by Emily Atkin Posted on July 28, 2014 at 12:14 pm
A farmer walks past his dried-up wheat cropland at Liuhe village in Tongzhou district in Beijing, China on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009.
CREDIT: AP Photo/Color China Photo
Right now, in China’s Henan and Inner Mongolia regions, more than 300,000 people are without drinking water. Approximately 1 million hectares of farmland are too dry to work with, and more than 900,000 hectares of crops are unusable.
The reason for this increased lack of food and water is extreme heat and drought — the worst drought in 40 years, according to China’s state news agency Xinhua. Mainstay crops such as soybeans, barley, and rice have been impacted. And it’s not just in China, either.
According to two new studies published in the journals Nature Climate Change and Global Change Biology, rising global temperatures are increasingly harming crop yields in certain areas of the world — a phenomenon that could eventually lead to more famine. Warming combined with worsening air quality from ground level ozone pollution could exacerbate the problem even further, the study in Nature showed.
“Future food production is highly vulnerable to both climate change and air pollution with implications for global food security,” the Nature study, published Sunday by researchers at MIT, reads. “Little is known about how climate and ozone pollution interact to affect agriculture, nor the relative effectiveness of these two strategies for different crops and regions.”
Ground level ozone pollution is the main component of smog, primarily formed by burning fossil fuels. It’s long been known that both higher temperatures and ozone pollution can, on their own, impact food production by damaging crop yields. But until the MIT study, how they work together had not been determined.