Variation in the global-scale impacts of climate change on crop productivity due to climate model uncertainty and adaptation
Osborne, T., Rose, G. and Wheeler, T. (2013) Variation in the global-scale impacts of climate change on crop productivity due to climate model uncertainty and adaptation. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 170. pp. 183-194. ISSN 0168-1923
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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2012.07.006
Crop production is inherently sensitive to fluctuations in weather and climate and is expected to be impacted by climate change. To understand how this impact may vary across the globe many studies have been conducted to determine the change in yield of several crops to expected changes in climate. Changes in climate are typically derived from a single to no more than a few General Circulation Models (GCMs). This study examines the uncertainty introduced to a crop impact assessment when 14 GCMs are used to determine future climate. The General Large Area Model for annual crops (GLAM) was applied over a global domain to simulate the productivity of soybean and spring wheat under baseline climate conditions and under climate conditions consistent with the 2050s under the A1B SRES emissions scenario as simulated by 14 GCMs. Baseline yield simulations were evaluated against global country-level yield statistics to determine the model's ability to capture observed variability in production. The impact of climate change varied between crops, regions, and by GCM. The spread in yield projections due to GCM varied between no change and a reduction of 50%. Without adaptation yield response was linearly related to the magnitude of local temperature change. Therefore, impacts were greatest for countries at northernmost latitudes where warming is predicted to be greatest. However, these countries also exhibited the greatest potential for adaptation to offset yield losses by shifting the crop growing season to a cooler part of the year and/or switching crop variety to take advantage of an extended growing season. The relative magnitude of impacts as simulated by each GCM was not consistent across countries and between crops. It is important, therefore, for crop impact assessments to fully account for GCM uncertainty in estimating future climates and to be explicit about assumptions regarding adaptation.