CLIMATE change is already reducing the yields of the world’s top 10 crops – barley, cassava, maize, oil palm, rapeseed, rice, sorghum, soybean, sugarcane and wheat – and some regions and countries are faring far worse than others.
The University of Minnesota-led study, conducted with the University of Oxford and the University of Copenhagen, found the impacts of climate change on global food production are mostly negative in Europe, southern Africa, and Australia.
They are generally positive in Latin America, and mixed in Asia and northern and central America.
Yields have long been projected to decrease in future climate conditions and the new research shows climate change has already affected production.
The researchers used weather and reported crop data to evaluate the potential impact of observed climate change.
They found observed climate change causes a significant yield variation in the world’s top 10 crops.
This ranged from a drop of 13.4 per cent for oil palm to an increase of 3.5 per cent for soybean and resulted in an average reduction of about one per cent of consumable food calories from the top 10 crops.
These supply a combined 83 per cent of all calories produced on cropland.
Half of all food-insecure countries are experiencing decreases in crop production – and so are some affluent industrialised countries in Western Europe.
Deepak Ray of the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, says however, recent climate change has increased yields of certain crops in some areas of the upper Midwest United States.
“There are winners and losers, and some countries that are already food insecure fare worse,” Ray says.
The researchers say their results have implications for major food companies, commodity traders and the countries in which they operate, as well as for citizens worldwide.