• 30 August 2022

Climate change likely to raise wheat prices in food-insecure regions and exacerbate economic inequality

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Wheat is a key source of nutrition for people across the globe, providing 20% of calories and protein for 3.4 billion people worldwide. Even if we meet climate mitigation targets and stay under 2°C of warming, climate change is projected to significantly alter the yield and price of wheat in the coming years. Researchers publishing in the journal One Earth on August 19 predict that wheat yield is likely to increase at high latitudes and decrease in low latitudes, meaning that prices for the grain are likely to change unevenly and increase in much of the Global South, enhancing existing inequalities.

“Most studies primarily focus on how modelling climate change impacts on wheat yields,” says lead author Tianyi Zhang, an agro-meteorologist with the Institute of Atmospheric Physics at the Chinese Academy of Science. “This is indeed important, but crop yields do not provide a holistic vision of food security. In the real world, many countries, especially developing countries, heavily rely on agribusiness.”

The team has developed a new climate-wheat-economic ensemble modeling approach. This improved model system allows the researchers to explicitly look at impacts of both climate mean conditions and extreme events on wheat yields, price and global supply-demand chain. “We know from previous research that extreme events do not necessarily respond in the same way as the mean conditions, and because these extreme events are the most impactful on societies, this is an important step forward,” says co-author Karin van der Wiel, a climate scientist in the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute.

This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Project of China, JPI-Belmont Forum, and European Union Horizon 2020.

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