Climate Change - Impact on Agriculture

All food sources depend on agriculture, in one way or another. Agriculture is very sensitive and extremely vulnerable to climate variations. Certain weather extremes such as droughts, severe storms, and floods can have drastic negative impacts on agriculture. Our human presence on Earth has undoubtedly contributed to warming trends and other changed atmospheric conditions. While warm climates are ideal for food production, the increased risk of those weather extremes is not generally considered to be a worthwhile risk. Also, the constant endurance of climate changes by soil and the water supply may eventually lead certain regions to become ill-equipped to feasibly produce quality agriculture.

The following are factors that directly link production of agriculture and climate change.
• Rainfall patterns and abundance are changed
• Increase of average temperature
• Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere
• Tropospheric ozone and other pollution levels
• Extreme events

Few agricultural impact studies have taken into account the full range of anticipated climatic shifts and their potential impact on nationwide agricultural production.

Rainfall patterns and abundance are changed: Two of the most important factors for favorable crop yields are impacted, soil erosion and moisture.

Increase of average temperature: Consequences of this include a lengthened growing season in regions with a relatively cool spring and autumn, adverse effects to crops in regions where summer heat is already a limiting factor, increased overall soil evaporation rates, and an increased chance of severe droughts.

Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere: Human activities are to blame for the CO2 emissions that increase atmospheric CO2 levels. They can actually act as a fertilizer and even enhance the growth of certain crops such as rice, wheat, and soybeans. While this is generally considered a positive effect, it can easily be negated by other effects of climate change such as temperature or precipitation change.

Tropospheric ozone and other pollution levels: Increased amounts of ground level ozone can impede the growth of crops.

Extreme events: Changes in frequency and the intensity of events like heat waves, floods, hurricanes and droughts have impacts that can be measured by global climate models, but their specific regional impacts and what impact they may have on the agriculture of that region are difficult to predict.

According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), moderate climate change in North America will most likely increase the yields of precipitation dependent agriculture, but with relatively smaller increases than were previously estimated.

The United States and other industrialized nations are considered to be less agriculturally vulnerable to climate change than developing nations. This is especially true in the tropics, because farmers will likely not have many opportunities to adapt. Similarly, the future of agriculture in the United States and other countries will ultimately depend a great deal on the nation’s ability to adapt to climate change and the new challenges that may come along with it. Factors such as changes in technology, changes in environmental conditions, water availability, changes in demand for food and more will all contribute to any given country’s likelihood to withstand a climate change.