Climate Change and Agriculture
Climate change and agriculture are interrelated processes that take place on a global scale. Global warming is projected to have significant impacts on conditions affecting agriculture, including temperature, precipitation and glacial run-off. These conditions compromise the carrying capacity of the biosphere to produce enough food for the growing human population. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere would also have effects, both detrimental and beneficial, on crop yields. The overall effect of climate change on agriculture will depend on the balance of these effects. Assessment of the effects of global climate changes on agriculture can help to anticipate and adapt farming to enable sustainable production and food security.
At the same time, agriculture has been shown to produce significant effects on global climate, primarily through the production and release of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, but also by altering the Earth’s land cover, which can change its ability to absorb and reflect heat and light. Land use practices such as deforestation, intensive tillage and overgrazing, together with use of fossil fuels, are the major anthropogenic sources of carbon dioxide; agriculture itself is the major contributor to increasing methane and nitrous oxide concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane are the three main greenhouse gases (GHG) that trap infrared radiation and contribute to the climate change. In 2004, 31 percent of the total human-induced GHG emissions was from land use.
The 2007 IPCC Fourth Assessment Report concluded that lower latitudes, especially seasonally dry and tropical regions, would be hardest affected by future climate changes. Crop productivity is projected to decrease for even small local temperature increases (1 to 2 °C), which would increase the risk of hunger.
Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in high-risk areas.
In Africa yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50% in the following decade affecting food availability in some countries. There is a risk of a significant biodiversity loss in many tropical areas in Latin America.
Climate Change Mitigation & Adaptation Strategies
The following links provide information about strategies to increase the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, and new oportunities for rural communities to benefit from innovation and increase their resilience.
- “Climate-friendly” Agricultural Landscapes
- Emissions Trading (the “Carbon Market”), Carbon Accounting and Report
- Emissions Reduction from Agriculture, Forestry & Other Land Use (AFOLU)
- Selecting Criteria and Indicators for “Climate-Friendly” Landscapes