Climate change impacting our productivity gains

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Global efficiency in agricultural productivity has been known to increase over time, but a recent paper published in Nature Climate Change has illustrated the significant gains we have lost due to climate change.

Productivity growth can be understood as increasing the output of crops and livestock when using the same inputs. As concerns around food security and prices, input costs and the availability of resources grow, the idea of increasing agricultural productivity offers a more positive outlook for the development of the food system.

The Global Agricultural Productivity Report released in 2019 claimed agricultural productivity is growing at 1.63 percent globally. In order to see sustainable production of our food system and supply for a future population of 10 billion in 2050, they estimated that this productivity needs to increase to 1.73 percent.

The novel findings from the recent paper are the first to consider the historical trends and impact of climate change on agricultural productivity. Econometric models are combined with various climate scenarios to illustrate the impact climate change has had on agricultural productivity over the decades. The key finding is that the relationship of inputs and outputs have not been able to reach full potential in productivity gains due to climate change. This has been quantified at 21% of potential agricultural productivity being lost since 1961. This is equivalent to losing 7 years of productivity growth.

Our productivity gains are not currently enough to sustainably supply our growing population, and the scales are tipped further by the impact climate change has on our food production.

While it is disheartening to be confronted with further impacts that climate change is having on our food system, this research does provide tools to increase the robustness of future risk analysis with an increased understanding of climate change rates and impacts.

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