Assessing the implications of a 1.5 °C temperature limit for the Jamaican agriculture sector

Despite recent calls to limit future increases in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C, little is known about how different climatic thresholds will impact human society. Future warming trends have significant global food security implications, particularly for small island developing states (SIDS) that are recognized as being among the most vulnerable to global climate change. In the case of the Caribbean, any significant change in the region’s climate is likely to have significant adverse effects on the agriculture sector. This paper explores the potential biophysical impacts of a + 1.5 °C warming scenario on several economically important crops grown in the Caribbean island of Jamaica. Also, it explores differences to a > 2.0 °C warming scenario, which is more likely, if the current policy agreements cannot be complied with by the international community. We use the ECOCROP niche model to estimate how predicted changes in future climate could affect the growing conditions of several commonly cultivated crops from both future scenarios. We then discuss some key policy considerations for Jamaica’s agriculture sector, specifically related to the challenges posed to future adaptation pathways amidst growing climate uncertainty and complexity. Our model results show that even an increase less than + 1.5 °C is expected to have an overall negative impact on crop suitability and a general reduction in the range of crops available to Jamaican farmers. This observation is instructive as increases above the + 1.5 °C threshold would likely lead to even more irreversible and potentially catastrophic changes to the sustainability of Jamaica’s agriculture sector. The paper concludes by outlining some key considerations for future action, paying keen attention to the policy relevance of a + 1.5 °C temperature limit. Given little room for optimism with respect to the imminent changes that SIDS will need to confront in the near future, broad-based policy engagement by stakeholders in these geographies is paramount, irrespective of the climate warming scenario.

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