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Climate Change Has Slashed Global Agriculture Output by 21% Since the 1960s: Study

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Apr 5, 2021

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Global agricultural production has dropped by 21% over the last 60 years due to global warming caused by humans, a new study has found. That roughly amounts to seven years’ worth of crops lost.

The findings not only indicate the destructive impact of man-made climate change on agriculture but also paint a grim picture of food insecurity as low global agriculture yields may translate into less food production.

Published in Nature Climate Change, the study measured agricultural productivity by comparing inputs like labor and equipment with final crop yield — and then factored in the impact of climate change on agriculture productivity.

“The impact already is larger than I thought it would be. … It was a big surprise to me,” Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, an economist at Cornell University in the U.S. who was involved in the study, told The Guardian.

He expressed a graver concern: that climate change is outpacing our abilities to assess the impact of global heating on agriculture as well as to devise ways to mitigate it. “The worry I have is that research and development in agriculture take decades to translate into higher productivity. The projected temperature increase is so fast I don’t know if we are going to keep pace with that,” Ortiz-Bobea said.


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Livestock, Grain Farming Is Driving Rising Nitrous Oxide Levels Worldwide: Report


Climate change-induced heatwaves and extreme weather events can further worsen agricultural prospects globally. Recent research suggests that heatwaves will become commonplace across South Asian countries, including India, by 2040 — severely impacting the agricultural belts of the country, across states like Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal.

The decline in agricultural output can severely jeopardize food security, experts worry. In fact, in order to keep up with the increase in population and its growing demand for food, agricultural production needs to be ramped up by about 70% before 2050, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

However, scientists worry unsustainable methods to boost output can worsen global warming — making agriculture both a contributor and a victim to climate change. “Ultimately we want to increase productivity in a changing climate, but a bad way to do that is by increasing inputs such as land and water,” says Ortiz-Bobea, referring to the damage agricultural yield-boosting measures — such as deforestation, water scarcity, and pesticide use — have caused so far.

“If we were more productive we could produce more with less of an environmental footprint,” he concluded.

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Written By Devrupa Rakshit

Devrupa Rakshit is an Associate Editor at The Swaddle. She is a lawyer by education, a poet by accident, and a painter by shaukh. She has her own podcast called #DateNightsWithD on Spotify. You can find her on Instagram @devruparakshit.

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