We’ve already written about the damage done to the Antarctic ice sheet, and how sadly, its collapse seems irreversible. A new study has analyzed some of the consequences of that collapse – it could devastate global food supply, drowning vast areas of crop lands across the Middle East and Asia.

Credit: janet747/flickr

The report urges the Obama administration (and other administrations as well, I might add) to step up research funding, especially in developing countries, to prepare for a projected gap in the future food supply. It also warns America that due to drought, rising temperatures and more aggressive pests, internal corn production may drop by 25 percent by 2100. The report is the first of a series which will look at how food security is threatened by climate change.

“That sea-level rise would take out half of Bangladesh and mostly wipe out productive rice regions in Vietnam,” Nelson told The Guardian. “It would have a major effect on Egyptian agricultural areas.”

The projected levels of sea rise due to melting ice pose even a larger threat to future food supply than the IPCC predicted.

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“A sea level rise of 3 meters (10 feet) over the next 100 years is much more likely than the IPCC thought possible,” the report said.

In terms of absolute land loss, China would lose more than 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres). Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar could lose more than 1 million hectares (2.5 million acres) each; and that’s just one of the metrics. The potential loss of viable crop land could spell disaster for the entire world, not only for those areas.

“Agriculture is a huge world-wide industry that requires stable weather, ‘or else,’ and we might just be entering the ‘or else’ period,” Dan Glickman, agriculture secretary under Bill Clinton and a co-chairman of the conference, told The Guardian.

The report claims we need to step up investing in research, and that we need to make more agricultural breakthroughs in order to keep up with the growing population of the planet, and the threats of global warming.

“The question is: ‘are we doing the right kind of research at our universities, at the department of agriculture, or in the private sector to deal with those changes? We need more and more applied research to help us move those numbers up. That is the real challenge for scientists.”


Scientific Reference: Advancing Global Food Supply in the Face of a Changing Climate