Adaptation potential of European agriculture in response to climate change

Abstract

Projecting the impacts of climate change on agriculture requires knowing or assuming how farmers will adapt. However, empirical estimates of the effectiveness of this private adaptation are scarce and the sensitivity of impact assessments to adaptation assumptions is not well understood1,2. Here we assess the potential effectiveness of private farmer adaptation in Europe by jointly estimating both short-run and long-run response functions using time-series and cross-sectional variation in subnational yield and profit data. The difference between the impacts of climate change projected using the short-run (limited adaptation) and long-run (substantial adaptation) response curves can be interpreted as the private adaptation potential. We find high adaptation potential for maize to future warming but large negative effects and only limited adaptation potential for wheat and barley. Overall, agricultural profits could increase slightly under climate change if farmers adapt but could decrease in many areas if there is no adaptation. Decomposing the variance in 2040 projected yields and farm profits using an ensemble of 13 climate model runs, we find that the rate at which farmers will adapt to rising temperatures is an important source of uncertainty.

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Figure 1: Short- and long-run temperature response curves.
Figure 2: Effects of warming on profits and yields.
Figure 3: Contribution of different factors to total uncertainty.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank M. Burke for comments on the manuscript and the Stanford Interdisciplinary Graduate Fellowship for financial support for this project.

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F.C.M. and D.B.L. designed the analysis. F.C.M. performed the analysis. F.C.M. and D.B.L. analysed results and wrote the paper.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Frances C. Moore.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Moore, F., Lobell, D. Adaptation potential of European agriculture in response to climate change. Nature Clim Change 4, 610–614 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2228

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