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The climate c-rice-is

Rice is a staple for billions of people worldwide and is especially found in Asian, Middle Eastern, and African cuisine, just to name a few. As the global population grows, the demand for rice will, understandably, also grow. But, therein lies a problem. Climate change is threatening rice farming, and by 2100, we could see a 40 percent decrease in rice yields (Ceccarelli et. al., 2010). The implications of this shortage would be severe.

Rice fields are susceptible to extreme weather, specifically drought and flooding. As global temperatures rise, more evaporation will occur, and soil will become drier (IPCC). Rice crops can grow in temperatures up to 40℃ (104℉), but higher temperatures, especially at night, can inhibit the development of florets and decrease pollen viability (Fahad et. al., 2018). During the dry season, salt water, which harms rice crops, can encroach inland up to 70 km (NY Times), and farmers in the Mekong Delta have had to sow rice up to 30 days early to avoid salt intrusion (Hoang-Phi et. al., 2020). Additionally, high levels of atmospheric CO2 could deplete the soil of nutrients (Ujiie et. al., 2019), and rice farming itself contributes to 8 percent of global methane emissions (CCAC), with methane being capable of trapping 25+ times the amount of heat that CO2 traps.

The effects of climate change on rice farming are not exclusive to the Mekong Delta or Asia. In the United States, for example, rice farming is being threatened by extreme weather. So, what can be done to mitigate the impact of climate change on rice yields? Well, scientists are working on hybridizing rice crops to make them more stress-resistant, and farmers are implementing different farming and irrigation techniques, such as alternating the wetting and drying of rice paddies, that reduce methane emissions (Scientific American). Nevertheless, it is crucial that we take steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, or staple foods in our diet, like rice, could be in shortage.

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