Growth in crop yields inadequate to feed the world by 2050 – research (histrionic emphasis added):
If the world is to grow enough food for the projected global population in 2050, agricultural productivity will have to rise by at least 60%, and may need to more than double, according to researchers who have studied global crop yields.
They say that productivity is not rising fast enough at present to meet the likely demands on agriculture.
The researchers studied yields of four key staple crops – maize, rice, wheat and soybeans – and found they were increasing by only about 0.9% to 1.6% a year. That would lead to an overall increase of about 38% to 67% by 2050, which would only be enough to feed the population if the lower end of the estimate of yields needed and the maximum yield increase turns out to be the case.
It also does not take into account other factors, such as climate change, which the World Bank said this week could lead to massive food shortages in many areas as soon as the 2030s.
Jon Foley, co-author of the paper, said: “Clearly, the world faces a looming agricultural crisis, with yield increases insufficient to keep up with projected demands. The good news is, opportunities exist to increase production through more efficient use of current arable lands and increased yield growth rates by spreading best management practices. If we are to boost production in these key crops to meet projected needs, we have no time to waste.”
So… if we act quickly as Foley suggests, we can avoid disaster, but only according to a study that ignores the impacts of climate change on world food production.
Why, I have to ask, is anyone doing a study about worldwide food production over a period of decades and not explicitly including the effects of climate change? Between temperature change, coastal farmland being poisoned by rising sea water, and droughts, there is no excuse for not talking about climate change. Do the study showing two sets of results, one excluding climate change and one including it, and make it clear exactly how much uncertainty is added in the latter version due to the range of estimates associated with the various hydrological cycle changes caused by climate change, if you must. But excluding it entirely calls into question the value of the entire study.
(Speaking as someone who’s spent more than a little time staring at and even working on economic studies, I know how easy it is to fall prey to the urge to simplify such work by narrowing its scope. Economists have all but made both a science and a religion out of ceteris paribus (“all other things being equal”), the mother of all unspoken assumptions. But this example goes far beyond the normal sin against common sense we see frequently from practitioners of the dismal science.)