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Global warming worst case = Only slight misery increase

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Agricultural brainboxes at Stanford University say that global warming isn't likely to seriously affect poor people in developing nations, who make up so much of the human race. Under some scenarios, poor farmers "could be lifted out of poverty quite considerably," according to new research.

David Lobell, an agri-boffin at the Stanford Program on Food Security and the Environment (FSE), explained his and his colleagues' thinking at a conference over the weekend.

"Most projections assume that if [food] prices go up, the amount of poverty in the world also will go up, because poor people spend a lot of their money on food. But poor people are pretty diverse. There are those who farm their own land and would actually benefit from higher crop prices," said the prof.

FSE scientists modelled three climate scenarios looking ahead to 2030. One was that considered most likely by the embattled UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which would see global temperatures climb 1°C over the coming two decades.

If this happens, according to the Stanford boffins, nothing much will change in terms of crop yields, food prices and the amount of poverty suffered by the human race.

More interesting, however, were the results in the less likely scenarios where temperatures rise only 0.5°C, or alternatively climb by 1.5°C. These results are considered unlikely by the IPCC; the chance of either occurring is only 5 per cent. But some counterintuitive results could be expected, according to Lobell.

In the blistering +1.5°C scenario, crop yields could be expected to fall significantly and as a result food prices would climb. Wealthy Westerners would grumble, but as they spend relatively little of their money on food they could cope relatively easily.

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