Regional case studies

Across Europe the demand for water for irrigation of crops is projected to increase, as are drought and warm day temperatures, while water available through run-off is projected to decrease. Most major crops are projected to see increases in average yields, although projections of crop yield are highly uncertain and this assumes adequate water for irrigation. Europe is an exporter of wheat and maize and an importer of all four major crops; this links climate impacts in the Americas and Asia in particular, to Europe. Some regions are projected to see a decrease in the frequency of river flooding but other areas, such as the UK, show projected increases.

Middle East and North Africa
Parts of North Africa are already water stressed and the region around the Mediterranean is projected to see some of the largest increases in the number of drought days and decreases in average annual water run-off. In addition the warmest days are projected to become warmer in this already hot climate. The Middle East and North Africa is a major import region for wheat, maize and rice, linking it to the impacts of climate change in the major production regions of these crops; mainly North America, but also South America, Russia, Australia and northern Europe.

Sub-Saharan Africa
Extremely large relative population increases are projected in Sub-Saharan Africa along with decreases in average annual water run-off. This will increase pressure on the demand for food and water, when most of the region already suffers from high levels of food insecurity and water stress. Governance issues across Sub-Saharan Africa are highlighted by the number of countries in the region scoring highly on the Fragile States Index between 2005 and 2013. The temperature of the warmest days, the number of days in drought, and the frequency of flood events are all projected to increase across the region.

South Asia
South Asia is an area with very high population density, and continued population growth will increase the demand for food and water resources in an already water stressed and food insecure region. Average yields of wheat and maize are both projected to decrease, while for rice, a major export crop for the region, there is a small increase, although the range spans from 16% decrease to 19% increase in average yield. The frequency of inland flood events is projected to increase, and as the region is exposed to tropical cyclones, this along with rising sea levels could mean millions more people flooded per year along the coasts.

East Asia
The East Asia region imports a high proportion of wheat, maize and soybeans, with over 40% of the world's soybeans imported by China to meet a growing demand for animal feed. This links the region to climate impacts in the major production and export regions of these crops, primarily the Americas. The frequency of flood events is projected to increase. The region is exposed to tropical cyclones, and the high coastal population means rising sea levels have the potential to affect millions of people. Increasing sea temperatures and ocean acidification may also threaten the important fishing industry in the region.

Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia is a densely populated region already exposed to coastal flooding and storms. With projected population increases and rising sea levels, this exposure is projected to increase considerably. The frequency of inland flooding events is also projected to increase. Warmer sea surface temperatures and ocean acidification may threaten fish stocks in this major fishing region. The region is important for rice exports and is a major producer of maize. While there are projections of a slight increase in average rice yield, maize yield is projected to decrease. This also does not account for increasing water demand for irrigation, decreasing water run-off, increases in drought days and the effect of storms.

Australia has low population density and a high level of self sufficiency for food. However, it is also a major exporter of wheat, with mixed and uncertain projections in the change in average yields, which themselves depend on an adequate supply of water for irrigation. Demand for irrigation is projected to increase and large increases in the number of drought days and temperature of the warmest days are projected, while water available through run-off is projected to decrease.

North America
North America is an extremely important region for crop production; it is the primary source of wheat, maize and soybean exports to the world market, and the second largest exporter of rice after Asia. Projections of crop yield changes are highly uncertain, although in this region show some increases in yield for wheat, soybean and rice, but decreases in maize yield. These changes assume a sufficient supply of water for irrigation, as the agricultural demand increases. The number of days in drought is projected to increase, as is the temperature of the warmest days, while projections of changes in flooding are more mixed.

South America
South America is an important region for crop production, particularly for maize and soybeans. Brazil and northern South America have projections for decreases in yield of both these crops, as well as wheat, while more southern regions have a slight projected increase. However, the region is projected to experience reductions in water run-off, increases in the number of drought days and higher temperatures, combined with increases in demand for water for irrigation.

Learn more about the 'Human Dynamics of Climate Change' poster here