Climate Change Effects on Agriculture

Climate change is a problem that is not unheard of, yet people all over the world are doing minimal things to slow this issue down. Although most people know that it will affect wildlife and other living things, not many people realize that the changes in climate will impact the agriculture industry. The change in climate will reduce the number of crops grown, therefore cutting down the number of jobs in the industry. More severe weather events will destroy farmlands, which will also bring down the number of crops grown. The smaller amount of produced crops will result in farmers losing money and it will also raise food prices, which will make it much harder for poorer Americans to buy nutrient-rich food. If the climate continues to change at the rate it does today, there will be a significant negative impact on the agricultural economy.

All crops need a specific temperature and environment for them to grow properly, but climate change is decreasing the places where some crops can successfully grow. According to an article from the Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit science organization, “Nationwide, reductions to agricultural productivity or sudden losses of crops or livestock will likely have ripple effects, including increased food prices and greater food insecurity” (Climate Change and Agriculture, 2019). The lessened supply of produced crops will result in raised prices for food, making it harder for Americans to afford nutritious food. Over 41 million people, 12.3 percent of households in the United States are already malnourished, and raised food prices will result in an even higher percentage of families who will face malnutrition and hunger (41 Million People in the United States Face Hunger, 2017). Science Advances, a peer-reviewed scientific journal, also states in a report that “Global economic losses in production of three major crops (wheat, maize, and barley) attributed to climate change in the recent past are estimated at approximately US $5 billion per year” (Stevanović et al., 2016). This will significantly impact poverty-stricken regions in the United States, especially if agriculture is a large part of their economy. The lessened agricultural produce will significantly reduce the number of jobs, which will also increase poverty in the United States, making it harder for families to live comfortably and healthily.

The agriculture industry accounts for a large part of the United States economy and work. According to an article from Forbes, an American business magazine, "U.S. farms accounted for $136.7 billion contribution to the overall economy (in 2015 numbers) and 1.4% of employment" (Sheperd, 2019). The total amount of produced crops will get smaller, so the number of jobs in grocery stores, food supply chains, and other food distributors will decrease. In fact, Saget (2019), the main author in a report from the International Labour Organization, an agency for setting labor standards, claims that if the global temperatures continue to rise at the rate it does today, the end of the 21st century will have a temperature increase of 1.5°C. She also states that by the end of 2030, 2.2 percent of the total amount of working hours will be lost worldwide due to the rise in temperatures. Millions of people will lose their jobs leading to increased poverty and farmers losing a large amount of their paycheck. So many Americans depend on the agriculture industry for their employment and the lower number of agricultural produce will lessen the number of jobs there are, making their lives so much harder. 

Climate change does not only mean that the Earth is getting warmer, it also means that weather events such as hurricanes and droughts and becoming more severe and occurring in places not used to having them. Marshall Shepherd, the author of an article in Forbes, states, “When there is a Hurricane Michael-type event or a crippling drought, people in these communities are least resilient (able to bounce back) from revenue losses, hours lost at work, and structural damages” (Shepherd, 2019). Rural communities are not able to recover as quickly as more urban places, due to the fact that they do not have as many people. Natural disasters are only going to get more extreme, and more farmlands will be ruined by harsh weather and more time and money will have to be wasted on fixing them. Additionally, an article from the Center for Strategic and International Studies [CSIS], a research institute, states that “Of all the impacts from climate change on agriculture and food security, drought may be the most harmful for smallholder farmers and other vulnerable populations” (Sova et al., 2019). All crops need water to survive and properly grow, and without water, they will all die and farmers will suffer from a significant loss. The unpredictability of natural disasters will also affect farmers’ mental health. Depression is already a very common problem for farmers because of how demanding and how stressful their job is, but farmers will be even more stressed every growing season, not knowing if there will be a drought or a flood that will reduce their paycheck, and this will lead to higher rates of depression and even suicide.

Many people still do not fully understand the consequences of climate change and what it will do to our future planet. There is no direct solution for the change in climate, but there are so many simple things anyone can do in their everyday lives to slow climate change. The Natural Resources Defence Council says that the little changes anyone can make to stop climate change can be simple as eat less meat, using less water, and buying more efficient lightbulbs (Denchak, 2017). If climate change does limit the places that crops can grow, indoor agriculture is a good option for farmers to still be able to grow a good amount of food while also providing many jobs for others. It may be a big and expensive change, but it may be one of the only options farmers have if the climate does become dramatically different. The less drastic the changes are in the future, the more crops will be grown, meaning that more Americans will be financially stable. The accessibility of food will improve the quality of life for many families across the United States and ensure that they will get the nutritious food that they need to stay healthy.