Global warming and climate change has always been an abstract concept. Though we can understand it is happening, and will have an impact on our lives at some point, it remains difficult to appreciate what the ramifications of our actions are.
Suppose I raise your thermostat in your home by 2 degrees celsius. I doubt you will consciously appreciate the difference. However, your body is a product of millions of years of evolution designed to maintain homeostasis. So while you may not be consciously affected by the temperature change, your body will respond to a 2 degree change in temperature by beginning to sweat, and this function is outside of our control. This evolutionarily constrained optimization of function operates in plants as well and crops are remarkably sensitive to temperature. In this paper, an international research effort investigates the predicted loss in rice yields as a function of temperature change. The findings of this study has serious implications that affect global populations.
Rice represents the primary source of carbohydrates for nearly 50% of the world's population. International collaborative efforts in field warming experiments with Bayesian probability constraints demonstrate statistically significant and substantial loss in rice yield under warming conditions with a predicted temperature sensitivity response of - 8.3% +/- 1.4% per degree celsius.
What does this mean for human society? How can we appreciate the gravity of these findings?
The next time an anti-climate politician says, "It's only been 2 degrees in the past decade" or something along those lines. Tell them that the 2 degrees equates to an approximate 20% loss in rice yields worldwide. Remembering that 50% of the world population depends on rice as a primary food source, this equates to 10% of the world population will starve because of a 2 degree change.
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