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Climate Impacts on Agriculture: A Challenge to Complacency?

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  • Frank Ackerman
  • Elizabeth A. Stanton

Abstract

Recent research paints an ominous picture of climate impacts on agriculture, in contrast to the relative optimism of research from the 1990s. Continued use of the earlier research findings, in economic models and policy analyses, contributes to an unwarranted complacency about the urgency of climate policy. Earlier research concluded that the initial stages of climate change would bring net benefits to global agriculture, thanks to carbon fertilization and longer growing seasons in high-latitude regions. This conclusion has been challenged in at least three respects. First, newer experimental studies have sharply reduced older estimates of carbon fertilization effects. Second, the effect of temperature on many crops has been found to involve thresholds, above which yields rapidly decline; the number of hours above the threshold is typically more important than the average temperature. Third, climate change will bring significant changes in precipitation; in a number of important areas, decreases in precipitation may cause declines in agricultural production. Simple, aggregated economic analyses of climate change have often omitted these crucial effects of precipitation. Adaptation to warmer and often drier conditions is necessary but not sufficient for agriculture. Within a few decades, business-as-usual climate change would reach levels at which adaptation is no longer possible. Emission reduction and climate stabilization are essential to any long-run solution for global agriculture.

Suggested Citation

  • Frank Ackerman & Elizabeth A. Stanton, 2013. "Climate Impacts on Agriculture: A Challenge to Complacency?," GDAE Working Papers 13-01, GDAE, Tufts University.
  • Handle: RePEc:dae:daepap:13-01
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    File URL: http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/wp/13-01AckermanClimateImpacts.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Qunying Luo, 2011. "Temperature thresholds and crop production: a review," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 109(3), pages 583-598, December.
    2. Maximilian Auffhammer & V. Ramanathan & Jeffrey Vincent, 2012. "Climate change, the monsoon, and rice yield in India," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 111(2), pages 411-424, March.
    3. Mendelsohn, Robert & Nordhaus, William D & Shaw, Daigee, 1994. "The Impact of Global Warming on Agriculture: A Ricardian Analysis," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(4), pages 753-771, September.
    4. Wolfram Schlenker & W. Michael Hanemann & Anthony C. Fisher, 2005. "Will U.S. Agriculture Really Benefit from Global Warming? Accounting for Irrigation in the Hedonic Approach," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 395-406, March.
    5. Ana Iglesias & Luis Garrote & Sonia Quiroga & Marta Moneo, 2012. "A regional comparison of the effects of climate change on agricultural crops in Europe," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 112(1), pages 29-46, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jonathan M. Harris, 2013. "Green Keynesianism: Beyond Standard Growth Paradigms," GDAE Working Papers 13-02, GDAE, Tufts University.

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