Farming and Climate Change

Well, another day, another climate-related future problem. This time it’s agriculture, which according to CBS News will suffer ‘shocks’ more frequently due to climate change.

They write, “The chances of food shortages and extreme price hikes could triple by 2040 due to increasing extreme and erratic weather brought about by climate change, according to task force of British and American experts.

According to the new report from the Global Food Security program, the risk of a “production shock” is set to go from an event that has happened once a century to one that happens every 30 years mostly due to the impacts to farmers from floods and droughts.

If there are more frequent storms, more frequent droughts and more frequent floods, it will certainly ‘shock’ the agricultural world.

But will it matter by then? If yields are adequate we will store the surplus for just such occurrences, as we do now in the developed world.

In previous discussions regarding farming and climate change, much of the focus has been on a flattening of the curve of increased productivity in agriculture, which rose dramatically starting in the 60s following Borlaug’s Green Revolution.

And the dramatic increases in yields have leveled off to match population growth–no more, no less. Which may be more of a market signal than a failure of innovation or technology.

agricultural productivity

What actually is more important is total factor productivity in the agricultural sector. We don’t really need more technology or more innovation to take care of the current population–and I would argue, not even to prepare for the increase in population.

Farmers throughout the developing world are less productive than in the richer countries. Dramatically so. Hayami’s seminal paper in the 70s said the productivity of an Indian farmer was 5% that of an American farmer. The same is true in many parts of the world, from sub-Saharan Africa to parts of China to parts of Latin America. If those developing countries were as productive as European or American farms, we would have more than enough food for today and tomorrow as well.

sub saharan africa agricultural productivity

We would have enough to deal with the shocks of climate change–globalization would allow us to send food to wherever it’s needed, if our farms are unaffected, or to import it if we suffer from drought or flood.

Education, investment in tools, good conservation and environmental care–if we can bring those to bear we don’t need to worry about climate change, whether it’s two or three or even four degrees.

It’s not just true for agriculture.

 

2 responses to “Farming and Climate Change

  1. Tom, your cataloging of the pathetic fear mongering and magical thinking of the climate obsessed is good work.

  2. Oh, a “task force of British and American experts,” is it? I wonder if they may equally have been identified as “a motley crew of men and women with varying degrees of knowledge, experience, and ignorance, whose motives, like those of us all, may have been something more or less than the pursuit of pure knowledge for knowledge’s sake?”

    It’s always a “task force,” isn’t it. And from two countries! My, oh, my. Such important stuff and such important people. We are to be impressed, are we not.

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