, Volume 33, Issue 1, pp 1-6

The impact of climate change on agriculture

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Studies that include moderate climate forecasts, farmer adaptation, carbon fertilization, and warm-loving crops tend to show that climate change will have only mild impacts on average global agricultural output and may even improve temperate agricultural production. On this point, recent studies yield strikingly consistent results. Of course, impact estimates still contain uncertainties. Key questions include how agriculture might change by 2060, how tropical and subtropical farming will be affected, and how effects will be distributed regionally. The most likely threat to agriculture from climate warming is regional damages in relatively poor areas that lack either the knowledge or the financial resources to adjust. Although it is not clear which regions will actually suffer, the ones that are most vulnerable lie predominantly in or near the tropics (IPCC, 1995). Nonetheless, on average, the factors discussed in this essay will help mitigate the impact of climate change on agriculture.

The authors are grateful to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) for financial support. We also wish to thank Richard Adams, Cynthia Rosenzweig, Kathleen Segerson, Joel Smith, Robert Unsworth and Thomas Wilson for their helpful comments. The authors alone are responsible for any remaining errors or omissions.