Met Office scientists have developed a new approach to improve estimates of climate-related crop production shocks.
They looked at maize production, where China and America account for almost 60% of global production. The research found that across many regions of the two countries the probability of severe water stress is higher than if estimated only from actual historical data.
In addition, the probability of adverse conditions across both China and the US simultaneously, is estimated to be as high as 6% per decade.
Chris Kent, lead author on the paper, said: “This would be a scenario of multi-breadbasket failure in which impacts would be felt at the global scale. This is the first time we have been able to quantify the risk; it hasn’t been observed in the last 30 years, but the indications are that it is possible in the current climate”.
The research concludes that plans and policies which encourage adaptation to a changing climate may signifcantly underestimate the true risk of climate-related maize shocks if such activities are only based events which have happened in recent past.