New Research in The Lancet Planetary Health – Part 1 – CO2 is more than just a greenhouse gas

It’s been an exciting couple of weeks, with the recent publication of a couple articles in the latest issue of The Lancet Planetary Health, so I thought I’d put together a couple blog posts about the articles.

The first, “Combining the effects of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide on protein, iron, and zinc availability and projected climate change on global diets: a modelling study“, is the product of more than a year of collaborative research across multiple institutions (IFPRI, Harvard, USDA, EPA, RTI, and CSIRO). In this study we tried to look at a wide range of climate change induced impacts on crop growth.

A lot of work that I’ve contributed to has looked at the impacts of shifting temperature and precipitation patterns on crop yields, and how changes in crop productivity can lead to changes in commodity prices, agricultural trade flows, consumer demand and food security. For example, Ignaciuk and Mason-D’Croz (2014), Nelson et al. (2014), and Wiebe et al. (2015) all of which focused primarily on assessing the impacts of changes in mean temperature and precipitation on crop productivity. In another recent study we looked at how changes in economic growth and climate change could impact the supply of nutrients. In this latest article, we tried to expand on this previous work to consider the role of atmospheric CO2 on crop growth and nutrient supply.

Changing CO2 concentration levels can have multiple effects on the environment, beyond its impact as a greenhouse gas. Varying levels of CO2 in the atmosphere has multiple effects on plant chemistry.

  • CO2 Fertilization CO2 is a critical input into plant photosynthesis, the biochemical process which plants use to convert sunlight into carbohydrates that serve as food for the plant, with Oxygen another key by-product. More CO2 (assuming there aren’t water and nutrient constraints), should lead to more photosynthesis, and more plant biomass. In theory, CO2 fertilization could help offset some of the negative yield impacts of changes in temperature and precipitation.
  • Shifting nutrient balance Greater availability of carbon can also change the nutrient balance in crops. More carbohydrates from photosynthesis dilutes the concentration of many micronutrients like iron and zinc. Changes in the carbon cycle can also impact the chemistry of building protein and vitamins, often contributing to a decline in the nutrient content of many crops.

Adding these additional impact pathways on crop productivity and nutritional quality, continues to show the climate change will have a negative impact on our food supply, not only by reducing crop yields, but also by reducing the nutritional quality of the foods we grow. Perversely, the regions most likely to be negatively impacted by these changes are also those regions least responsible for higher CO2 levels. These findings suggest that while we cannot ignore the productivity losses climate change may cause, the situation is more complicated than just a food supply (quantity) question. We need to also consider more broadly issues of food quality and nutrition.

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New journal article in The Lancet: Global and regional health effects of future food production under climate change: a modelling study

Kind of crazy to think that I have had the opportunity to work on a project that got published in The Lancet. I knew the journal had extremely high visibility and impact, but intellectually knowing this and actually experiencing it are 2 different things. The journal article was released by Lancet last night and it is already getting major attention, with an article in the Guardian, an article on GIZMODO, and requests from several newspapers to talk about our findings.

While it took a lot of work and time to get the article through through the peer review process, it was a fun experience on the whole. It was great getting to collaborate with colleagues, such as Marco Springmann, at the University of Oxford to explore the effects of climate change on diets, and health. Hopefully, this is just the start of several future collaborations, which will allow us to explore the intersections of agriculture, trade, diet, and health. It is kind of crazy to think that this whole endeavor started almost 2 years ago when I met Marco in an IMPACT model training workshop I led in Cali, Colombia.

The abstract of the article is available for free at The Lancet:

Unfortunately, it looks like the full article requires a subscription to read. I am looking at what options we have for sharing the article. In the mean time, you can check out this blog post I made on the IFPRI Research blog summarizing some of the work, as well as the press release written by my colleagues at Oxford.

 

New publication with EuroChoices on the role of irrigation efficiency and climate change

EuroChoices just released a follow up article to the work I had previously done with Ada Ignaciuk at the OECD, looking at the potential role of increasing irrigation efficiency to adapt to climate change. This article is more focused towards policy makers in summarizing some key trade offs with irrigation management (e.g. irrigation expansion and irrigation efficiency) as a vehicle for climate adaptation. You can take a look at this new article here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/1746-692X.12088/epdf.

For a more technical and detailed analysis you can also take a look at the first report that we did that was released last year. This report focused more on OECD countries, as compared to the EuroChoices article which has a more global focus. This report also looked at the effects of a couple hypothetical technologies to provide context to the relative improvement due to better irrigation management. You can download the report from the OECD at: http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/agriculture-and-food/modelling-adaptation-to-climate-change-in-agriculture_5jxrclljnbxq-en

CCAFS Annual Report

The CGIAR Research Project on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (2014) just released their 2014 annual report. They have done so in a fairly innovative and interactive online format. Lots of cool work was done for CCAFS on a variety of different topics across a range of scales and regions. Some of the work that I did last year working with the OECD was highlighted in the report, which is pretty gratifying considering how much time and effort went into the report. You can take a look at the Annual report at:  http://ccafs.cgiar.org/research/annual-report/2014/

New IFPRI Publication Looking at Climate Change and Gender in Mexico, Brazil, and Peru

IFPRI just released a new discussion paper that I helped with looking at the potential effects of climate change on incomes in Mexico, Brazil, and Peru. This discussion paper estimates that there will be significant losses to agricultural income through negative climate shocks and that these losses will have gender differentiated effects at the household level.

Take a look at the discussion paper, which you can download for free at: http://www.ifpri.org/publication/agriculture-incomes-and-gender-latin-america-2050

Presenting in Bogota Colombia

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Last week I presented work I’ve been involved with at IFPRI with the IMPACT model. I explained how the model works and how this tool can be used in conjunction with other tools developed at IFPRI can be applied to the Colombian context to analyze complex issues like the effects of climate change on agricultural prices, land-use, and GHG emmissions.

Take a look at the blogpost I posted about the event at the Global Futures website: http://globalfutures.cgiar.org/2014/12/03/leds-modelling-workshop-adapting-ifpri-tools-and-methodologies-to-the-colombian-policy-context/

 

Southern African Agriculture and Climate Change

Check out the new IFPRI research monograph about climate change and agriculture in Southern Africa. This book is the second of 3 books looking at the impacts of climate change on agriculture in Africa. The first was released in the spring and focused on West Africa (book 1). The third and final book in this series focuses on East Africa and will be released by the end of the year.

This book like the one on West Africa has chapters focusing on the unique challenges each country in Southern Africa will face due to climate change. The book is free to download in whole, or by chapter if you are only interested in a particular country or want to reduce your downloading time.