How will climate change transform agriculture?

Date:18 Dec 2014
Source(s):International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

Climate change impacts will require major but very uncertain transformations of global agriculture systems by mid-century, according to new IIASA research.

Climate change will require major transformations in agricultural systems, including increased irrigation and moving production from one region to another, according to the new study, published in the journal Environmental Research Letters. However without careful planning for uncertain climate impacts, the chances of getting adaptation wrong are high, the study shows.

The new study by IIASA researchers provides a global scenario analysis that covers nine different climate scenarios, 18 crops and 4 crop management systems, as well as the interactions between crop production, consumption, prices, and trade. It specifically examines adaptations that are investment-intensive and not easily reversible, such as building new water management infrastructure for irrigation, or increases and decreases to the production capacity of a region. Such “transformations” the researchers say, need to be anticipated, but their implementation is particularly plagued by uncertainty.

IIASALive  Published on Dec 19, 2014Authors: D. Leclère1, P. Havlík, S. Fuss, E. Schmid, A. Mosnier, B. Walsh, H. Valin, M. Herrero, N. Khabarov, M. Obersteiner  http://www.iiasa.ac.at

“There is a lot of uncertainty in how climate change will impact agriculture, and what adaptations will be needed,” says IIASA Ecosystems Services and Management researcher David Leclère, who led the study. “Our new study is the first to examine at a global scale whether the adaptations required from agricultural systems are in the transformational range, and whether these transformations are robust across plausible scenarios. By looking at where, when, why, and which transformations are required, but also in how many scenarios, it lays the groundwork for countries to better plan for the impacts of climate change.”

In line with earlier results, the study finds that the impacts on crop yields of changes in climate, such as increased temperature, changing precipitation levels, along with the increased CO2 atmospheric concentration (which has a fertilizing effect on plants), could lead to anywhere between an 18% decline in global caloric production from cropland, to as much as a 3% increase by 2050. This biophysical impact varies widely across regions, crops, and management systems, thereby creating opportunities for adaptation at the same time.

Food-Matters
Global Climate Change
Environment Ethics
Environment Justice

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