Climate Change and Agricultural Production: An Overview of Risks and Opportunities

We must transform the ways in which the world produces food and manages land in order to limit average global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Although climate change is likely to affect agriculture differently from region to region, the scientific consensus is that it will have major, generally negative impacts on food systems. As highlighted by the IPCC Report on Climate Change and Land, climate change has already affected food security in many areas, and the impacts will become more severe as the world continues to warm. Water scarcity, heat waves, storms and sea level rise are already compromising agricultural productivity and will continue to destabilize agricultural supply chains unless we take action.

Climate change harms agricultural production in the following ways:

  • Warmer mean temperatures and hotter extremes result in reduced crop yields and increased animal loss from heat stress and disease.
  • Increased probability of drought and precipitation deficits increases crop stress and reduces livestock yield.
  • Increased frequency, intensity and/or amount of heavy precipitation degrades and inundates farms and livestock operations.

In addition to harming agricultural production in the short term, some climate impacts can have long lasting or irreversible effects:

  • Salt water intrusion and the rise in sea levels in some coastal regions of the world result in a reduction in usable cropland.
  • Disruption of the movement of water in the atmosphere as a result of the dieback of tropical forests could cause major shifts in precipitation in key agricultural areas.
  • Climate change reduces biodiversity, such as by reducing the populations of pollinating insects, which can threaten agricultural resilience and crop productivity.

For more information, read an issue overview on climate change and deforestation and land use change.