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Viewpoint: Climate impacts on agriculture: Searching for keys under the streetlight

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  • Hertel, Thomas W.
  • de Lima, Cicero Z.

Abstract

This paper provides a critical assessment of the literature estimating the consequences of climate impacts in agriculture and the food system. This literature focuses overwhelmingly on the impact of elevated CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, higher temperatures and changing precipitation on staple crop yields. While critically important for food security, we argue that researchers have gravitated to measuring impacts ‘under the streetlight’ where data and models are plentiful. We argue that prior work has largely neglected the vast majority of potential economic impacts of climate change on agriculture. A broader view must extend the impacts analysis to inputs beyond land, including the consequences of climate change for labor productivity, as well as for purchased intermediate inputs. Largely overlooked is the impact of climate change on the rate of total factor productivity growth and the potential for more rapid depreciation of the underlying knowledge capital underpinning this key driver of agricultural output growth. This broader view must also focus more attention on non-staple crops, which, while less important from a caloric point of view, are critically important in redressing current micronutrient deficiencies in many diets around the world. The paper closes with numerical simulations that demonstrate the extent to which limited input and output coverage of climate impacts can lead to considerable underestimation of the consequences for food security and economic welfare. Of particular significance is the finding that humans in the humid tropics are likely more vulnerable to heat stress than are many of the well-adapted crops, such as rice. By omitting the impact of heat stress on humans, most studies of climate impacts greatly understate the welfare losses in the world’s poorest economies.

Suggested Citation

  • Hertel, Thomas W. & de Lima, Cicero Z., 2020. "Viewpoint: Climate impacts on agriculture: Searching for keys under the streetlight," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 95(C).
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jfpoli:v:95:y:2020:i:c:s0306919220301585
    DOI: 10.1016/j.foodpol.2020.101954
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    Cited by:

    1. Hertel, Thomas W., 2021. "Educating the Next Generation of Interdisciplinary Researchers to Tackle Global Sustainability Challenges: A Graduate Course," Applied Economics Teaching Resources (AETR), Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 2(6), January.
    2. Zhaojun Wang & Amanda M. Countryman & James J. Corbett & Mandana Saebi, 2021. "Economic and environmental impacts of ballast water management on Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries," Papers 2108.13315, arXiv.org.
    3. Shahab E. Saqib & Arifullah Arifullah & Muhammad Yaseen, 2021. "Managing farm-centric risks in agricultural production at the flood-prone locations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan," Natural Hazards: Journal of the International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, Springer;International Society for the Prevention and Mitigation of Natural Hazards, vol. 107(1), pages 853-871, May.
    4. Alexander Semin & Oleg Betin & Lyudmila Namyatova & Elena Kireeva & Larisa Vatutina & Andrei Vorontcov & Nadezhda Bagaeva, 2021. "Sustainable Condition of the Agricultural Sector’s Environmental, Economic, and Social Components from the Perspective of Open Innovation," Journal of Open Innovation: Technology, Market, and Complexity, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 7(1), pages 1-25, February.
    5. Christopher B. Barrett, 2021. "Overcoming Global Food Security Challenges through Science and Solidarity," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 103(2), pages 422-447, March.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Climate impacts; Agriculture; Heat stress; Nutrition; Productivity;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming

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