Climate Change is Already Impacting Global Crop Yields, Especially in Food-Insecure Countries

Contrary to the idea that climate change is a calamity far off in the future, a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE shows that it is already having an impact on the yields of the world‘s top 10 crops, namely – barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane, and wheat.

Even though, in some regions, such as Latin America and some parts of the United States, yields have been found to increase, about half of all food-insecure countries are experiencing decreases in crop production.

“There are winners and losers, and some countries that are already food insecure fare worse,” said lead author Deepak Ray of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.

Climate change is already causing reductions in crop yields in many of the most food-sensitive areas of the world. Image: Alandmanson via Wikimedia.org, CC BY-SA 4.0

The study was conducted by combining weather and reported high-resolution crop data, which resulted in a map showing at-risk geographical areas and species of crop. Work like this could be useful to international agencies, such as the U.N., engaged in reducing hunger and limiting the effects of climate change around the world.

“This is a very complex system, so a careful statistical and data science modelling component is crucial to understand the dependencies and cascading effects of small or large changes,” said co-author Snigdhansu Chatterjee of the University of Minnesota’s School of Statistics.

One limitation of the study is the fact that it does not “consider potential physical interaction between the explanatory variables at different scales in different geographical units”, which calls for “detailed studies using technically more complex statistical models, including causal models, and more extensive model diagnostics”, wrote the researchers in their paper.

Seen in the context of other work on climate change, however, the study adds further evidence that “[climate] change is already happening, not just in some future time,” concluded Ray.

Sources: study, environment.umn.edu


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