FILE- In this Aug. 27, 2103 file photo, an ear of corn is blackened in the sun during a heat wave in Farmingdale, Ill. Researchers with the United States and British governments concluded Thursday Sept. 5, 2013, that climate change had made these events more likely: U.S. heat waves, Superstorm Sandy flooding, shrinking Arctic sea ice, drought in Europe's Iberian peninsula, and extreme rainfall in Australia and New Zealand.
(AP Photo/Seth Perlman),
Climate scientists warn of risk to food supply
- Article by: JUSTIN GILLIS
- New York Times
- November 1, 2013 - 9:41 PM
Climate change will pose sharp risks to the world’s food supply in coming decades, potentially undermining crop production and driving up prices at a time when the demand for food is expected to soar, scientists have found.
In a departure from an earlier assessment, the scientists concluded that rising temperatures will have some beneficial effect on crops in some places, but that globally, they will make it harder for crops to thrive — perhaps reducing production overall by as much as 2 percent each decade for the rest of this century, compared with what it would be without climate change. And, the scientists say, they are already seeing the harmful effects.
The warnings come in a leaked draft of a report under development by a U.N. panel, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The document could change before it is released in March.
The report also finds other sweeping impacts from climate change occurring across the planet, and warns that these are likely to intensify as human emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise. The scientists describe a natural world in turmoil as plants and animals attempt to migrate to escape rising temperatures, and warn that many could become extinct.
The warning on the food supply is the sharpest in tone that the panel has ever issued. Its previous report, in 2007, was more hopeful. While it did warn of risks and potential losses in output, particularly in the tropics, that report found that gains in production at higher latitudes would 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 fertilizer for plants.
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