Written By: Natalie Baer
As rising greenhouse gases exert climate change impacts, climate pressure on crops could see food prices rise by 25% by 2050, warns a new study.
Published by the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), the study has warned of stark increases in food prices as agri-industries continue to swap practices of food production with energy crop production in an effort to adapt to climate change.
The results, published in the journal Agricultural Economics, showed that agricultural prices could be around 25% higher in 2050 as direct result of climate change on crop yields, compared with its reference scenario where climate change did not occur.
In a business-as-usual scenario of rising greenhouse gas conditions, results showed that crops including rice, wheat, maize, peanuts and soybeans could all suffer from yield decreases between 10% and 38% globally by 2050.
In contrast, the expansion of the bioenergy sector (growing crops to be used as fuel in order to mitigate emissions), estimated that food prices would only rise by 5% – an increase seen due to increased competition over land.
However, in order to meet land requirements for bio-crop production by 2050, the researchers say that an additional 320 million hectares of area would be needed.
“[This is] a difference equal to an area roughly three times the size of Germany”, says Christoph Schmitz, one of the authors of the study. Schmitz also warned that South America and Sub-Saharan Africa would be the areas mostly likely in demand for new cropland.
“This [demand for additional cropland] could be bad news as in those regions, in order to gain additional cropland, centuries-old rainforests are cut down”, he warns. “This does not only increase carbon emissions but also harms biodiversity and threatens important ecosystem services.”
In order to cope with direct climate impacts on crop yields, Christoph Muller, lead author of the study, says that a more flexible global agricultural trading system would be required to ensure that regions experiencing increased crop production could help compensate for areas that were seeing declines.