STUDY ON THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
ON CHINA’S AGRICULTURE
, GUENTHER FISCHER
and LAIXIANG SUN
Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing, 100101, China
International Institute for Applied System Analysis, A-2361 Laxenburg, Austria
Abstract. This paper measures the economic impacts of climate change on China’s agriculture
based on the Ricardian model. By using county-level cross-sectional data on agricultural net revenue,
climate, and other economic and geographical data for 1275 agriculture dominated counties, we ﬁnd
that under most climate change scenarios both higher temperature and more precipitation would
have an overall positive impact on China’s agriculture. However, the impacts vary seasonally and
regionally. Autumn effect is the most positive, but spring effect is the most negative. Applying the
model to ﬁve climate scenarios in the year 2050 shows that the East, the Central part, the South, the
northern part of the Northeast, and the Plateau would beneﬁt from climate change, but the Southwest,
the Northwest and the southern part of the Northeast may be negatively affected. In the North, most
scenarios show that they may beneﬁt from climate change. In summary, all of China would beneﬁt
from climate change in most scenarios.
Since recognition of potential climate change, efforts have been underway to esti-
mate the economic impacts of projected changes in climate on important sectors,
such as agriculture, forestry and ecosystem, coastal zones and ﬁsheries, water re-
sources, and energy development. Although several sectors have been studied, none
have received more attention than agriculture. Only a few, however, have looked
at the agricultural impacts of climate change in developing countries like China
where agriculture is a large component of GDP.
Geographically, China touches the tropical belt in the south and extends into
the cold temperate zone in the north. China is also a large agricultural country
where agriculture constituted 18.7% of GDP in 1997. China’s agriculture has to
feed more than one-ﬁfth of the world’s population, and, historically, China has
been famine prone. As recently as the late 1950s and early 1960s a great famine
claimed about thirty million lives (Ashton et al., 1984, Cambridge History of China
1987). Since economic reform, there has been an unprecedented conversion of
arable land into non-agricultural uses following rapid economic development and
industrialization. This loss of agricultural land, together with the trend towards
Foundation item: Young Scientist Summer Program at the International Institute for Applied
System Analysis, YSSP 1999, Austria.
Climatic Change 65: 125–148, 2004.
© 2004 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.