Climate Changes: good or bad for agricultural yields?

The new Food, Water, Energy and Climate Outlook (Outlook 2016) which explores the direction towards which the World is going in terms of economic growth and its implications for resource use and the environment has recently been released by the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The report focus on depicting a set of different emissions scenarios starting from the national commitments made the last December in Paris (COP21’s) which aims to limit the rise, since pre-industrial times, in the Earth’s mean surface temperature to two degrees Celsius by 2100.
Within the report, the expected changes in terms of agricultural yields are particularly surprising. Starting from the weather inputs collected form the MIT Integrated Global System Modeling framework (IGSM), a different evolution pattern for temperature and precipitation have been foreseen. While temperature is expected to rise in every region of the world, precipitation is stationary over all.
Weather data and forecasts have been integrated into different crop emulator models in order to analyse the effects of the changing climate on agricultural yields.


Surprisingly, the MIT outlook projects mostly positive impacts on crop yields through the end of the century in the regions considered. Particularly interesting are the results obtained for maize and wheat in US and Europe, respectively. For the latter, the yield is expected to rise  between 0.1 to 0.8 t/Ha, whereas a lower increase is expected for the former ( 0.02 t/Ha to 0.75 t/Ha). The largest share of this impact is attributed to the increase in CO2 concentrations, which improve crop-water use efficiency and then crop productivity. Moreover, the authors found a North-South gradient in crops’ yield increases both in Europe and in the US, with the larger increases occurring in the northern part of the regions.

Their findings support the results of our research on the economic impact of climate change on the European agriculture.

Climate change impacts on EU agriculture
Adaptive capacity of Europenan agriculture to climate changes


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