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Study: Dramatic drop in crop yields predicted in Northern Plains

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The agricultural industry in the Midwest is valued at over $135 billion a year, but the economic engine of the Northern Plains is facing increased risks with increased temperatures.

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Matt Lewis with the Risky Business Project, says his organization's new analysis predicts a hotter climate -- one which could drive down crop yields in Iowa by as much as two-thirds by the end of the century.

"The grain belt and upper Midwest will see expected reductions in crop productivity based on extreme heat," says Lewis. "But water availability also becomes an issue."

The study found that unless large reductions in carbon emissions are made soon, by the end of the century, Iowa could average about 90 days a year with temperatures exceeding 95 degrees.

Rutgers University climate scientist and report co-author Robert Kopp says that kind of heat would affect people's health, along with the economy.

"One of the things that was striking from the analysis was that mortality -- the additional deaths due to hotter temperatures -- actually had one of the largest economic impacts," says Kopp. "Those impacts could amount to several percentages of the nation's gross domestic product."

An increase in extreme heat, explains Lewis, would also affect the performance of climate-reliant energy systems.

"When the rivers and water that's available to cool generation facilities become too hot, you're no longer able to run it through a cooling tower," says Lewis. "So increasing temperatures will also affect energy system reliability."

The Risky Business Project is a joint partnership of former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Paulson Institute and the TomKat Charitable Trust.

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