Climate change could impact corn and wheat production as early as 2030, according to NASA researchers. A new study by the agency published in the journal Nature Food said that, against a backdrop of high greenhouse gas emissions, the corn crop is expected to drop 24% and wheat could grow by about 17%.
NASA used advanced climate and agriculture models to find the change in yields due to projected increases in temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns and elevated concentrations of carbon dioxide on the surface from man-made greenhouse gas emissions.
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The team of scientists used climate model simulations from the international Climate Model Intercomparison Project-Phase 6 (CMIP6). They also used the simulations as data for Columbia Unversity’s Next-Generation Global Crop Models, Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project ( AgMIP ) 12.
Each of the five CMIP6 climate models used for this study performs its own response of Earth’s atmosphere to greenhouse gas emission scenarios throughout the year 2100, and the MgMIP crop models simulate on a large scale how crops grow and respond to environmental conditions.
In all, NASA created about 240 simulations of global climate crop models for each crop.
The researchers examined changes in long-term average yields and introduced a new estimate of when climate change impacts will emerge, finding that projections for soybeans and rice showed a decline in some regions, although global models differ.
The impacts on corn and wheat, however, were much clearer, as most models indicated similar results.
“North and Central America, West Africa, Central Asia, Brazil and China will potentially see their corn crop decline in the coming years and beyond as average temperatures rise in these barn regions, putting more pressure on the plants.” , NASA wrote on Monday in an accompanying press release. “Wheat, which grows best in temperate climates, may have a wider area where it can be grown as temperatures increase, including the northern US and Canada, the northern plains of China, Central Asia, southern Australia and Africa Eastern, but these gains may even out in mid-century. ”
In addition to temperature changes, higher levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere will have a positive effect on photosynthesis and water retention and crop yields – albeit often at a cost to nutrition. This will happen more with wheat than corn.
Increased temperatures – as well as droughts and heat waves – affect the length of growing seasons and speed up crop maturation.
Paralyzing drought and record temperatures hit the West this summer, and scientists say climate change will continue to make conditions more extreme and destructive in years to come.
In a United Nations report released in August, climate experts warned that the Earth is getting so hot that temperatures in a decade or so will likely surpass a level of warming that world leaders have sought to prevent, calling it the “code red for Humanity. ”
And the UN calculated this week that, between now and 2030, the world will emit up to 31 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases beyond the amount that would keep the planet at or below the strictest limit set in the 2015 Paris climate agreement.
In addition to contributing to respiratory illnesses caused by air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions trap heat, warming the atmosphere.
Human activities, mainly the burning of fossil fuels, have fundamentally increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.
“We didn’t expect to see such a fundamental shift compared to crop production projections from the previous generation of climate and crop models conducted in 2014,” lead author Jonas Jägermeyr, crop modeler and climate scientist at the Goddard Institute for Spatial Studies at NASA (GISS) and Columbia University’s The Earth Institute said in a statement. The projected response for corn was surprisingly large and negative, he said. “A 20% reduction from current production levels could have serious implications around the world.”
“Even in optimistic climate change scenarios, where societies are making ambitious efforts to limit the rise in global temperature, global agriculture is facing a new climate reality,” he added. “And with the interconnectedness of the global food system, the impacts on a region’s breadbasket will be felt around the world.”
The team plans to seek economic incentives, such as changes in agricultural practices and adaptations in future work.
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