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Warming Climate Could Bring Crisis, and Opportunity, to World Farming, Experts Say
Agriculture throughout much of the world could be threatened in decades ahead as an increase in extreme heat waves, droughts, and floods related to climate change disrupt water supplies, experts said at a symposium co-organized by AAAS.
Significant disruptions associated with climate change already have begun, they said, and as temperatures warm, the impacts are likely to be more threatening, especially to areas in Asia and Africa where hunger has remained a stubborn problem.
Continued warming could lead to “dramatic” potential change in precipitation, with losses of 30% to 40% in some parts of Southern Europe and increases of 30% to 40% in the North, said Ad de Roo, senior scientist with the European Commission's Joint Research Centre (JRC). That could have implications not only for farming, but for hydropower, transportation, and drinking water supplies, de Roo said.
While the climate is inherently uncertain, “a lot of the changes that we thought would happen gradually seem to be happening more rapidly than anticipated, making things very difficult to manage,” added James W. Hansen, a research scientist at the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University in New York.
Despite their stark assessments, both de Roo and Hansen urged a constructive response to the unfolding changes. The emerging challenge should be seen as a “crisis of opportunity,” Hansen said.
The symposium was co-sponsored by the Embassy of Sweden (holding the presidency of the European Union), the Delegation of the European Commission, and AAAS.
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20 November 2009