Crop yields in a geoengineered climate


Crop models predict that recent and future climate change may have adverse effects on crop yields1,2. Intentional deflection of sunlight away from the Earth could diminish the amount of climate change in a high-CO2 world3,4,5,6. However, it has been suggested that this diminution would come at the cost of threatening the food and water supply for billions of people7. Here, we carry out high-CO2, geoengineering and control simulations using two climate models to predict the effects on global crop yields. We find that in our models solar-radiation geoengineering in a high-CO2 climate generally causes crop yields to increase, largely because temperature stresses are diminished while the benefits of CO2 fertilization are retained. Nevertheless, possible yield losses on the local scale as well as known and unknown side effects and risks associated with geoengineering indicate that the most certain way to reduce climate risks to global food security is to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Simulated climate change.
Figure 2: Yield changes for 2×CO2 and SRM simulations.
Figure 3: Gains and losses in yield and crop production by geoengineering.


  1. 1

    Easterling, W. et al. in IPCC Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (eds Parry, M., Canziani, O., Palutikof, J., van der Linden, P. & Hanson, C.) 273–313 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Lobell, D., Schlenker, W. & Costa-Roberts, J. Climate trends and global crop production since 1980. Science 333, 616–620 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Govindasamy, B. & Caldeira, K. Geoengineering Earth’s radiation balance to mitigate CO2-induced climate change. Geophys. Res. Lett. 27, 2141–2144 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Lunt, D., Ridgwell, A., Valdes, P. & Seale, A. Sunshade world?: A fully coupled GCM evaluation of the climatic impacts of geoengineering. Geophys. Res. Lett. 35, L12710 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Rasch, P. et al. An overview of geoengineering of climate using stratospheric sulphate aerosols. Phil. Trans. R. Soc. A 366, 4007–4037 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Robock, A., Oman, L. & Stenchikov, G. L. Regional climate responses to geoengineering with tropical and Arctic SO2 injections. J. Geophys. Res. 113, D16101 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Robock, A. Whither geoengineering? Science 320, 1166–1167 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Lobell, D. & Field, C. Global scale climate–crop yield relationships and the impacts of recent warming. Environ. Res. Lett. 2, 014002 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Rosenzweig, C. & Parry, M. Potential impact of climate change on world food supply. Nature 367, 133–138 (1994).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Schmidhuber, J. & Tubiello, F. Global food security under climate change. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 104, 19703–19708 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Schlenker, W. & Lobell, D. Robust negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture. Environ. Res. Lett. 5, 014010 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Lobell, D. et al. Prioritizing climate change adaptation needs for food security in 2030. Science 319, 607–610 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Shepherd, J. G. Geoengineering the Climate: Science, Governance and Uncertainty RS Policy document 10/29 (Royal Society, 2009).

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Meehl, G. et al. in IPCC Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) 748–845 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

    Google Scholar 

  15. 15

  16. 16

    Govindasamy, B., Thompson, S., Duffy, P., Caldeira, K. & Delire, C. Impact of geoengineering schemes on the terrestrial biosphere. Geophys. Res. Lett. 29, 2061 (2002).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Stanhill, G. & Cohen, S. Global dimming: A review of the evidence for a widespread and significant reduction in global radiation with discussion of its probable causes and possible agricultural consequences. Agr. Forest Meteorol. 107, 255–278 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Mercado, L. et al. Impact of changes in diffuse radiation on the global land carbon sink. Nature 458, 1014–1017 (2009).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Roderick, M., Farquhar, G., Berry, S. & Noble, I. On the direct effect of clouds and atmospheric particles on the productivity and structure of vegetation. Oecologia 129, 21–30 (2001).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Matthews, H., Cao, L. & Caldeira, K. Sensitivity of ocean acidification to geoengineered climate stabilization. Geophys. Res. Lett. 36, L10706 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Neale, R., Richter, J. & Jochum, M. The impact of convection on ENSO: From a delayed oscillator to a series of events. J. Clim. 21, 5904–5924 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Ban-Weiss, G. & Caldeira, K. Geoengineering as an optimization problem. Environ. Res. Lett. 5, 034009 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Monfreda, C., Ramankutty, N. & Foley, J. Farming the planet: 2. Geographic distribution of crop areas, yields, physiological types, and net primary production in the year 2000. Glob. Biogeochem. Cycles 22, 1–19 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Tubiello, F. et al. Crop response to elevated CO2 and world food supply: A comment on ‘Food for Thought...’ by Long et al., Science 312:19181921, 2006 Eur. J. Agron. 26, 215–223 (2007).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Jones, J. et al. The DSSAT cropping system model. Eur. J. Agron. 18, 235–265 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Nakicenovic, N. et al. Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000); available at

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Cox, P., Betts, R., Jones, C., Spall, S. & Totterdell, I. Acceleration of global warming due to carbon-cycle feedbacks in a coupled climate model. Nature 408, 184–187 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information




K.C. and L.C. provided climate simulations, D.B.L. provided the yield model, J.P. carried out the analyses. All authors contributed to designing the analyses and to writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to J. Pongratz.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Pongratz, J., Lobell, D., Cao, L. et al. Crop yields in a geoengineered climate. Nature Clim Change 2, 101–105 (2012).

Download citation

Further reading