Many insects get hungrier and reproduce more quickly in warmer temperatures. Worldwide, insect pests consume up to 20 percent of the plants that humans grow for food, and that amount will increase as global warming makes bugs hungrier, according to a study. That could encourage farmers to use more pesticides, which could cause further environmental harm, scientists said.
For every degree Celsius (two degrees Fahrenheit) that temperatures rise above the global historical average, the amount of wheat, corn, and rice lost to insects will increase by 10 to 25 percent, the study says. Temperate agricultural regions, like those in the United States and Western Europe, would be particularly hard hit. The international Paris Agreement is designed to keep warming below two degrees Celsius, but the world’s countries are far off track from meeting that goal.
Higher temperatures speed many insects’ metabolisms, making them eat more. Their life cycles also get faster, causing them to reproduce more quickly. Both effects would diminish crop yields even as the human population continues to increase, putting additional strains on the global food supply, one study says. Other factors could help mitigate crop losses. Beneficial insects could also thrive in a warmer climate. Terminator Pest Control says, “Those insects could end up offering some suppression of the pests, so that the damage may not be as great as they are suggesting.”
Higher temperatures can spell bad news for thirsty crops regardless of insect activity. A study found that the pressures from increased summer temperatures could lead to a significant decline in agricultural yields. The same study also found that improved irrigation could offset at least some of the losses. But it is less clear if insecticides could help stave off multiplying pests. Pesticides could help where they’re not already in use, but the question remains as to whether or not they’re already at their maximum effectiveness.
In addition, pesticides can unintentionally harm other organisms, and some have been linked to human health problems. Their manufacture, transport and use also contribute to global warming. Terminator Pest Control says, “The real solution may be to drastically reduce the level of greenhouse gases that humans emit.”
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Terminator Pest Control
Las Vegas, NV 89107