food have been developed under fairly stable climate conditions. However, with a warming world, we will see many impacts to the established agricultural system. Some of these impacts are already being seen today, but may become much worse if we continue down a path of “business as usual” with our consumption of fossil fuels and natural resources.
- Shifts in precipitation patterns, leading to increased droughts and flooding
In many places, drought is already becoming the norm, dramatically reducing water availability for crops, and increasing irrigation requirements. In existing arid regions, it may be difficult to adapt the cultivation of crops to even more drought and increased temperatures.
In areas experiencing an increased number of downpours, increased flooding can wipe out an entire crop with a single storm event.
- Water runoff and erosion
- Increased pests and disease
- Shifting of growing regions further north and increased heat waves
The shifting of hardiness zones will likely mean that crops that have always been grown in a given region may no longer be able to grow well there in the future with warmer temperatures. However, such crops may still grow well in areas further north where it is cooler5.
- An increase in extreme weather events
- Changes in the growing seasons
- Decrease in food security
- Flooding of agricultural fields along low-lying areas
- Melting Glaciers
Possible areas of agricultural adaptation and innovation due to climate change
In a warmer world, farmers will likely need to change the varieties of crops that they grow, as well as their farming methods.
Some possible agricultural adaptations to climate change include:
- Growing heat-sensitive crops further north in the Northern Hemisphere and further south in the Southern Hemisphere in cooler regions.
- Growing more heat-tolerant crops and more perennial crops such as through the application of permaculture.
- The reduction or elimination of water-thirsty crops, such as rice.
- An increase in the use of water conservation methods such as drip irrigation.
- A dramatic reduction or elimination of fossil fuel use in agriculture, as agriculture is currently a large user of fossil fuels, which contributes to climate change.
- The localization of food systems and the growing of food indoors to increase agricultural resilience in the face of a changing and unpredictable climate.
Despite the many agricultural challenges that we are facing in a warmer world, we have a tremendous opportunity to transform our food system into a much more sustainable world and if we act swiftly and decisively today, we may be able to avoid the worst of the predicted climate change impacts on agriculture in the future.