Climate change is imminent threat to crop yields – report

Irrigated crop acreage in the US could decline as soon as 2020.

A study conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture on the effects of climate change and water scarcity on US field crops found that average yields for corn, soybeans, rice and other crops will decline. Options for adapting to changes in climate were limited by decreases in surface water projected at up to 50 percent of baseline projections.

The report predicts irrigated crop acreage in the US will decline (in comparison to projections that assume no climate change) as soon as 2020. After 2060, it predicts acreage declines in real terms. The decrease will be driven first by regional surface-water shortages and exacerbated by lower profitability after 2040. The report found that rising commodity prices will not offset the effects of declining yields on revenues.

A report released during the COP 21 Paris Climate Conference, also by the USDA, warned that climate change will reduce global food availability, access and production.

In addition to threatening crop yields, authors of the study found that higher temperatures, rising sea levels and changes in frequency and quantity of rainfall threaten to increase spoilage rates, hinder transport and increase food safety risks across the global food supply chain.

Investments in transportation and innovation in agriculture methods and packaging could also offset some of the impacts of climate change on global food security. The innovation, however, will have to be significant to meet the demands of a 9 billion population in 2050, with an increase in arable land of just 5 percent.