In agriculture, the weather gives and the weather takes. Some climate change researchers are worried about the taking that may occur as the rest of the century unspools.
First, a nonpartisan initiative called the Risky Business Project reviewed climate risk in the Southeastern U.S. and Texas and is troubled by the increase of what it calls “extreme heat” in the region. Specifically, the group’s report says the number of days 95 degrees or above could rise from nine days per year to 62 days per year by 2050, and 124 days per year by 2100.
“[This report] drives home the reality that we must deal with climate risk before it’s too late,” warns project co-chair Hank Paulson. “From more extreme heat that threatens labor productivity and crop yields in the agriculture sector, to storm surges that could imperil infrastructure and manufacturing , which is driving new growth in the region, we face mounting risk to the economy and our way of life.”
The report suggests farmers in these areas could see significant crop losses due to increases in extreme heat during the next 25 years, including average corn yield reductions of up to 21% and average soybean yield reductions of up to 14%.
Meanwhile, a group of scientists, in a study funded by a grant from NOAA, have looked at how climate change would affect the amount of suitable growing days and found a global reduction of 11% possible by 2100 based on current models.
At particular risk, according to their report, include “a few countries in the Americas and all countries in Oceania, Asia and Africa, with the exception of Australia, new Zealand, Russia, South Africa, Namibia, Algeria, and Libya.”
“Losses in suitable plant growing days can translate into losses of food, fiber, fuel, and associated jobs and revenue, with potentially negative effects in countries with high reliance on those goods and services, particularly those with minimal capacity to adapt,” according to the group’s report.
Science blog io9 notes: “While the total number of growing days per year is going to drop by 10%, it’s not as simple as just taking a clean 10% off the top of however many days you had last year. Some parts of the world will actually gain growing days — but the vast majority of the world will be losing, and some areas will be losing hard.”