FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Earth is getting hotter.

Not something we are unaware of.

From Agriculture to Infrastructure to how humans consume energy, the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee spotlights how a warming world may bring widespread disruption.

Agriculture feeds and clothes the world. Although the long-term effects of climate change are still largely unknown, scientists can observe short-term effects of climate change on crops and animals. In addition, scientists can prognosticate about the changes that are likely to occur in agriculture if global climate change causes changes in temperatures and rainfall. Farmers will see declines in some crops, while others will reap increased yields.

With rapid climate change, aside from yields, climate change will also affect food processing, storage, and transportation—industries that require an increasing amount of expensive water and energy as global demand rises—leading to higher food prices.

The future course of global food production will depend on how well societies can adapt to such climatic changes, as well as the influence of other pressures, such as the competition for land from biofuel production. The IPCC concluded that in the poorer, low-latitude countries, climate change could seriously challenge the capacity to adapt for a warming of more than 3°C. The richer, higher latitude countries are likely to have a greater capacity to adapt and exploit changing climatic conditions.

But we can’t ignore the potential for “surprises” down the line. There are many uncertainties in such predictions. The world has not seen such changes in climate for millennia, and so it is impossible to know how our agricultural systems will react in the real world.