As climate change begins to warp the weather around the globe, it is vital to determine what will happen to our most vital resource: food. While it cannot be said for certain how these changes will manifest, it is certain that environments in which crops once thrived may become desolate. In order to plan ahead for the change to come, environmental scientists are attempting to predict what the scenario will be and then determine how best to overcome the changes.
Some data indicates a rise in temperature overall, which will impact all global environments in different ways. Projection data indicates that higher temperatures will be catastrophic in areas with minimal access to water, frequent droughts, and high temperatures (Mendelsohn 278). As the climate shifts, not all change is expected to be bad news. As hot areas grow hotter, cold areas become more mild. In one of Mendelsohn’s and Dinar’s simulations, the effects on the growth of most crops in most countries was shown to be harmful, and yet in some cases the crops are expected to grow more bountifully (Mendelsohn 287). In particular, Europe is calculated to have improved wheat and corn yield and the yield in Japan and the United States is expected to remain about the same (Mendelsohn 287). The most harm to crops is expected to occur in South Asia, Africa, and Latin America where the temperature is already high (Mendelsohn 287). Unfortunately, these developing areas will also be able to do the least about the problem.
A lack of a technological backbone in an area leaves it vulnerable to the weather conditions. Developing countries such as India and Brazil are introducing farming technology which can primarily be found in the areas with the most mild climate conditions, meaning that the places least vulnerable to climate change are also the best prepared to handle the consequences of rapid environmental change (Mendelsohn 285). However, developed countries already have these technologies in ample supply (Mendelsohn 285). The same countries which will be hit the hardest by climate change will also have the least means to handle it.
There are ways that farms with financial resources can adapt to the effects of climate change. In his article, Howden provides several apt suggestions on how each farm may adapt to climate change in their local area. These suggestions are as follows: switching out crops with breeds or species that are better suited to the new climate, collecting water for use during droughts, changing schedule for planting and harvesting based on how the climate changes, expanding the business to minimize losses if one crop is not successful, investing in pest control, and paying attention to the weather forecasts in order to keep up with the changes (Howden). All of this is sound advice, but as the saying goes, it takes money to make money. Making changes to a business requires resources and the security that the business will not go under if a major change proves unsuccessful. While financially secure farms may be able to adapt to the effects of climate change, farms with few resources will not have that luxury.
As farms in developing countries do not necessarily have the resources to support themselves through climate change, it is critical to examine other means to help them. Smit suggests that the government step in to provide assistance with adapting farms to their changing environments as well as insurance in case a farm collapses (Smit 95). When a farm in a poor financial situation is unable to help itself through climate change, it is necessary for a third party to step in.
As climate change sets in, developed countries are likely to scrape by while developing countries struggle. As hotter temperatures make already hot climates unpalatable, the people living within them will not have the financial means to adjust to the environmental changes. The bottom line is that developing countries in hot climates will need outside aid in order to survive the coming change.
- Howden, S. et al. ‘Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change.’ PNAS, vol. 104, no. 50. 2007, pp. 19691-19696.
- Mendelsohn, Robert and Ariel Dinar. ‘Climate Change, Agriculture, and Developing Countries: Does Adaptation Matter?’ The World Bank Research Observer, vol. 14, no. 2, 1999, pp. 277-293.
- Smit, Barry and Mark Skinner. ‘Adaptations in Agriculture to Climate Change: A Typology.’ Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, vol. 7, 2002, pp. 85-114.