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Food security study warns of climate change impact on global food supply

A new study of the effects of climate change on global agriculture, published by University of Washington climate researcher David Battisti in the journal Science, voices concerns about a global, “perpetual food crisis.” The study shows that climate disruption may cause massive, simultaneous crop failures in many regions as early as 2040.

Findings based on IPPC climate modeling suggest that the worst heat waves and floods of the past are likely to become more frequent events. According to the study, these weather pattern changes could affect yields by 20 to 40%, with disastrous consequences – particularly in the tropics and subtropics where many people are already malnourished.

“For me, this is the strongest argument that either you have to do something about global warming or you need to actually figure out how you’re going to deal with these kind of permanent reductions in yield,” Dr. Battisti said, warning that climate change’s effect on agriculture is likely to be an even larger threat to humanity than the potential submerging of coastal cities due to melting Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.

Battisti notes that one way to prevent crop failure would be to breed varieties better able to withstand higher temperatures, but warns this could take decades. It’s clear that we should consider a variety of adaptation methods that will be complementary with the agriculture industry’s current practices.

ACT’s fifth session, Crop and Food Supply, will look at the fact that steady increases in summer temperatures, combined with shifting hydrological regimes, are already causing crops to fail in many countries, threatening well-being and economies on a massive scale. In Canada, planting practices from wheat to wine are already shifting, with some areas becoming less hospitable and others opening up. The session will combine current research with the findings from the Biodiversity, Extreme Events, Energy and Water sessions to explore policies and practices that will assist us to adapt food production methods now and in the long-term.

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