Impact on agriculture and food supply

Every farmer understands the need to grow crops or rear animals that are suited to the local climate. The distribution of temperature and rainfall during the year are key factors in making decisions regarding what crops to grow. These will change in the world influenced by global warming. The patterns of what crops are grown where will therefore also change. But these changes will be complex; economic and other factors will take their place alongside climate change in the decision-making process.

There is enormous capacity for adaptation in the growth of crops for food - as is illustrated by what was called the Green Revolution of the 1960s, when the development of new strains of many species of crops resulted in large increases in productivity. Between the mid 1960s and the mid 1980s global food production rose by an average annual rate of 2.4% - faster than global population - more than doubling over that 30-year period. Grain production grew even faster, at an annual rate of 2.9%.36 Since the mid 1980s growth in production has continued at about 2% per year. There are concerns that factors such as the degradation of many of the world's soils largely through erosion and the slowed rate of expansion of irrigation because less fresh water is available will tend to reduce the potential for increased agricultural production in the future. However, with declining rates of population growth (SRES scenarios A1, B1, B2) and continued economic development, there remains optimism that, in the absence of major climate change, growth in world food supply is likely to continue at least to match growth in demand and that the numbers of undernourished in the world will substantially decline37.

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