Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Bad news for food

This was the first item in the weekly AAS science research roundup I get each week:

Food Shortages Ahead in a Warmer World

The climate warming that has been forecast for the rest of this century will likely cause major disruptions to global agriculture unless farmers can adapt their growing methods, researchers say. David Battisti and colleagues considered the agricultural implications of results from the 23 climate models that contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s 2007 assessment of summer temperatures for 2050 and 2090. They report a high probability that by the end of the 21st century, growing season temperatures in the tropics and subtropics will exceed the most extreme seasonal temperatures recorded from 1900 to 2006. In temperate regions, the hottest seasons on record will represent the norm in many locations, the authors say. They also considered three recent examples of extreme seasonal heat that damaged food systems: the summer of 2003 in France, which affected food production as well as human lives in Europe, the summer of 1972 in the former Soviet Union, which was largely responsible for a major spike in the price of wheat, and the decades-long drought in the Sahel, where water shortages and heat stress caused crop and livestock productivity to plummet. In the future, as hotter growing seasons occur more frequently, the stress on livestock and crops will become a global phenomenon, the authors say. In order to balance food deficits in one part of the world with surpluses in another, we will need heat- and drought-tolerant crop varieties and diverse irrigation systems.

Article #9: "Historical Warnings of Future Food Insecurity with Unprecedented Seasonal Heat," by D.S. Battisti at University of Washington in Seattle, WA; R.L. Naylor at Stanford University in Stanford, CA.

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