The New York Times’ Justin Gillis
reportson a soon-to-be-released study that predicts climate change will cut food production by 2% each decade through the rest of the century.
Meanwhile, global food demand is projected to rise 14% over the same period.
The latest findings, from the U.N.’s Nobel-winning Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC), represent a gloomier outlook than their last major study in 2007, Gillis says.
The study was first leaked on a blog critical of the IPCC’s work and was not set to be published until March, by which time the findings could change.
In the unofficial report, the panel now believes that crops are not as resilient to heat as once believed, although no mention is made of last year’s epic U.S. drought, which is not believed to have resulted from climate change:
While [the 2007 study] did warn of risks and potential losses in output, particularly in the tropics, that report found that gains in production at higher latitudes would most likely offset the losses and ensure an adequate global supply.
The new tone reflects a large body of research in recent years that has shown how sensitive crops appear to be to heat waves. The recent work also challenges previous assumptions about how much food production could increase in coming decades because of higher carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The gas, though it is the main reason for global warming, also acts as a kind of fertiliser for plants.
The latest study does acknowledge that some previously non-arable regions could see some benefits, but not enough to overcome losses elsewhere. Tropical and temperate regions stand to be hardest hit.
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