NASA study: The impact of climate change on world crops is expected within the next decade

Climate change could affect corn (corn) and wheat production as early as 2030, according to NASA researchers.

A new study from the agency published in the journal Nature Food said that under a scenario with high greenhouse gas emissions, corn yields are expected to fall by 24% and wheat could potentially see a growth of around 17%.

NASA used advanced climate and agricultural modeling to find the change in yields due to expected increases in temperatures, shifts in precipitation patterns, and elevated surface carbon dioxide concentrations from man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

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The team of scientists used the climate model simulations from the international Climate Model Intercomparison Project-Phase 6 (CMIP6). They also used the simulations as input to Columbia University’s Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP) 12 state-of-the-art global crop models.

Each of the five CMIP6 climate models used for this study runs its own response of the Earth’s atmosphere to greenhouse gas emission scenarios through the year 2100, and the MgMIP crop models simulate on a large scale how crops grow and respond to environmental conditions.

In total, NASA created about 240 global simulations of climate crops for each crop.

The researchers examined changes in long-term average crop yields and introduced a new estimate of when climate change impacts will emerge, and found that soybeans and rice projections showed a decline in some regions, although global models were different.

However, the effects on maize and wheat were much clearer as most of the models showed similar results.

“North and Central America, West Africa, Central Asia, Brazil and China will potentially see their maize yields decline in the coming years and beyond as average temperatures rise across these breadbasket regions, putting more stress on plants,” NASA wrote Monday in an accompanying news release. “Wheat, which grows best in temperate climates, can see a wider area where it can be grown as temperatures rise, including the northern United States and Canada, the northern Chinese plains, Central Asia, southern Australia and East Africa, but these gains can be offset from the middle. of the century. “

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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 – though often at a cost to nutrition. This will happen more for wheat than for corn.

The rising temperatures – as well as droughts and heat waves – affect the length of the growing seasons and accelerate the maturity of crops.

Paralyzing drought and record temperatures dried up West this summer, and scientists say climate change will continue to make conditions more extreme and devastating for years to come.

In a UN report released in August, climate experts warned that the earth gets so hot that in about a decade’s temperatures are likely to blow past a level of warming that world leaders have tried to prevent, calling it a “red code for humanity.”

This combination of images from 2020-2021 shows a burning tree in the Sequoia National Forest, California;  Nathan Fabre, whose home and boat were destroyed by Hurricane Ida in Lafitte, Louisiana;  and the cracked, dry bottom of the Cerro Lagoon during a prolonged drought in Paraguay.  Climate change is fueling heat waves, floods, droughts and uglier tropical cyclones.

This combination of images from 2020-2021 shows a burning tree in the Sequoia National Forest, California; Nathan Fabre, whose home and boat were destroyed by Hurricane Ida in Lafitte, Louisiana; and the cracked, dry bottom of the Cerro Lagoon during a prolonged drought in Paraguay. Climate change is fueling heat waves, floods, droughts and uglier tropical cyclones.
(AP Photo / Noah Berger, John Locher, Jorge Saenz)

And the UN calculated this week that the world will do it between now and 2030 emit up to 31 billion US tons of greenhouse gases in addition to the amount that would keep the planet at or below the strictest limit set in 2015 Paris Climate Agreement.

In addition to contributing to respiratory diseases from air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions capture heat and heat the atmosphere.

Human activities, primarily the burning of fossil fuels, have fundamentally increased the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth’s atmosphere.

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“We did not expect to see such a fundamental shift compared to crop yield projections from the previous generation of climate and crop models conducted in 2014,” said lead author Jonas J├Ągermeyr, a crop model and climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) and The Earth Institute. Columbia University, said in a statement. The expected corn response was surprisingly large and negative, he said. “A 20% drop from the current level of production could have serious consequences worldwide.”

“Even under optimistic climate change scenarios, where societies are making ambitious efforts to curb global temperature rise, global agriculture is facing a new climate reality,” he added. “And with the interconnectedness of the global food system, impacts in even one region’s breadbasket will be felt around the world.”

The team plans to look at financial incentives such as changing agricultural practices and adjustments in future work.

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