As scientists struggle to predict exactly how global climate change will affect our environment, economists are grappling with another question: How well can humans adapt?
Judging from the history of wheat production in North America, the answer is very well, says Paul Rhode of the University of Michigan. In a paper done together with Alan Olmstead of the University of California-Davis, which he presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Economic Association, Mr. Rhode looks at how wheat production fared between the mid-1800s and the late 1900s, as production moved into parts of North America with harsher climates. The conclusion: Production adapted successfully as farmers introduced new strains that grew well in the new climates.
“We’ve been there and done that in terms of adjusting wheat production to new climates,” he said.
This is one example of wheat production in North America but what is relevant is that adaptation is possible and may be more important to concentrate than anything else for the next century.