Wheat is one of the world’s vital crops, joining corn and rice in feeding a vast number of people around the world. Experts have been raising the alarm bell about climate change and its potential impact on these crops for years, warning that multiple crop failures in different places during a single year could devastate food production and lead to widespread famine. The latest study on this matter paints a bleak picture.
According to researchers with the University of Arkansas, up to 60-percent of the production areas used to grow the world’s vital wheat crops may experience ‘severe and prolonged’ droughts at the same time, causing a devastating blow to food production.
This is a major problem for humanity, which gets around 20-percent of the total calories consumed from wheat. Among all crops, wheat is the most dependent on rain, making it particularly vulnerable to changes in climate that may lead to drought. Song Feng, the study’s second author, said the drought risk in these wheat production areas would be four times great than the present risk.
The team looked at different potential outcomes, finding that with the present-day weather patterns, up to 15-percent of global wheat-growing regions face severe droughts, a figure that jumps to 30-percent if humanity manages to cap global warming at 2C above the pre-industrial levels.
The findings were based on an analysis of 27 climate models that each featured three different potential future scenarios for how climate change will progress. By the end of the century, the team found that as many as 60-percent of the wheat crop regions globally will be at risk of experiencing long, severe droughts at the same time. Such droughts would lead to a spike in food prices, driving food insecurity in many places.