Agriculture productivity growth has been thwarted by climate change

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What’s in store for our food future

Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management Associate Professor Ariel Ortiz-Bobea says that anthropogenic climate change has reduced agricultural productivity by about twenty percent globally since 1961 and admits the downturn will affect future generations for years to come. Nonetheless, the Geneva Summit on Sustainable Finance award winner maintains humans have already changed the climate. 

“Most people perceive climate change as a distant problem,” he said. “But this is something that is already having an effect. We have to address climate change now so that we can avoid further damage for future generations.”

“If you look at the data, we are about one-degree Celsius warmer than we would have been without human influence,” the Cornell University academic said. “Our analysis reveals that warmer temperatures are particularly detrimental to agriculture productivity growth.”

“In essence, anthropogenic climate change is acting as a headwind for the agricultural sector,” Ortiz-Bobea explained. “Higher temperatures are becoming increasingly detrimental. So not only are warmer temperatures become more frequent, but we are also more vulnerable to them.” 

This all comes from a newly published Cornell-led study that shows a 21% drop in global agricultural activity. 

“We find that climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years,” wrote Ortiz-Bobea in a study titled Anthropogenic Climate Change Has Slowed Global Agricultural Productivity Growth. “It is equivalent to pressing the pause button on productivity growth back in 2013 and experiencing no improvements since then. Anthropogenic climate change is already slowing us down.”

To make matters worse, Earth System Science Professor at Stanford David Lobell says the entire food, agricultural, livestock chain is at risk from severe weather conditions and could soon be jeopardized. Things can go both ways. For example, cold snaps are also damaging to crops and are happening on a frequent basis. 

Apple farmers in North Carolina are concerned about potential crop loss after temperatures have been reaching into the low twenties for a number of hours during the night. 

“We’re talking about some really, really potentially damaging temperatures right now,” said the Director for the Henderson County Cooperative Extension Service Terry Kelley. 

The cold temperatures are concerning because certain varieties of apples don’t handle it well. 

Agricultural economists assessed damages caused by winter storm Uri that left millions of households in Texas without power. The assessors estimate damages could top $600 million. 

Uri wreaked havoc on Texas farmers, costing them hundreds of millions of dollars in total. 

Citrus farmers experienced a $230 million loss, adding to the mess.

Farmers in the Rio Grande valley lost most of their orange crop and more than 60% of their grapefruit crop.

Producers in South Texas also suffered the same fate. “Cool-season vegetable crops such as leafy greens, beets, cabbage, and celery were lost. There were also warm-season crops of potatoes and watermelons planted for early harvest devastated by the freezing weather,” as The Eagle reports.

Needless to say, weather patterns are affecting food resources globally and things are not getting any better.

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