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    Climate Encyclopaedia ESPERE.
    ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE PUBLISHED FOR EVERYBODY ROUND THE EARTH
    ENCYKLOPEDIA ESPERE - main menu (expand)
    Topic: Food and Climate. Advanced.
    topic FOOD AND CLIMATE: ADVANCED - menu (expand)
    • Food & Climate. Advanced

      Providing sufficient food for the world's people is becoming more difficult as the population exceeds six billion and as land, water, and ecosystems resources are degraded through overuse. Changes in the global pattern of food supply and demand may have consequences throughout the world because of the interdependence of the world's food systems.

      In the Introduction to the 'basic' section of the Food and Climate Topic we mentioned that regional changes in climate resulting from global warming are likely to affect food production, crop pests, diseases and food production costs.  We also showed that the negative impacts of climate change are likely to fall disproportionately on the poor.

      In this 'read more' section we will look at how agriculture has evolved over time and how it will change in the future.  We will look at how computer models are being used to predict the future and what we can do to minimise the undesirable impacts of global warming.  We will concentrate, in particular, on the Mediterranean region, an area which is very vulnerable to climate change.

      About this page:
      author: Marta Moneo and Dr. Ana Iglesias - Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, España
      1. scientific reviewer: Alex de Sherbinin - CIESIN, Columbia University, USA
      2. scientific reviewer: Lily Parshall - Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, USA
      educational reviewer: Emilio Sternfeld - Colegio Virgen de Mirasierra, España
      last published: 2004-05-12

      • 1. Past and present

        1. Past and present

        Why is climate change of concern in agriculture?

        While agriculture is a complex sector, the system is still strongly dependent on climate, because heat, light, and water are the main drivers of crop growth.  Plant diseases and pest infestations, as well as the availability of water for irrigation, are also governed by climate.

        World food production varies by several percent from year to year, largely as a result of weather conditions.  Some agricultural regions are more sensitive to changes in climate than others.  The most sensitive regions are often in the developing countries where less advanced technology is available to minimise the impact of droughts and floods and where soils, terrain and climate are less suited to agriculture. 

         A key task facing those concerned with conducting climate impact assessments is to identify those regions most likely to be vulnerable to climate change.  This will, hopefully, allow countries to adapt so that the impact of climate change is minimised.

        1. Farmland landscape in North America.
        Photo by USDA. NRCS

        Additional reading

         Rosenzweig, C., A. Iglesias, X.B. Yang, E. Chivian, and P. Epstein. 2000. Climate Change and US Agriculture: The impacts or warming and extreme weather events on productivity, plant diseases, and pests. Center for Health and the Global Environment, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA. http://www.med.harvard.edu/chge/resources.html

        About this page:
        author: Marta Moneo and Dr. Ana Iglesias - Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, España
        1. scientific reviewer: Alex de Sherbinin - CIESIN, Columbia University, USA
        2. scientific reviewer: Lily Parshall - Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, USA
        educational reviewer: Emilio Sternfeld - Colegio Virgen de Mirasierra, España
        last published: 2004-05-12

      • 2. Predicting the future

        2. Predicting the future

        More than 500 million people today suffer from malnutrition and are at risk of starvation.  One of the great challenges for all of us in the 21st Century is to reduce poverty and produce enough food for our growing  global population.

        This challenge becomes harder to achieve as the world population exceeds six billion and as land, water and genetic resources are damaged through overuse.

        There is great concern that climate change will have negative impacts on agricultural production and will increase the number of people at risk of starvation.   These concerns are especially important in areas which are vulnerable to droughts and famines.  These areas tend to be those where population numbers are still rising so the impact of climate change will be particularly acute.

        We can get some idea of the impact of future climate change when we look how extreme weather events have affected different countries.   Developed countries are much better able to cope with extreme weather events than less developed nations.  This photograph shows the devastating effects of a hurricane on the very poor country, Honduras, in Central America.

        1. Picture of the effects of Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, Central America.
        Source www.laprensahn.com

        About this page:
        author: Marta Moneo and Dr. Ana Iglesias - Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, España
        1. scientific reviewer: Alex de Sherbinin - CIESIN, Columbia University, USA
        2. scientific reviewer: Lily Parshall - Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, USA
        educational reviewer: Emilio Sternfeld - Colegio Virgen de Mirasierra, España
        last published: 2004-05-12

      • 3. Drought in the Mediterranean

        3. Drought in the Mediterranean

        The social and economic impacts of drought in the Mediterranean are increasing.  The impact of drought is likely to get worse with time.  The population is growing and cities are getting larger.  More food is needed and, as a result, more land needs irrigating for agriculture.  There are inadequate controls on water use and a lack of political will to change how people use the water resources they already have.

        1. Normalized Difference Vegetation Index
        G. Begni, MEDIAS-France

        This satellite picture shows the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index for the Mediterranean region. This index is used to distinguish areas with different densities of vegetation.  The image shows that areas in Northern Europe have more dense vegetation than those close to the Mediterranean Sea.  The difference is caused simply by climate and water availability.

        Successful water management aims to prevent water shortages in times of drought so that agricultural production does not suffer.  Many of the risks involved with water management are caused by the unpredictability of our future weather.  The greatest risk is that of drought.

        About this page:
        author: Marta Moneo and Dr. Ana Iglesias - Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, España
        1. scientific reviewer: Alex de Sherbinin - CIESIN, Columbia University, USA
        2. scientific reviewer: Lily Parshall - Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Columbia University, USA
        educational reviewer: Emilio Sternfeld - Colegio Virgen de Mirasierra, España
        last published: 2004-05-12