‘Vulnerability hotspots’: integrating socioeconomic and hydrological models to identify where cereal production may decline due to climate change induced drought

Produced as part of the Adaptation to climate change and human development CCCEP research programme theme

Abstract of Working Paper 83

The purpose of this paper is to identify which of the world’s cereal producing regions are likely to become vulnerable to climate change over the 21st century by identifying those regions that will be

  1. Exposed to climatic stress; and
  2. Have a limited capacity to adapt.

First, we use a global hydrological model to identify regions likely to be exposed to drought, defined here as a location where the available soil moisture is projected to decline by the 2050s and 2080s relative to the mean soil moisture observed between 1990 and 2005.

Second, we use agricultural, meteorological and socio-economic data to develop models of adaptive capacity and run these models to show where adaptive capacity is likely to decline by the 2050s and 2080s relative to the baseline period of 1990-2005.

Third, we contrast the hydrological and adaptive capacity model outputs to identify ‘vulnerability hotspots’ for wheat and maize.

Here, a vulnerability hotspot is defined as a region that the models project as likely to experience both a decline in adaptive capacity and in available soil moisture.

Results from the hydrological model project significant drying in many parts of the world over the 21st century.

Results from the adaptive capacity models show that regions with the lowest overall adaptive capacity for wheat include much of western Russia, northern India, southeastern South America, and southeastern Africa. In terms of maize, regions with the lowest adaptive capacity include the northeastern USA, southeastern South America, southeastern Africa, and central/northern India.

When taken together, this study identifies five wheat and three maize growing regions likely to be both exposed to worse droughts and a reduced capacity to adapt.

For wheat, these are: southeastern USA, southeastern South America, the northeastern Mediterranean, and parts of central Asia.

For maize, our analysis suggests that vulnerability hotspots are: southeastern South America, parts of southern Africa, and the northeastern Mediterranean.