Climate change could cut 18 percent of world food production by 2050

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Farmers and ranchers struggle as Texas endures historic drought. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Farmers and ranchers struggle as Texas endures historic drought. Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Farmers are already suffering from droughts worsened by global climate change.

A study published in the journal Environmental Research Letters found that by 2050, global climate change could cut world food production by 18 percent.

Environmental scientists suspect that managing water supplies will be the toughest challenge for farmers in the future. Current irrigation systems can’t cope with the changing weather patterns, Reuters reported Thursday. The study recommended that irrigation systems worldwide should be expanded by more than 25 percent.

Modeling that expansion is complicated, the authors point out, due to competing data and scenarios on how rainfall patterns will change. The authors recommend investment in irrigation infrastructure after 2030.

“If you don’t carefully plan (where to spend resources), you will get adaptation wrong,” David Leclere, one of the study’s authors, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But the news isn’t completely bleak — a warming climate means northern climates may be able to grow more food. If international food markets adapt appropriately, global food production could rise by 3 percent by 2050, the study found.

PBS NewsHour’s Coping With Climate Change has been covering ongoing droughts in California and Texas which have dried up crops and ranches.

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