New research published in the online version of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences predicts that U.S. crop yields will suffer a devastating blow if temperatures rise due to climate change.
In the paper, “Nonlinear temperature effects indicate severe damages to U.S. crop yields under climate change,” Dr. Michael Roberts, an agricultural and resource economist at North Carolina State University, and Dr. Wolfram Schlenker, an assistant professor of economics at Columbia University, estimate that yields of three of the most important crops produced in the U.S. –corn, soybean, and cotton– could decrease by 30 to 46% over the next century under slow global warming scenarios.
Under the most rapid global warming scenarios, things get worse. Yields would then decrease by as much as 63 to 82%, the scientists report.
“While crop yields depend on a variety of factors, extreme heat is the best predictor of yields,” Roberts says. “There hasn’t been much research on what happens to crop yields over certain temperature thresholds, but this study shows that temperature extremes are not good.”
That’s an understatement. Considering that the American farmers produce 41% of the world’s corn and 38% of the world’s soybeans, significant decreases in crop yields here would have considerable impact not just in the U.S, but globally, as well.