Rural towns that rely on agriculture could be at risk if climate change continues unabated, a report released Friday from the Risky Business project said.
The project, an effort to quantify risks of climate change, found that the Midwest will be subject to disruptions in business, lower crop yields and higher temperatures if collaborative action isn't taken on climate change.
Related: Reducing Climate Change Risk for Ag
Despite its warnings about climate change risks, the report notes that the Midwest can still avoid the worst impacts of a changing climate if it joins in efforts to cut greenhouse gases and provide early investments in resilience.
"A changing climate will present new risks and new opportunities as we face the complex task of producing enough food, feed and fuel for a world on its way to 9 billion people," said Greg Page, Cargill executive chairman and project committee member.
"Given the importance of the Midwestern United States to the world's agricultural production, it would be irresponsible to dismiss these projections lightly," he said.
The report details risks of unmitigated climate change in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. It also provides data by region, showing likely impacts as many as 80 years from now.
Key climate change in agriculture findings
• By the end of this century, only two upper Midwest states (Minnesota and Wisconsin) are expected to have average winter temperatures below the freezing mark;
• Changes in temperature and precipitation will shift ag production and affect crop yields, with gains in some crops offset by losses in others;
• Over the next five to 25 years, without significant adaptation by farmers, some counties in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana will likely see average commodity crop losses up to 18 to 24% due to extreme heat each year;
• If the Midwest continues on its current emissions path without significant adaptation, by the end of the century it will likely see overall agricultural losses for corn and wheat of 11% to 69% across the region as a whole, with a 1-in-20 chance of more than an 80% decline.
The full report, Heat in the Heartland, can be found on the Risky Business website. The underlying research was conducted by the Rhodium Group. The Risky Business Project is a joint partnership of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Paulson Institute, and TomKat Charitable Trust.