Climate science

An uncertain future for global farming under climate change, study shows

  • 17 Sep 2014, 20:01
  • Robert McSweeney

Climate change is likely to cause an expansion of land suitable for growing crops globally, but on average the quality of land will decline, a new study shows.

A warmer world would mean more cropland for northern latitude countries such as China, Russia and Canada, but there are trade-offs elsewhere, with much of Africa having to manage with less cropland and fewer harvests per year.

Suitable cropland

Not everywhere in the world is suitable for growing crops. Some areas are too dry, or too cold, while other areas have poor quality soil or are too hilly. The climate plays a significant role in determining what we can grow and where.

At the moment, about 40 per cent of the Earth's land is used for farming, though there are huge differences between countries. For example, over 60 per cent of India is used for agriculture, whereas the figure for Canada is much lower, at just seven per cent.

You can see in the map below how this varies across the world; the darker the red colour, the more land is used for farming.


25 inspirational texts about climate change

  • 15 Sep 2014, 16:15
  • Simon Evans

Around this time each September, thousands of students will go off to study climate change at university. But sometimes climate and environmental issues can be pretty dry.

So we asked 25 thinkers, writers and journalists a simple question: What books or readings inspired you to get involved in climate change-related work?

We were expecting to get back a list of books - and we did. But we also got some interesting insights into why people work on this issue, why they started, and why they carry on.


Factcheck: Telegraph wrongly accuses BBC of “blatantly untrue” climate reporting

  • 15 Sep 2014, 15:25
  • Roz Pidcock

In yesterday's Telegraph, climate skeptic commentator Christopher Booker argues a recent BBC News piece makes claims about rising carbon dioxide that are "blatantly untrue".

He also accuses the broadcaster of repeating theories about ocean warming that scientists have "ridiculed as make-believe". But a quick look shows his accusations don't stand up.

Carbon rising

In an article  criticising the broadcaster for its climate science coverage, Booker cites a BBC radio news article on a recent World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report.

The report looked in detail at carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and how they're changing. It found greenhouse gases reached a record high of 396 parts per million (ppm) in 2013 - that's 42 per cent higher than pre-industrial levels.

Global carbon dioxide concentrations rose by nearly 3 ppm from 2012 to 2013 - the largest annual increase since 1984, the report also found.


Global growth in atmospheric carbon dioxide from 1984 to 2013 (shaded columns are annual averages). Source: WMO annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin for 2013