In the hottest year of the historical record, what were the impacts on global agriculture?
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations publishes on these issues. Perhaps their signature publication is their annual ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World’. Their 2015 version can be found here. The first sentence of the report bears quoting:
“Global hunger has continued to decline, albeit gradually, to an estimated 795 million undernourished people, or a reduction of 167 million hungry people over the last ten years. This decline has been most pronounced in developing countries, despite signifi cant population growth.”
They provide this helpful graphic here:
They emphasize, “Since the early 1990s, the number of hungry people has declined by 216 million globally, a reduction of 21.4 percent, notwithstanding a 1.9 billion increase in the world’s population.”
This good news is thanks primarily to a bumper harvest of cereals and grains. While it did not match the record of 2014, it was a very good year for agriculture.
Conclusion: The hottest year on record did not cause noticeable harm to farmers or their harvests. 72 countries have achieved their Millenium Development Goal of halving the number of hungry people.
Skeptics have claimed that a warmer world would bring real benefits to the people living on it. Regarding agricultural production they may have a point. Obviously there may come a time when we collectively say ‘enough is enough.’ Obviously that point has not been reached.
This brings up a point that I hope to develop in a future post. If we looked at 2015 in and of itself, without the specter of climate change coloring our thoughts and without a climate history, how would we describe last year’s climate?