Friday, May 6, 2011

Warming blamed for 6 percent rise in food prices

Eric Berger in my SA (Texas): As the planet warmed during the past three decades, rising temperatures reduced the yield of corn and wheat crops, and contributed a modest increase to the price of food, researchers have found. Although the effects of climate change aren’t devastating — they’re estimated to be responsible for about a 6 percent rise in food prices since 1980 — scientists say future changes to crops could be more adverse as the planet continues to warm.

“If we don’t adapt, I think we are just beginning to see the effects of climate change on agriculture,” said David Lobell, a Stanford University scientist who led the research published Thursday in the journal Science. The authors of the study, one of the first to link climate change to agricultural losses, urged farmers to adapt by developing types of corn and wheat that can grow in warmer and drier climates.

That may be a tough sell for American farmers, who so far have been largely spared by climate change and in general remain skeptical about the threats posed by global warming…. The skepticism may be partly due to the fact the U.S. has experienced less warming than other parts of the world during the past century.

As part of the new study, in fact, researchers found no effect on U.S. crop production from climate change. But the effects were quite significant elsewhere. Russia, in contrast, lost an estimated 15 percent of wheat production due to climate change.

“My message to American farmers would be to be careful not to think that what you’re experiencing is going on in the world,” Lobell said. “In a sense our findings help me understand why farmers are so skeptical about climate change, because they haven't been seeing it themselves. But when you look around the world it's very apparent.”…

A 1948 photo of a carrot harvest, from the Agricultural Communications Office of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service

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