Socio-Economic Status and Climate Change

by Patrick Quarberg

The agricultural response to climate change will greatly affect how the world adapts to different environmental conditions. Given that crops respond differently to differently levels of CO2 in the atmosphere, it is important that agricultural developments are made to be able to cope with changing crop yields. A less thought of effect of climate change is how socio-economic factors influence how food is grown and distributed, as well as how different areas are able to respond to a shifting global climate. Studies on how crops respond to increased CO in the atmosphere have revealed some positive effects on growth and water retention. Using this information, Parry et al. set out to investigate how these changes affected places of different socio-economic status.

To do this, agricultural adaptations were considered on both a local and regional scale, the regional scale being a more conservative estimate of these effects, while the local or site-based estimates are more optimistic. Using a model that accounts for biophysical changes in crops due to climate change as well as rising CO­2 levels, they found that the positive effects caused by a higher level of CO2 in the atmosphere only temporarily offered a benefit. The boost in productivity was eventually canceled out by increased temperature and decreased precipitation. In all scenarios, certain areas benefitted more from the CO2 boost, and others suffered heavily from lack of precipitation or suitable growing climate. The areas which benefitted the most tended to be areas with temperate climates. These areas also tended to be more developed than equatorial or tropical regions, which suggests that the disparity of food production between developed and developing countries will only be made worse in the future when climate change is taken into account. Since developing nations have less access to resources which would allow them to adapt to the ecological changes, they suffer more than developed countries. On top of that, developing countries in equatorial regions will be most heavily and negatively affected, and will face the most difficulty in adapting.

Parry M.L, Rosenzweig C, Iglesias A, Livermore M, Fischer G. 2004. Effects of Climate Change on Global Food Production Under SRES Emissions and Socio-economic Scenarios. ScienceDirect, Volume 14, Issue 1, pages 53-67. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2003.10.008


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