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Climate change: impact on agriculture and costs of adaptation

Publication date:
G. C. Nelson
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Climate change, together with global population and income growth, is a major threat to food security in the world. This food policy report presents research results which quantify climate change impact, assess the consequences for food security and estimate the investment required to offset the negative effects on human wellbeing. It brings together detailed modelling of crop growth under climate change using two scenarios to simulate future climate. The report estimates the impact of climate change on agricultural production, consumption, prices and trade, as well as the cost of adaptation. It uses a global agricultural supply-and-demand projection model (IMPACT 2009) linked to a biophysical crop model (DSSAT) to assess the impact of climate change on five important crops: rice, wheat, maize, soybeans and groundnuts. The report evaluates how climate change affects food security and human wellbeing using per capita calorie consumption and child malnutrition numbers. It estimates the cost of required investment in three primary sources of increased agricultural productivity including agricultural research, rural roads and irrigation. The report isolates the effects of climate change on future wellbeing and identifies only the costs of compensating for climate change. The research results suggest that climate change will:

cause decline in agricultural output for the most important crops in developing countries
have varying effects on irrigated yields across regions
result in price increases for important crops like rice, wheat and maize
lower calorie availability by 2050 simultaneously increasing child malnutrition by 20 percent.

To offset these consequences, the analysis points to the following policy and programme recommendations:

design and implement good overall development policies and programmes
increase investments in agricultural productivity
reinvigorate national research and extension programmes
improve global data collection, dissemination and analysis
make agricultural adaptation a key issue on the agenda of international climate negotiations
recognise that enhanced food security and climate change adaptation go hand in hand
support community based adaptation strategies
increase funding for adaptation programmes.