Sunday, November 22, 2015

Trade May Not Help a Warming Planet Fight Its Farming Failures

A group of Burmese woman grow rice on a rice paddy. A new study indicates that agriculture in Mynamar and other countries will experience substantial productivity declines in the next 30 years due to climate change. (Credit: Click to Enlarge.
Warming temperatures will take a heavy toll on agricultural productivity, according to climate scientists.  How will society adjust?  One possibility might be increased trade:  If one country suffers a decline in, say, wheat production but can still grow as much rice as ever, then -- in theory -- it might grow more rice and trade for its usual amount of wheat instead.

But a new study co-authored by an MIT economist suggests that international trade will do little to alleviate climate-induced farming problems.  Instead, the report indicates that countries will have to alter their own patterns of crop production to lessen farming problems -- and even then, there will be significant net losses in production under the basic scenarios projected by climate scientists.

"The key is the response within a country, in terms of what those farmers produce, rather than between countries," says Arnaud Costinot, a professor in the Department of Economics at MIT and expert on international trade issues, who is one of the authors of a paper detailing the study's results.

To be sure, the study concludes that the overall impact of climate change on farming is expected to be large:  Even with adjustments in both farming practices and trade, farming production would decline by roughly one-sixth, using the baseline scenario for climate change projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and incorporating weather projections over a 30-year period.

Read more at Trade May Not Help a Warming Planet Fight Its Farming Failures

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