Climate change could cause the production of irrigated and rainfed staple crops to drop by 25% compared to a no-climate change scenario in 2050 in the Asia Pacific region, according to International Food Policy Research Institute Senior Research Fellow Mark Rosegrant.
Speaking to the Australian Agricultural and Resource Economics Society in Sydney, Australia, earlier this month, Rosegrant assessed the impacts of climate change on agricultural production, commodity prices, calorie availability, and child malnutrition in the Asia Pacific region, illustrating two 2050 scenarios—one with climate change, one without.
According to Rosegrant, by 2050, irrigated rice production in Asia could fall by 20% and irrigated wheat as much as 25%. He predicts rain-fed maize and soybean production to also drop.
In the Pacific, the scenario is not much better: researchers project that traditional staple crops like taro, sweet potatoes, and cassava will suffer significant yield declines due to climate change.
All this will have a direct effect on nutrition, Rosegrant says. About 65 million children in Asia will be malnourished in 2050, even under current climate conditions. A climate change scenario increases that number by an additional 9 to 11 million children.
We can sidestep the worst scenarios, Rosegrant says, through targeted, aggressive investment in agricultural research, rural roads, and irrigation. These would cut about three-quarters of the increase in childhood malnutrition due to climate change, he explained, but such investments hinge on regional cooperation on research. Nonagricultural investments for clean water and maternal education would further reduce child malnutrition.
In a Radio Australia interview following the conference, Rosegrant said these changes would also include agricultural productivity growth.
"We need to grow more food in the Asian countries, which of course increases the total amount of food available and helps to rein in price increases, but also generates income for farmers and people in the rural areas which is essential for food security."
In addition to these increased investments, Rosegrant's other recommendations include establishing regional centers of excellence in the Pacific countries to link national and international research centers; forming integrated data management, monitoring, and evaluation systems for a wide range of market and climate information; opening the global agricultural trading regime to share risk and increase resilience; and revitalizing extension systems to include local participation and effectively coordinate public, private, and NGO providers.