As 2012 drew to a close, many countries across the planet noted the year as their hottest on record, including the United States. The impacts of climate change are no longer merely a threat, but a reality in rich and poor countries alike. The significant heat increase this past year has caused severe damage to crops across the world, and illustrates how climate change will likely have serious ramifications for agriculture on a global level.
The authors of the study “Increasing influence of heat stress on French maize yields from the 1960s to the 2030s,” from the University of Reading, University of Exeter, and University of Leeds, show that the increase of heat will have detrimental effects on French maize growth. Professor Edward Hawkins and his colleagues indicate that crop yields will not be able to increase at the rate that they have been for the past fifty years.
Over the next two decades, French maize output is expected to drop by twelve per cent, which is especially dramatic when considering that France’s corn crop yield expanded by 400 percent between 1960 and 2000. The authors of the study also note that agricultural technology is not advancing quickly enough to be able to ameliorate the effects of extreme heat on crops.
In “a global assessment of the effects of climate policy on the impacts of climate change” researchers from the University of Reading highlight how, without any action to control emissions, spring wheat output across the globe could shrink by twenty percent in the next forty years.
The study finds that if firm regulations are enacted to limit emissions, agricultural productivity contraction could be delayed approximately until the year 2100. These regulations would have to be put into place quickly, too – the study’s authors call for “a global legally binding deal by 2015.” According to their findings, a decrease in crop output is inevitable – but we can delay it long enough to “buy time for adaptation.”