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Climate Change Shrinks Global Crop Yields, Study Finds

Climate Change Shrinks Global Crop Yields, Study Finds

Climate change has caused staple crop yields around the globe to decrease significantly since 1980 according to a new study published in Science Magazine.

The research showed an association between weather trends and a 3.8 and 5.5 percent decline in global corn and wheat yields, respectively. The shortfall equals the annual yield of corn in Mexico, some 23 metric tonnes, and wheat in France, about 33 metric tonnes (Raw Story).

Using U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization data going back to 1980 for crop yields in all major crop-growing regions of the world, and pairing that with temperature and precipitation data for their growing seasons, researchers found that warming temperatures were reducing yields—although changes in precipitation did not appear to be having an effect, yet (Scientific American).

Although single digit percentages might not seem signifiant to the average consumer, chances are they’ve already noticed the consequences of this slight shift in a significant way – food prices.

The study estimates that the global drop-off in production may have caused a six percent hike in consumer food prices since 1980, some $60 billion per year.

Earlier this year, Care2′s Jaelithe Judy reported about the 2010 heat wave that led to rampant wildfires in Russia, destroying so much of the country’s wheat crop that the government banned wheat exports in alarm. That same year, unprecedented flooding in Pakistan devastated food production nationwide. Both disasters contributed significantly to higher food prices — and both were linked by scientists to global climate change.

In complete contrast to the amount of carbon emissions contributed by the United States, researchers found that it was the one “startling exception” in the study: the U.S. isn’t getting hotter, nor are its crop yields less than they might have been without climate change. Yet.

“The results are a reminder that while the relationship between crop production and climate change is obvious on a global scale, models that zoom in … on a country-by-country basis won’t necessarily see the same effects,” the researchers said in a press release.

Related Reading:

Why World Food Prices Again Hit Record High

Food Prices Spike Worldwide: And They’re Going Higher

Climate Change Linked Disasters Push Food Prices Higher

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Image Credit: Flickr - kelsey_lovefusionphoto

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6:14PM PDT on Apr 24, 2013

I am horrified for my children and granddaughter! We have to do something about this.

6:17AM PDT on Apr 8, 2012

As I have said before, "If we do not control our population,world wide, and clean up our act relating to the enviroment, nature will do it for us".

When nature steps in, it does not discriminate. Nature is neither "kind" nor "cruel", it takes preserves itself.

If you want to see what the future holds, just take a look at sub-Sahara area of Africa.

11:34AM PDT on May 31, 2011

There's a lot of may have's here.

2:22PM PDT on May 11, 2011

Both flooding and drought will reduce crop yields, for obvious reasons. Yes climate deniers, flooding increases in a warmed world because the atmosphere will try to precipitate more excess heat. When that precipitation hits already wet places, it leads to flooding and crop destruction.

Less obvious are the increasing northward migrations of agricultural pests, but that is happening on a large scale according to the USFS and USFWS. Also southward in Southern hemisphere agricultural areas like Argentina, Chile, S. Africa and Australia.

Besides the problems in Russia the article mentions, there has been a trend of increasing brush fires in the warm season in Australia, the Sahel, the Asian sub-continent and the American Southwest in the last decade. That also contributes to soil erosion and desertification.

7:19PM PDT on May 10, 2011


4:31PM PDT on May 10, 2011

Think maybe we should quit burning corn in our vehicles?

2:46PM PDT on May 10, 2011


6:53AM PDT on May 10, 2011

The reason so many crops are failing is also because of the trend to using only a few of the many varieties of seed that were available. Many different types of seed used to be sown but with the big seed companies selling only a few types now the crops that were more heat resistant have all but disappeared from use. There was a reason we had so many varieties of everything on this planet.

2:47AM PDT on May 10, 2011

interesting, thanks!

2:21AM PDT on May 10, 2011

I suspect that super thriving agricultural pests are doing more damage than direct damage from heat to crop plants. Maybe plant breeders can figure out how to breed crops more heat and drought tolerant.

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