestyle in other parts of the world."

Thornton elaborated: "...most of the emissions are happening in the developed world, but most of the bad effects are felt in the developing countries where emissions are much lower. There are all sorts of ethical issues here."

Hoisting the harmful effects of our actions onto others does not seem to fit with the traditional American spirit.

So instead of embracing the banana as the new national fruit, maybe we should look for ways to mitigate our emissions before it is too late.