Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Projecting agricultural impacts of climate change

John Maday in AG Professional:  In a summer like this, as we watch crop conditions whither in record-setting heat and dry conditions, we might wonder whether we’re seeing an anomaly or a preview of coming years. And if the climate is changing, how will it affect agricultural production? A new report from the USDA’s Economic Research (ERS) service examines those questions, evaluating how agricultural production could adapt to a range of climate scenarios.

Last week, we ran an article titled “Global Warming, in my backyard,” discussing recent weather trends in North America. Scientists generally are unsure whether this year’s wild weather can be attributed to global climate change, but they say the pattern – widespread drought, extended heat waves, violent storms  – fits projections of what global warming will look like.

The ERS report, titled “Agricultural Adaptation to a Changing Climate: Economic and Environmental Implications Vary by U.S. Region.” notes that climate models predict increases in average temperatures worldwide, with wide-ranging impacts on local temperature and rainfall. The impact of those changes on agriculture depends on their magnitude, and also on the agricultural sector’s “responsiveness to changing yield and productivity patterns, production costs, and resource availability.”

The four climate models researchers used to project climate change generate a range of potential effects, but in each of the scenarios, adaptations such as expanding and shifting crop acreage and wide adoption of drought-tolerant crop varieties would help mitigate impacts on agricultural production and crop prices, according to the report....

Corn stover in Wisconsin, shot by Royalbroil, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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