A number of news outlets have picked up on a new article in Environmental Research Letters by Andy Challinor and a team at the University at Leeds.  The standard headline is “Crop Failures to Increase With Climate Change,” but I think the much more interesting part of the research is the author’s creation of a vulnerability index based on the historical crop data in China.  Essentially, they looked at periods of drought in the past, and examined how well farmers were able to mitigate the drought’s effects through additional labor or technology:

A high vulnerability index identifies years and/or regions where the yield loss was large relative to the size of the drought. A low value of VI indicates that the efficacy of the socio-economic adaptation to drought is high, for example due to good water management, increasing fertilizer, per capita investments in agriculture, and falling numbers of rural households.

The authors point out that investment in resilience and adaptation is most important in areas where high vulnerabilities were found and where crop failures are most likely.  Also, interestingly, they note that while vulnerability generally goes down with increasing GDP, this doesn’t apply in all cases.  Investments specific to adaptive capacity may be more effective than an indiscriminate focus on economic growth.

ResearchBlogging.org Challinor, A., Simelton, E., Fraser, E., Hemming, D., & Collins, M. (2010). Increased crop failure due to climate change: assessing adaptation options using models and socio-economic data for wheat in China Environmental Research Letters, 5 (3) DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/5/3/034012