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Sci Adv. 2019 Sep 25;5(9):eaau2406. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aau2406. eCollection 2019 Sep.

Mitigation efforts will not fully alleviate the increase in water scarcity occurrence probability in wheat-producing areas.

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Global Change Research Institute CAS, Bělidla 986/4b, Brno 603 00, Czech Republic.
Mendel University in Brno, Institute of Agrosystems and Bioclimatology, Zemědělská 1, Brno 613 00, Czech Republic.
Department of Geosciences, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR, USA.
Plant Sciences Department, Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, Hertfordshire AL5 2JQ, UK.
Department of Agroecology, Aarhus University, Blichers Allé 20, 8830 Tjele, Denmark.
iCLIMATE Interdisciplinary Centre for Climate Change, Aarhus University, Frederiksborgvej 399, 4000 Roskilde, Denmark.
Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research, Eberswalder Str. 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany.
Tropical Plant Production and Agricultural Systems Modelling (TROPAGS), University of Göttingen, Grisebachstraße 6, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.
Centre of Biodiversity and Sustainable Land Use (CBL), University of Göttingen, Büsgenweg 1, 37077 Göttingen, Germany.
Key Laboratory of Western China's Environmental Systems (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou 730000, China.
CEIGRAM-Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, ETSIAAB, 28040 Madrid, Spain.
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Schlossplatz 1, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria.
Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Downing Place CB2 3EN, UK.
Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland.
Department of Geography, Faculty of Science, Masaryk University, Kotlářská 2, 613 00 Brno, Czech Republic.


Global warming is expected to increase the frequency and intensity of severe water scarcity (SWS) events, which negatively affect rain-fed crops such as wheat, a key source of calories and protein for humans. Here, we develop a method to simultaneously quantify SWS over the world's entire wheat-growing area and calculate the probabilities of multiple/sequential SWS events for baseline and future climates. Our projections show that, without climate change mitigation (representative concentration pathway 8.5), up to 60% of the current wheat-growing area will face simultaneous SWS events by the end of this century, compared to 15% today. Climate change stabilization in line with the Paris Agreement would substantially reduce the negative effects, but they would still double between 2041 and 2070 compared to current conditions. Future assessments of production shocks in food security should explicitly include the risk of severe, prolonged, and near-simultaneous droughts across key world wheat-producing areas.

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