Crop losses from pests to increase by 50% if temperatures rise 2 degrees
A new study published In the Journal of Science has revealed that a warming climate will cause an increase in crop losses from pests. The study has analysed data from across the world to predict the links between rising temperatures and the damage insects cause to crops.
The findings suggest that for every 1 degree increase in temperature pests will consume 10-25% more wheat, rice and maize crops. A 2 degree rise in temperatures would see 20-50% more losses from pests; insects would consume 50% more wheat, 30% more maize and 20% more rice.
A 4 degree rise in temperatures, which will be achieved by the end of the century if emissions are not cut, would cause a 40%-100% increase in crop losses.
This is a significant problem as the three cereal crops are essential for millions around the world. Rice, wheat and maize account for 42% of the calories consumed by humans.
Rising temperatures is already expected to cause a 10% reduction in cereal yields. The new research suggests than an extra 4-8% could be lost due to pests.
There are also concerns that the losses are likely to be an underestimate as the scientists have not considered factors such as crop diseases and insect population explosions.
Currently there are 800 million people chronically hungry around the world, the new research raises further concerns for food security as the world’s population continues to grow and climate change threatens agricultural production.
Another recent study also found that increasing CO2 levels will make food less nutritious.
Prof Curtis Deutsch who led the research at the University of Washington, US, commented:
“For many, many people in the world there is already a shortage of food, so it is not like we can afford to spare [more],” s
“A lot of people in the world, the most vulnerable, can’t afford to give up anything.”
"Insect pests currently consume the equivalent of one out of every 12 loaves of bread (before they ever get made). By the end of this century, if climate change continues unabated, insects will be eating more than two loaves of every 12 that could have been made"
Europe is expected to be badly affected by an increase in pests with a 50-100% increase in the impact of pests on crops in some countries; this could cause total losses of 16 million tonnes of crop due to pests.
However, in the tropics, where much of the global rice supply is grown, insects are close to reaching optimal working temperature so temperature increases could limit pest populations.
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