If global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise unabated, the risk of extreme droughts simultaneously affecting central wheat-growing areas could increase dramatically.
Photo: Shutterstock/Lukas Johaitis

18.10.2019

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Global warming is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of severe water scarcity events, which negatively affect rain-fed crops such as wheat. Scientists have developed a method to simultaneously quantify such water scarcity events over the world’s entire wheat-growing area.

If global greenhouse-gas emissions continue to rise unabated, the risk of extreme droughts simultaneously affecting central wheat-growing areas could increase three- to fourfold by the end of the century. This is the conclusion of an international study involving the University of Göttingen in Germany. Even with a significant reduction in CO2 and other greenhouse-gas emissions, the scientists estimate the risk will double. The results were published in the journal Science Advances.
 
Over the past two decades, there have been massive and extreme periods of drought that have affected grain production in central production areas. It can be concluded that their simultaneous occurrence was a major reason for the shortage and price increase of wheat and food. "If the likelihood that such events will occur simultaneously continues to increase due to climate change, this will have a significant impact on the United Nations' second sustainability goal of eliminating world hunger by 2030," explains agricultural scientist Professor Reimund Rötter of the University of Göttingen and co-author of the study.
 
Correlation between simultaneous droughts and world market prices

The scientists asked three questions in their study: How likely is it that extreme drought will occur simultaneously in important wheat-growing areas in the future?

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