Projecting Impacts of Climate Change on Cropping Systems

Attempting to disentangle the effects of climate on cropping systems can be a daunting exercise. Agriculture involves so many moving parts that it is nearly impossible to perfectly understand the effects of any single factor or set of factors. Yet the tremendous importance of food production has motivated thousands of studies on the topic, and as a result there is a fairly good understanding of some key processes. Since all of these studies are in one way or another based on past experience from experiments or observations, it is often unclear how well they can inform future scenarios where technologies or climate conditions may be completely different. For these reasons, any statement or model projection about climate impacts has associated with it 'known unknowns' (i.e. the errors in our models that we are aware of) and 'unknown unknowns' (i.e. the errors due to factors not considered in our models). The resulting uncertainties should therefore be front and centre in any discussion of impacts. Here we briefly outline what we do and do not know about crop and farmer responses to climate change, before providing a summary of recent assessments of regional and global scale impacts in the following section.

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