Climate Change and its Effects on Food Production

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Climate Adaptation Platform Climate Change Effects on Food Production

NASA monitors how temperatures brought by climate change, and the rise in GHG concentration in the atmosphere will affect food production.

The use advanced computer model that simulates how the Earth’s climate will respond to continued GHG emission in the future, then use the results to determine how it will affect global agriculture.

According to Alex Ruane, co-Director of the Climate Impacts Group at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) in New York City, climate change is different from the current hot years that we experience, or a heatwave that raised the overall temperature. Instead, climate change is every day and, little by little, increases in temperatures.

He adds that “when those heat waves come in the future, they’re just a little bit more intense or extreme, and that has a different physiological impact on plants.”

These physiological impacts on plants are also complex and depend on the type of crops and climate effects on a regional or local area.

The article says that carbon dioxide stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years and explains how plants use it as a fertiliser and what type of crops benefit from higher CO2 concentrations.

However, plants and crops alone are not sufficient to remove all CO2 accumulated in the atmosphere since the Industrial Revolution.

Crops can grow faster and more prominent with higher CO2 concentrations, but their nutrient content is proportionally lower. Higher CO2 concentrations also turn up the heat, and tropical crops will suffer the most from scorching temperatures.

Climate simulations that crop productions either increase or decreases depending on what region you are in. In cooler climates, yields can increase due to warming, but in tropical areas, yields can drop.

The study “Global wheat production with 1.5 and 2.0°C above pre-industrial warming” mentions:

“A 2019 model study simulated future global wheat production with projected global temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius and 2.0 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures. Taking into account carbon dioxide’s fertilisation effect, the results showed that grain yields for winter or spring-planted wheat rose by about 5% in more temperate regions such as the United States and Europe and declined by about 2 to 3% in warmer regions such as Central America and parts of Africa. Additionally, in hot regions including India, which produces 14% of global wheat, they more frequently saw years with low wheat yields.”

Small incremental increases in temperatures also speed up the life cycle of plants, making them mature rapidly, which can lower the quality and quantity of crop yields.

Climate change will also affect rain and snowfall patterns and will produce drought and rainfall extremes. Some areas will benefit from increased precipitation, but others will receive too much or too little, resulting in adverse effects.

Monsoons will bring more rainfall to Southeast Asia, and drought will become more intense in the Western U.S., Australia, Africa, and Central America.

Receding snowpacks like what is happening in the Himalayas and California’s Sierra Nevada will also affect groundwater levels, irrigation supplies to farmers, and drinking water supplies. Continuous groundwater extraction to cope with droughts will also affect future water supplies, while hot temperatures can increase evaporation in plants leaving less water for them to use.

The article proposes three types of adaptation strategies: “things decided upon every year, such as when to plant and a field’s crop rotation; longer-term investments, such as a new tractor, improved irrigation systems or new irrigation infrastructure in currently rain-fed areas; and transformative actions, such as breeding new crop varieties or responding to large-scale shifts in a population’s diet.”

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Climate change may render some areas too dry to farm in Australia, which means farmers will soon abandon them unless expensive climate adaptation and planning is implemented. Climate change is also decreasing farming profitability.  According to the Conversation article, agricultural profits have fallen 23% in the last two decades leading to 2020, and this trend will only continue.

“The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) predicts a likely scenario is that overall farm profit will fall by 13% by 2050.” But profitability will differ in various regions. Western Australia’s profitability is projected to fall by 32%. And higher emissions will also cause profitability to drop between 11% to 50%.

Water availability is a significant factor in farming’s long-term success, but Australia does not have adequate water infrastructure plans to cope with climate change.

The NSW Auditor-General report in September 2020 says that the state had “not effectively supported or overseen town water infrastructure planning in regional NSW since at least 2014”. The article says that this lack of climate adaptation planning has almost left at least ten regional NSW cities or towns virtually close to “zero” water.

Climate change impacts on agriculture have knock-on effects on the community through losses in jobs and resulting displacement. To mitigate losses, Australia is investing in climate adaptation.

The federal government committed to investing A$20 billion “in the adoption of new low-emissions technologies while supporting jobs and strengthening our economy”, the article mentions.

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Source Citation:

NASA at Your Table: Climate Change and Its Environmental Impacts on Crop Growth. (2021, September 2). NASA. Retrieved from https://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/esnt/2021/nasa-at-your-table-climate-change-and-its-environmental-impacts-on-crop-growth

Wait, A., & Meagher, K. (2021, September 6). Climate change means Australia may have to abandon much of its farming. The Conversation. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/climate-change-means-australia-may-have-to-abandon-much-of-its-farming-166098

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