Biological and Environmental Research - Earth and Environmental System Sciences
Earth and Environmental System Modeling

Agricultural Intensification as a Mechanism of Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts

Monday, December 14, 2015 - 08:30
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The research, policy, and NGO communities have devoted significant attention to the potential for agricultural intensification, or closure of “yield gaps,” to alleviate future global hunger, poverty, climate change impacts, and other threats.  However, because the research to this point has focused on biophysically attainable yields—assuming optimal choices under ideal conditions—the presently available work has not yet addressed the likely responses of the agricultural sector to real-world conditions in the future. This study investigates endogenous agricultural intensification in response to global climate change impacts—that is, intensification independent of policies or other exogenous interventions to promote yield gap closure. The framework for the analysis is a set of scenarios to 2100 in the GCAM global integrated assessment model, enhanced to include endogenous irrigation, fertilizer application, and yields, in each of 283 land use regions, with maximum yields based on the 95th percentile of attainable yields in a recent global assessment. We assess three levels of agricultural climate impacts, using recent global gridded crop model datasets: none, low (LPJmL), and high (Pegasus). Applying formulations for decomposition of climate change impacts response developed in prior AgMIP work, we find that at the global level, availability of high-yielding technologies mitigates price shocks and shifts the agricultural sector’s climate response modestly towards intensification, away from cropland expansion and reduced production. At the regional level, the behavior is more complex; nevertheless, availability of high-yielding production technologies enhances the inter-regional shifts in agricultural production that are induced by climate change, complemented by commensurate changes in trade patterns. The results highlight the importance of policies to facilitate yield gap closure and inter-regional trade as mechanisms for adapting to climate change.

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