2080: Global warming leads to floods, droughts, agricultural disasters, hunger

An article in The Washington Post describes studies predicting the effects of global warming on agriculture, in the 2080s:

Several recent analyses have concluded that the higher temperatures expected in coming years — along with salt seepage into groundwater as sea levels rise and anticipated increases in flooding and droughts — will disproportionately affect agriculture in the planet’s lower latitudes, where most of the world’s poor live.

India could experience a 40% decline in agricultural productivity as “record heat waves bake its wheat-growing region, placing hundreds of millions of people at the brink of chronic hunger.”

Africa … could experience agricultural downturns of 30%, forcing farmers to abandon traditional crops in favor of more heat-resistant and flood-tolerant ones, such as rice.” Senegal and war-torn Sudan could have a “complete agricultural collapse.”

Scenarios like these — and the recognition that even less-affected countries such as the United States will experience significant regional shifts in growing seasons, forcing new and sometimes disruptive changes in crop choices — are providing the impetus for a new “green revolution.” It is aimed not simply at boosting production, as the first revolution did with fertilizers, but at creating crops that can handle the heat, suck up the salt, not desiccate in a drought and even grow swimmingly while submerged.

Fortunately, research on the new crops is underway, but it’s a race against time.

How’s this for a bone-chilling quote, from William R. Cline, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics:

“You’ll have a tripling of world food demand by 2085 because of higher population and bigger economies, and I would not be surprised to see as much as one-third of today’s agricultural land devoted to plants for ethanol,” Cline said. “So it’s going to be a tight race between food supply and demand.”

————
Source: “Facing a Threat to Farming and Food Supply,” by Rick Weiss, The Washington Post (19 November 2007)

Related:
A six-page summary of the research (.pdf)
Cline’s book: Global Warming and Agriculture
Actuarily speaking, global warming is a very real catastrophe

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