A team of international scientists have found evidence that rising global temperatures will cause pests to devour more of the world’s crops moving forward, even if countries meet climate change goals.
Increasing global temperatures means an rise in many problematic elements, including the appetite of insects. In the new study, researchers predicted that bugs will destroy roughly 50 percent more wheat than they do right now if temperatures rise roughly 3 degrees Fahrenheit. They will also consume 20 percent more rice and 30 percent more corn.
Estimates show that the UK will be hit the worst of all wheat producers and Canada will suffer major corn losses. U.S. and Chinese crops will be hurt as well. That rise is cause for concern because it will likely lead to even more people around the world going hungry. While there are steps that farmers can take to protect their crops against such pests, scientists do not think that will be enough.
“Increased pesticide applications, the use of [resistant] genetically modified crops and practices such as crop rotations will help control losses from insects,” said study co-author Rosamond Naylor, a researcher at Stanford University, according to The Guardian. “But it still appears that under virtually all climate change scenarios, pest populations will be the winners.”
To make their findings, the team looked at well-known data on how rising temperatures affect insects. They then took that information and compared it against both data on modern pest losses and current climate change models.
That showed losses will increase 20 to 50 percent for each 3 degrees Fahrenheit of warming above pre-industrial levels. As a result, carbon emissions need to be cut sooner rather than later if that trend is to be stopped.
The team plans to continue monitor potential future cycles and see if they can spur other groups into action.
“I hope our results demonstrate the importance of collecting more data on how pests will impact crop losses in a warming world—because collectively, our choice now is not whether or not we will allow warming to occur, but how much warming we’re willing to tolerate,” said lead author Curtis Deutsch, a researcher at the University of Washington, according to Phys.org.
The research was published in the journal Science.