Understanding Europe’s future ability to feed itself within an uncertain climate change and socio economic scenario space

Daniel Sandars


Europe’s ability to feed its population depends on the balance of agricultural productivity (yields and land suitability) and demand which are affected by future climate and socio-economic change (arising from changing food demand; prices; technology change etc).  Land use under 2050 climate change and socio-economic scenarios can be rapidly and systematically quantified with a modelling system that has been developed from meta-models of optimal cropping and crop and forest yields derived from the outputs of the previously developed complex models (Audsley et al; 2015). Profitability of each possible land use is modelled for every soil in every grid across the EU. Land use in a grid is then allocated based on profit thresholds set for intensive agriculture extensive agriculture, managed forest and finally unmanaged forest or unmanaged land.  The European demand for food as a function of population, imports, food preferences and bioenergy, is a production constraint, as is irrigation water available.   The model iterates until demand is satisfied (or cannot be met at any price).  Results are presented as contour plots of key variables. For example, given a 40% increase in population from the baseline socio-economic scenario, adapting by increasing crop yields by 40% will leave a 38% probability that the 2050 future climate will be such that we cannot feed ourselves – considering “all” the possible climate scenarios. 

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Audsley E, Trnka M, Sabate S, Maspons J, Sanchez A, Sandars D, Balek J, Pearn K (2015) Interactively modelling land profitability to estimate European agricultural and forest land use under future scenarios of climate, socio-economics and adaptation. Climatic Change 128:215–227 DOI 10.1007/s10584-014-1164-6

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