Skip to main content


Log in

Climate change impacts on global agriculture

  • Published:
Climatic Change Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Based on predicted changes in the magnitude and distribution of global precipitation, temperature and river flow under the IPCC SRES A1B and A2 scenarios, this study assesses the potential impacts of climate change and CO2 fertilization on global agriculture. The analysis uses the new version of the GTAP-W model, which distinguishes between rainfed and irrigated agriculture and implements water as an explicit factor of production for irrigated agriculture. Future climate change is likely to modify regional water endowments and soil moisture. As a consequence, the distribution of harvested land will change, modifying production and international trade patterns. The results suggest that a partial analysis of the main factors through which climate change will affect agricultural productivity provide a false appreciation of the nature of changes likely to occur. Our results show that global food production, welfare and GDP fall in the two time periods and SRES scenarios. Higher food prices are expected. No matter which SRES scenario is preferred, we find that the expected losses in welfare are significant. These losses are slightly larger under the SRES A2 scenario for the 2020s and under the SRES A1B scenario for the 2050s. The results show that national welfare is influenced both by regional climate change and climate-induced changes in competitiveness.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Called C4 because the CO2 is first incorporated into a 4-carbon compound. C4 plants photosynthesize faster than C3 plants under high light intensity and high temperatures, and are more water-use efficient. They include mostly tropical plants, such as grasses and agriculturally important crops like maize, sugar cane, millet and sorghum.

  2. Runoff and river flow are closely related and its distinction can be vague. Runoff is the amount of precipitation which flows into rivers and streams following evaporation and transpiration by plants, usually expressed as units of depth over the area of the catchment. River flow or streamflow is the water flow within a river channel, usually expressed as a rate of flow past a point (IPCC 2001).

  3. Burniaux and Truong (2002) developed a special variant of the model, called GTAP-E. The model is best suited for the analysis of energy markets and environmental policies. There are two main changes in the basic structure. First, energy factors are separated from the set of intermediate inputs and inserted in a nested level of substitution with capital. This allows for more substitution possibilities. Second, database and model are extended to account for CO2 emissions related to energy consumption.

  4. See Table S1 in the supplemental material for the regional, sectoral and factoral aggregation used in GTAP-W.

  5. Let us assume that 60 percent of total rice production in region r is produced on irrigated farms and that the returns to land in rice production are 100 million USD. Thus, we have for region r that irrigated land rents in rice production are 60 million USD and rainfed land rents in rice production are 40 million USD.

  6. Let us assume that the ratio of irrigated yield to rainfed yield in rice production in region r is 1.5 and that irrigated land rents in rice production in region r are 60 million USD. Thus, we have for irrigated agriculture in region r that irrigation rents are 20 million USD and land rents are 40 million USD.

  7. A decomposition of the terms-of-trade effect by sector and region reveals that changes in agricultural production can explain most of it. An exception is the Former Soviet Union. Here, changes in other sectors including oil and gas mostly determine the size of the effect.


  • Abler D, Shortle J, Rose A, Kamat R, Oladosu G (1998) Economic impacts of climate change in the Susquehanna River Basin. In: Paper presented at American Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Meeting, Philadelphia

  • Arnell NW (2003) Effects of IPCC SRES emissions scenarios on river runoff: a global perspective. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 7:619–641

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berrittella M, Hoekstra AY, Rehdanz K, Roson R, Tol RSJ (2007) The economic impact of restricted water supply: a computable general equilibrium analysis. Water Res 41:1799–1813

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Berrittella M, Rehdanz K, Roson R, Tol RSJ (2008) The economic impact of water pricing: a computable general equilibrium analysis. Water Policy 10:259–271

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Betts RA, Boucher O, Collins M, Cox PM, Falloon PD, Gedney N, Hemming DL, Huntingford C, Jones CD, Sexton DM, Webb MJ (2007) Projected increase in continental runoff due to plant responses to increasing carbon dioxide. Nature 448(7157):1037–1041

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Burniaux JM, Truong TP (2002) GTAP-E: An Energy Environmental Version of the GTAP Model. GTAP Technical Paper no. 16

  • CA (2007) See Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture

  • Calzadilla A, Rehdanz K, Tol RSJ (2010) The economic impact of more sustainable water use in agriculture: a computable general equilibrium analysis. J Hydrol 384:292–305

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Calzadilla A, Rehdanz K, Tol RSJ (2011) Water scarcity and the impact of improved irrigation management: a CGE analysis. Agric Econ 42:305–323

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Commission for Africa (2005) Our common interest: Report of the Commission for Africa. London: Commission for Africa

  • Comprehensive Assessment of Water Management in Agriculture (2007) Water for food, water for life: A comprehensive assessment of water management in agriculture. Earthscan and International Water Management Institute, London

    Google Scholar 

  • Darwin RF, Kennedy D (2000) Economic effects of CO2 fertilization of crops: transforming changes in yield into changes in supply. Environ Model Assess 5:157–168

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Darwin R, Tsigas M, Lewandrowski J, Raneses A (1995) World agriculture and climate change: Economic adaptations. Agricultural Economic Report 703, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Washington, DC

  • Dixon P, Rimmer M (2002) Dynamic general equilibrium modelling for forecasting and policy. Emerald Group, North Holland

  • Dudu H, Chumi S (2008) Economics of irrigation water management: A literature survey with focus on partial and general equilibrium models. Policy Research Working Paper 4556, World Bank, Washington, DC

  • Falloon PD, Betts RA (2006) The impact of climate change on global river flow in HadGEMI simulations. Atmos Sci Let 7:62–68

