Climate change plays an important role in farm productivity, and while some areas may benefit from having longer growing seasons, climate change will also bring an increased potential for heat waves, droughts, and floods. These conditions will pose challenges for farmers and the production of food, especially in regions where water supplies and soil moisture conditions become degraded.
According to the IPCC in their most recent report released in 2007: "Recent studies indicate that increased frequency of heat stress, droughts and floods negatively affect crop yields and livestock beyond the impacts of mean climate change, creating the possibility for surprises, with impacts that are larger, and occurring earlier, than predicted using changes in mean variables alone. This is especially the case for subsistence sectors at low latitudes. Climate variability and change also modify the risks of fires, pest and pathogen outbreak, negatively affecting food, fiber and forestry."
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has identified several climatic factors that directly affect agricultural productivity, as follows:
• change in climatic variability and extreme events,
• average temperature increase,
• change in rainfall amount and patterns,
• atmospheric pollution levels,
• rising atmospheric concentrations of CO2.
Each of these individual factors in itself can have a significant effect on agriculture. According to the EPA, climate studies, when related to agricultural impacts, so far have only considered one or two of the above-mentioned climate change factors. The EPA has currently identified the need for more work to be done in the analysis and modeling of the simultaneous influence of the full set of listed factors on agricultural production. In that way, a more realistic view of the effect of global warming on vegetation and agriculture can be reached.
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