NSAC's Blog

Climate Change Will Decrease Agricultural Productivity

November 5, 2013

A draft report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was recently leaked to the public contains findings that climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades.

This report will update a 2007 IPCC report that addressed the impacts of climate change on agriculture and found that, although climate change would negatively impact agricultural production in some parts of the world (like the tropics), there would be production gains at higher latitudes that would offset the losses.  The new report presents a starkly different outcome, finding that climate change will decrease global agricultural productivity by as much as 2% each decade for the rest of the century.  This decrease in productivity comes as global food demand rises, and could continue to rise as much as 14% each decade.

According to the New York Times, the IPCC’s “warning on the food supply is the sharpest in tone the panel has issued.”  And its predictions are bleak: regardless of adaptation, climate change will reduce yields and will progressively increase yield variability in many regions.  But this does not mean that adaptation is unimportant.  Rather, the IPCC notes that “on average, adaptation improves yields by the equivalent of ~15-18% of current yields.”

Moreover, adaptation provides, “glaring opportunities” to reduce agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change.  As the report notes, “in many cases, a first step towards adaptation to future climate change is reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate through low-regrets measures and actions emphasizing co-benefits.”

NSAC continues to advocate for government programs and policies that support the adoption of low-external input, diversified agriculture systems, including certified organic agriculture, for their multiple climate benefits.  Not only do these systems emit fewer greenhouse gases, but an increasing body of science points to their valuable sequestration benefits as well.

The report has not been finalized, so it is possible that the IPCC will adjust some of this outlook prior to publication, which is expected in early 2014.  However, it is unlikely that any final publication will stray too far from the conclusions drawn in the draft, particularly regarding the “low-regrets measures and actions emphasizing co-benefit” that reduce farmers’ vulnerability to the effects of climate change.

For more information on NSAC’s recommendations regarding the impacts and opportunities climate change presents on farms, check out our Climate Change and Agriculture Policy Paper.



Categories: Conservation, Energy & Environment

Comments are closed.