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Agricultural adaptation to climate change in rich and poor countries: Current modeling practice and potential for empirical contributions
Journal Article

In this paper we discuss the scope of the adaptation challenge facing world agriculture in the coming decades. Due to rising temperatures throughout the tropics, pressures for adaptation will be greatest in some of the poorest parts of the world where the adaptive capacity is least abundant. We discuss both autonomous (market driven) and planned adaptations, distinguishing: (a) those that can be undertaken with existing technology, (b) those that involve development of new technologies, and (c) those that involve institutional/market and policy reforms. The paper then proceeds to identify which of these adaptations are currently modeled in integrated assessment studies and related analyses at global scale. This, in turn, gives rise to recommendations about how these models should be modified in order to more effectively capture climate change adaptation in the farm and food sector. In general, we find that existing integrated assessment models are better suited to analyzing adaptation by relatively well-endowed producers operating in market-integrated, developed countries. They likely understate climate impacts on agriculture in developing countries, while overstating the potential adaptations. This is troubling, since the need for adaptation will be greatest amongst the lower income producers in the poorest tropical countries. This is also where policies and public investments are likely to have the highest payoff. We conclude with a discussion of opportunities for improving the empirical foundations of integrated assessment modeling with an emphasis on the poorest countries.

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