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Falloon P, Betts R, Wiltshire A, Dankers R, Mathison C, McNeall D, Bates P, Trigg M (2011) Validation of river flows in HadGEM1 and HadCM3 with the TRIP river flow model. J Hydrometeorol 12:1157–1180. doi:10.1175/2011JHM1388.1

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hertel TW (1997) Global trade analysis: Modeling and applications. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Iglesias A, Rosenzweig C (2009) Effects of climate change on global food production from SRES emissions and socioeconomic scenarios. NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC), Palisades

    Google Scholar 

  • IPCC (2000) Special report on emission scenario. A Special Report of Working Group III of the IPCC. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp 612

  • IPCC (2001) Climate change 2001: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the IPCC. McCarthy JJ, Canziani OF, Leary NA, Dokken DJ, White KS (eds) Cambridge University Press, UK. pp 1000

  • IPCC (2007) Climate change 2007: Impacts, adaptation and vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the IPCC. Parry ML, Canziani OF, Palutikof JP, van der Linden PJ, Hanson CE (eds) Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 976

  • Johansson RC, Tsur Y, Roe TL, Doukkali R, Dinar A (2002) Pricing irrigation water: a review of theory and practice. Water Policy 4(2):173–199

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Johns TC, Durman CF, Banks HT, Roberts MJ, McLaren AJ, Ridley JK, Senior CA, Williams KD, Jones A, Rickard GJ, Cusack S, Ingram WJ, Crucifix M, Sexton DMH, Joshi MM, Dong B-W, Spencer H, Hill RSR, Gregory JM, Keen AB, Pardaens AK, Lowe JA, Bodas-Salcedo A, Stark S, Searl A (2006) The new Hadley Centre climate model HadGEM1: evaluation of coupled simulations. J Clim 19:1327–1353

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lobell D, Burke MB (2010) On the use of statistical models to predict crop yield responses to climate change. Agr Forest Meteorol 150:1443–1452

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lobell D, Field C (2007) Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming. Environ Res Lett 2:014002

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Martin GM, Ringer MA, Pope VD, Jones A, Dearden C, Hinton TJ (2006) The physical properties of the atmosphere in the new Hadley Centre Global Environmental Model, HadGEM1. Part 1: model description and global climatology. J Clim 19:1274–1301

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Milly PCD, Dunne KA, Vecchia V (2005) Global pattern of trends in streamflow and water availability in a changing climate. Nature 438:347–350

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nohara D, Kitoh A, Hosaka M, Oki T (2006) Impact of climate change on river discharge projected by multimodel ensemble. J Hydrometeor 7:1076–1089

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parry ML, Rosenzweig C, Iglesias A, Fischer G, Livermore M (1999) Climate change and world food security: a new assessment. Glob Environ Chang 9:51–67

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Parry ML, Rosenzweig C, Iglesias A, Livermore M, Fischer C (2004) Effects of climate change on global food production under SRES emissions and socio-economic scenarios. Glob Environ Chang 14:53–67

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rosegrant MW, Cai X, Cline SA (2002) World water and food to 2025: Dealing with scarcity. International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, D.C

    Google Scholar 

  • Rosenzweig C, Iglesias A (eds) (1994) Implications of climate change for international agriculture: Crop modelling study. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Schlenker W, Lobell DB (2010) Robust negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture. Environ Res Lett 5:1–8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Solomon S, Qin D, Manning M, Marquis M, Averyt K, Tignor MMB, Miller Jr. HL, Chen Z, eds (2007) Climate change 2007: The physical science basis. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 996 pp

  • Stott PA, Jones GS, Lowe JA, Thorne P, Durman CF, Johns TC, Thelen J-C (2006) Transient climate simulations with the HadGEM1 climate model: causes of past warming and future climate change. J Clim 19:2763–2782

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tsigas ME, Frisvold GB, Kuhn B (1997) Global climate change and agriculture. In: Hertel TW (ed) Global trade analysis: Modeling and applications. Cambridge Univiversity Press, Cambridge, pp 280–301

    Google Scholar 

  • Tubiello FN, Fischer G (2007) Reducing climate change impacts on agriculture: global and regional effects of mitigation, 2000–2080. Technol Forecast Soc Chang 74:1030–1056

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tubiello FN, Amthor JS, Boote KJ, Donatelli M, Easterling W, Fischer G, Gifford RM, Howden M, Reilly J, Rosenzweig C (2007) Crop response to elevated CO2 and world food supply. A comment on “Food for Thought …” by Long et al., Science 312:1918–1921, 2006. Europ. J. Agronomy 26: 215–223

    Google Scholar 

  • United Nations (1993) The System of National Accounts (SNA93). United Nations, New York

    Google Scholar 

  • Verburg PH, Eickhout B, van Meijl H (2008) A multi-scale, multi-model approach for analyzing the future dynamics of European land use. Ann Reg Sci 42:57–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • World Bank (2007) World development report 2008: Agriculture for development. World Bank, Washington, DC

    Book  Google Scholar 

Download references


We had useful discussions about the topics of this article with Korbinian Freier, Jemma Gornall and Uwe Schneider. We would like to thank Nele Leiner and Daniel Hernandez for helping arranging the data set. This article is supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany under the project "Food and Water Security under Global Change: Developing Adaptive Capacity with a Focus on Rural Africa," which forms part of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food, by the Michael Otto Foundation for Environmental Protection, and by the Joint DECC and Defra Integrated Climate Programme – DECC/Defra (GA01101).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alvaro Calzadilla.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.


(DOC 904 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Calzadilla, A., Rehdanz, K., Betts, R. et al. Climate change impacts on global agriculture. Climatic Change 120, 357–374 (2013).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: