Potential for sustainable irrigation expansion in a 3°C warmer climate

Published by Matteo Sangiorgio on

Climate change is expected to reshape the distribution of irrigated lands. Using climatic projections from three global climate models, we investigate global patterns of irrigation water demand and availability in 1.5°C and 3°C warmer climates. We find that in up to 35% of currently rain-fed croplands, irrigation could be expanded as an adaptation strategy to climate change without negative environmental externalities on freshwater resources. Irrigation expansion could reduce vulnerability to water stress and improve crop productivity to feed up to 300 million additional people using small-scale water storage and up to 1.4 billion additional people using large-scale water storage. This work contributes to identifying target regions where investments in sustainable intensification of agriculture through irrigation expansion are needed.

The study has been conducted by researchers from UC Berkeley and an interdepartmental team from the departments of electronics information and bioengineering (DEIB) and of civil and environmental engineering (DICA), Politecnico di Milano.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2017796117

Rosa, L., Chiarelli, D. D., Sangiorgio, M., Beltran-Peña, A. A., Rulli, M. C., D’Odorico, P., & Fung, I. (2020). Potential for sustainable irrigation expansion in a 3° C warmer climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 117(47), 29526-29534.

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