Political persuasion aside, it’s not much of a stretch for most farmers to agree with science that the planet’s climate is ever evolving. Periods of global cooling and global warming have been around for a long, long time, and while we have no idea how long each stage of climate might hang around before changing again, we are trying to get better at predicting it.

On June 7, Anthony Barnosky, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and co-author Elizabeth Hadly from Stanford University, published a review paper in the journal Nature that details the work and the conclusions of a team of 22 scientists concerning changes to agriculture, fisheries, forest products, and clean water by the end of the century. The new Nature issue is devoted to the environment in advance of the June 20-22 United Nations Rio+20 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.

And the picture is not pretty.

In an article published in ScienceDaily June 6, the team, consisting of biologists, ecologists, complex-systems theoreticians, geologists and paleontologists from the United States, Canada, South America and Europe, describe an urgent need for better predictive models of climate change that are based on a detailed understanding of how the biosphere reacted in the distant past to rapidly changing conditions, including climate and human population growth.

Barnosky says science needs to better measure the many global changes that have taken place in recent years, and he suggests that by the end of the century there could be a reduction in biodiversity worldwide and severe impacts could take place that would affect much of what we depend on to sustain our quality of life. He says more detailed information is needed as soon as possible. Barnosky and team are recommending the development of a complete biological forecast that could help predict correctly the impact of the coming changes. This information, he says, could be used to help us plan for such a future and give us time to work on developing solutions to help the growing burden on natural resources.