Global warming will likely hit food production in developing nations the hardest, increasing the risks of drought and famine in the countries that already struggle to feed their populations, a senior U.N. official said Tuesday.
However, a rise in global temperatures would increase food production in most industrialized countries, which mostly have colder climates, said Jacques Diouf the director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.
"Crop yield potential is likely to increase at higher latitudes for global average temperature increases of up to 1 to 3 degrees Celsius (2 to 6 Fahrenheit), depending on the crop, and then decrease beyond that," Diouf said, speaking at a conference in the southern Indian city of Chennai.
"At lower latitudes, especially in the seasonally dry tropics, crop yield potential is likely to decline for even small global temperature rises, which would increase the risk of hunger," he said.
He estimated that a country like India could lose 18 percent of its annual cereal production.
Developing genetically modified crops that produce higher yields could offset the impact of climate change, Diouf said, while noting that crops designed to be resistant to drought and flourish in extreme conditions are not yet a reality.
Scientists have warned that unchecked greenhouse gas emissions are causing global temperatures to rise, leading to drought, floods and searing heat.