Roughly a billion people around the world continue to live in state of chronic hunger and food insecurity. Unfortunately, efforts to improve their livelihoods must now unfold in the context of a rapidly changing climate, in which warming temperatures and changing rainfall regimes could threaten the basic productivity of the agricultural systems on which most of the world's poor directly depend.
Brazil has developed a large-scale commercial agricultural system, recognized worldwide for its role in domestic economic growth and expanding exports. However, the success of this sector has been associated with widespread destruction of Brazilian ecosystems, especially the Cerrado and the Brazilian Amazon rainforest, as well as environmental degradation. Brazil's agricultural development has also led to land consolidation, aggravating a historical land distribution inequality.
The recent upheavals in staple food prices, financial markets, and the global economy raise questions about the state of food insecurity, the nature of price variability, and the appropriate strategies for international agricultural development. For decades preceding this turmoil, agriculture had received waning attention from the global development community as real food prices declined on trend. Analysts who worried about food insecurity focused on the fate of poor producers.
Expanding croplands to meet the needs of a growing population, changing diets, and biofuel production comes at the cost of reduced carbon stocks in natural vegetation and soils. Here, we present a spatially explicit global analysis of tradeoffs between carbon stocks and current crop yields. The difference among regions is striking. For example, for each unit of land cleared, the tropics lose nearly two times as much carbon (∼120 tons·ha-1 vs. ∼63 tons·ha-1) and produce less than one-half the annual crop yield compared with temperate regions (1.71 tons·ha-1·y-1 vs. 3.84 tons·ha-1·y-1).
Predicting the potential effects of climate change on crop yields requires a model of how crops respond to weather. As predictions from different models often disagree, understanding the sources of this divergence is central to building a more robust picture of climate change's likely impacts. A common approach is to use statistical models trained on historical yields and some simplified measurements of weather, such as growing season average temperature and precipitation.
Global demand for agricultural products such as food, feed, and fuel is now a major driver of cropland and pasture expansion across much of the developing world. Whether these new agricultural lands replace forests, degraded forests, or grasslands greatly influences the environmental consequences of expansion. Although the general pattern is known, there still is no definitive quantification of these land-cover changes.
This paper analyses the vulnerability of South African agriculture to climate change and variability by developing a vulnerability index and comparing vulnerability indicators across the nine provinces of the country. Nineteen environmental and socio-economic indicators are identified to reflect the three components of vulnerability: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. The results of the study show that the regions most exposed to climate change and variability do not always overlap with those experiencing high sensitivity or low adaptive capacity.
Is it possible to combine modern tropical agriculture with environmental conservation? Brazilian agriculture offers encouraging examples that achieve high production together with adequate environmental protection. However, these effective practices may soon lose ground to the conventional custom of resource overexploitation and environmental degradation.
In a recent paper, we documented strong historical linkages between temperature and civil conflict in Africa (1). Sutton et al. (2) raise two concerns with our findings: that the relationship between temperature and war is based on common trends and is therefore spurious, and that our model appears overly sensitive to small specification changes. Both concerns reflect a basic misunderstanding of the analysis.
Although China and the United States are the two largest emitters of greenhouse gases, China’s emissions on a per capita basis are significantly lower than those of the U.S.: in 2005, per capita emissions in China were 5.5 metric tons—much less than the U.S. (23.5 metric tons per capita), and also lower than the world average of 7.03 metric tons. China’s total GHG emissions were 7,234.3 million tons of CO2 equivalent (tCO2e) in 2005, 15.4 percent of which came from the agricultural sector. By comparison, total U.S.
Improving crop yields in major agricultural regions is one of the foremost scientific challenges for the next few decades. In Northwest India, the stagnation of wheat yields over the past decade presents a distressing contrast to the tremendous yield gains achieved during the Green Revolution. One commonly proposed way to raise yields is to reduce the often considerable gap between yield potential and average yields realized in farmers' fields, yet the likely effectiveness of different strategies to close this gap has been poorly known.
Feature-tracking techniques are employed to investigate why there is a relative minimum in storminess during winter within the Pacific storm track (the midwinter suppression). It is found that the frequency and amplitude of disturbances entering the Pacific storm track from midlatitude Asia are substantially reduced during winter relative to fall and spring and that the magnitude of this reduction is more than sufficient to account for the midwinter supression.
Accumulating evidence suggests that agricultural production could be greatly affected by climate change, but there remains little quantitative understanding of how these agricultural impacts would affect economic livelihoods in poor countries. Here we consider three scenarios of agricultural impacts of climate change by 2030 (impacts resulting in low, medium, or high productivity) and evaluate the resulting changes in global commodity prices, national economic welfare, and the incidence of poverty in a set of 15 developing countries.
There is widespread interest in the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and on the most effective investments to assist adaptation to these changes, yet the scientific basis for estimating production risks and prioritizing investments has been quite limited. Here we show that by combining historical crop production and weather data into a panel analysis, a robust model of yield response to climate change emerges for several key African crops.
Meeting the food needs of Africa's growing population over the next half-century will require technologies that significantly improve rural livelihoods at minimal environmental cost. These technologies will likely be distinct from those of the Green Revolution, which had relatively little impact in sub-Saharan Africa; consequently, few such interventions have been rigorously evaluated. This paper analyzes solar-powered drip irrigation as a strategy for enhancing food security in the rural Sudano-Sahel region of West Africa.