The Fingerprint of Anthropogenic Warming on Global Agriculture

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Frances Moore


A large literature on “detection and attribution” has now demonstrated the influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions on a range of physical climate variables. Social and economic outcomes are known to be sensitive to climate change, but directly connecting observed changes to anthropogenic forcing is challenging. Here I demonstrate that changes in global productivity of maize, wheat, and rice production since 1960 can be formally attributed, with high confidence, to anthropogenic warming. Specifically, I show that there is less than 10% probability that the pattern of changes in yield growth across crops and countries would have arisen in the absence of anthropogenic warming. Although the total effect of warming is small relative to the change in yield since 1960, it has produced a distinctive fingerprint on the pattern of yield growth, characterized by a slowing of wheat yield gains in warmer areas and an acceleration of rice yields in cooler regions. The net effect has been negative, reducing global calorie production from these crops by 5.7% per year. This therefore provides early evidence that anthropogenic warming is already having a discernable effect on socio-economic systems at the global scale.



Atmospheric Sciences, Climate, Environmental Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Statistical Methodology


agriculture, climate change, attribution, detection, anthropogenic


Published: 2020-10-30 08:00

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Data will be made available after publication in a peer-reviewed journal

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