Leaked IPCC report Predicts Bleak Outlook for Crops in the Face of Climate Change

Agricultural yields, specifically wheat, rice, and corn, will dwindle as a result of climate change.

By Kendra Pierre-Louis on November 4, 2013 9:49 AM EST

Photo Credit: Olearys
Photo Credit: Olearys

A draft of the United Nation's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that was leaked on Friday reveals disturbing news for people who are attached to eating.

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Although the final version of the report isn't set to be released until March of 2014, the leaked draft states that a combination of extreme weather events, declining water accessibility, and temperature sensitivity of crops will cause agricultural output to decline in the coming years. The report notes that "...recent periods of rapid food and cereal price increases have indicated that current markets in key producing regions are sensitive to climate extremes." In particular, state the report's authors, unless climate adaptation measures are undertaken, the yields for three key global crops - wheat, maize, and rice - will decline by as much as two- percent per decade for the rest of the century, compared to what yields would have been without the effects of climate change.

Given that the OECD- FAO Agricultural Report (a joint project of the United States' Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations) predicts that for 2013-2022 agricultural outputs are expected to grow a mere 1.5-percent, IPCC's prediction would mean a net agricultural reduction of .5-percent at a time when food demands are expected to rise 14-percent each decade.

The report goes on to point out that climate change will create "emerging hotspots of hunger," exacerbating poverty in low and lower-income middle countries while creating new "poverty pockets" in upper-middle to high-income countries while also increasing inequality. Those hardest hit, will not be farmers, but rather those (like the 60-percent of us who live in cities) who are dependent on wages to purchase food.

 This declining agricultural output would also cause food prices to soar, worsening food insecurity around the globe but especially in the poorest nations already struggling with rising food prices. This is, by most accounts the most dire prediction concerning the relationship between agricultural -production and food security that the IPCC, the principal United Nations research body tasked with "assessing the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant for the understanding of the risk of human-induced climate change," has ever made. In 2007 the IPCC, along with Al Gore, won the Nobel Peace Prize for its efforts in raising awareness and action around climate change.

It's important to note that the report, (a full download of which can be found here) is a work in progress and that its language could change between now and its official release in Japan in March of 2014.

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