Climate Change Induced Transformations of Agricultural Systems: Insights from a Global Model

Environmental Research Letters (2014, v9 n12 p124018; doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/12/124018) / by D Leclère al.
http://iopscience.iop.org/1748-9326/9/12/124018

Climate change might impact crop yields considerably and anticipated transformations of agricultural systems are needed in the coming decades to sustain affordable food provision. However, decision-making on transformational shifts in agricultural systems is plagued by uncertainties concerning the nature and geography of climate change, its impacts, and adequate responses. Locking agricultural systems into inadequate transformations costly to adjust is a significant risk and this acts as an incentive to delay action. It is crucial to gain insight into how much transformation is required from agricultural systems, how robust such strategies are, and how we can defuse the associated challenge for decision-making. While implementing a definition related to large changes in resource use into a global impact assessment modelling framework, we find transformational adaptations to be required of agricultural systems in most regions by 2050s in order to cope with climate change. However, these transformations widely differ across climate change scenarios: uncertainties in large-scale development of irrigation span in all continents from 2030s on, and affect two-thirds of regions by 2050s. Meanwhile, significant but uncertain reduction of major agricultural areas affects the Northern Hemisphere’s temperate latitudes, while increases to non-agricultural zones could be large but uncertain in one-third of regions. To help reducing the associated challenge for decision-making, we propose a methodology exploring which, when, where and why transformations could be required and uncertain, by means of scenario analysis.

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