Research Highlight

Climate change is bad for food security, but here's a way out

doi:10.1038/nindia.2019.73 Published online 6 June 2019

Countries such as India and Pakistan may need to combine technology growth with changes in use of land and crop varieties to minismize the impact of climate change on staple foods.

© S. Priyadarshini

Climate change will lessen the productivity of food grains but the yield losses can be minimised if farmers urgently embrace adaptations such as changing their planting dates or using improved cultivars, says a study1.

Climate change will result in 9 per cent yield losses of staple grains wheat and rice by the 2050s, up from 6 per cent in the 2020s. Similarly, maize yield losses will go up from 9 per cent to 20 per cent in the same period, the study notes.

However, adaptive measures such as change in planting date, using improved cultivars (mainly short duration crop varieties) and increased nutrient and water application can dramatically decrease the negative impacts of climate change, the report says.

The findings reported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) stem from a meta-analysis of data from 157 studies published at individual country levels since 1984.

The analysis showed that once these measures are adopted, "climate change may not add significantly to the challenge of food production for the majority of countries except for some potential hotspots distributed around the world." Massive investment, policy, and institutional support will be needed, however, to facilitate adoption, the authors say.

Estimated climate change impact hotspots for the 2050s.


If such technologies are adopted, climate change will not be a major issue for wheat, rice and maize for many countries including USA, China, Canada, Russia, Brazil, and Argentina. But countries such as India, Pakistan, Iraq and Syria in Asia, and Peru in Latin America, having large wheat-consuming populations, "may need to combine technology growth with transformative actions in terms of land use and high-yielding, stress-tolerant varieties to remain self-sufficient in wheat."

In the case of maize, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, may remain hotspots where the production gap may increase due to climate change. The analysis shows that for rice -- mostly grown in China, India, Southeast Asia and USA – the impact of climate change, after adaptation, will be only "small".


1. Aggarwal, P. et al. How much does climate change add to the challenge of feeding the planet this century? Environ. Res. Lett. 14, 043001 (2019) doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/aafa3e