What is the global impact of climate change on fishing and agriculture? An international team of scientists1 led by France’s CNRS (CRIOBE USR3278 PSL University Paris : EPHE-UPVD-CNRS), in collaboration with the University of Montpellier2, studied this question by applying climate models to worldwide data on employment, the economy, and food security. Their findings, published in Science Advances on 27 November, show that 90% of the global population may face decreases in productivity for both agriculture and fishing if greenhouse emissions are not reduced. On the other hand, most countries could limit these losses if emissions are drastically reduced, as stipulated by the Paris Agreement.
By combining climate models with global employment, economic, and food security data, a group of scientists analysed the potential effects of climate change on two key food sectors: agriculture and fishing.
Adopting the scenario of no reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, they have shown that roughly 90% of the world’s population—most of whom live in countries which are most vulnerable to climate change and are less able to adapt to it—would likely face productivity losses in agriculture and fishing, while less than 3% of the population would see simultaneous gains in productivity in their regions of the world by 2100. This scenario offers extremely little room for adaptation. It would be impossible to compensate for fisheries losses by developing agriculture, or vice versa: both sectors would be heavily impacted.
Yet if the goals of the Paris Agreement are achieved, which would entail a drastic reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, researchers conclude that the majority of countries—not just the most vulnerable, but also the majority of those responsible for the greatest emissions—would benefit. Though productivity would still be lost in many cases (affecting 60% of the population), the magnitude of this blow would be considerably lower. For the most vulnerable countries, losses would be 4 to 5 times lower, which would help to facilitate the implementation of adaptation strategies—e.g. diversification within an affected sector (by developing solutions that would be viable in the future climate) or investment in sectors relatively unscathed by changing climate conditions, or even benefiting from them.
These findings thus suggest that reducing the vulnerability of our societies to climate change requires a drastic reduction in our greenhouse gas emissions combined with strategic adaptation of cultivated and fished species in regions where negative impacts appear inevitable.
1In addition to the French teams, researchers from the University of Hawaii (USA), the University of British Columbia (Canada), Lancaster University (United Kingdom), and James Cook University/ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (Australia) are involved in this study.
2The participating French research laboratories are the Centre for Island Research and Environmental Observatory (CNRS / EPHE-PSL / UPVD) and the Marine Biodiversity, Exploitation and Conservation unit (CNRS / IRD / IFREMER / University of Montpellier).
Thiault, L., Mora, C., Cinner, J.E., Cheung, W.W.L., Graham, N.A.J., Januchowski-Hartley, F.A., Mouillot, D. , Sumaila, U.R., and J. Claudet. (2019) Escaping the perfect storm of simultaneous climate change impacts on agriculture and marine fisheries. Science Advances. DOI 10.1126/sciadv.aaw9976.