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4. How is climate change threatening agriculture?

    The Executive Summary of the IAASTD Synthesis Report states:

    Climate change

    4.1 Climate change, which is taking place at a time of increasing demand for food, feed, fiber and fuel, has the potential to irreversibly damage the natural resource base on which agriculture depends. The relationship between climate change and agriculture is a two-way street; agriculture contributes to climate change in several major ways and climate change in general adversely affects agriculture.

    In mid- to high latitude regions moderate local increases in temperature can have small beneficial impacts on crop yields; in low-latitude regions, such moderate temperature increases are likely to have negative yield effects. Some negative impacts are already visible in many parts of the world; additional warming will have increasingly negative impacts in all regions. Water scarcity and the timing of water availability will increasingly constrain production. Climate change will require a new look at water storage to cope with the impacts of more and extreme precipitation, higher intra- and inter-seasonal variations, and increased rates of evapotranspiration in all types of ecosystems. Extreme climate events (floods and droughts) are increasing and expected to amplify in frequency and severity and there are likely to be significant consequences in all regions for food and forestry production and food insecurity. There is a serious potential for future conflicts over habitable land and natural resources such as freshwater. Climate change is affecting the distribution of plants, invasive species, pests and disease vectors and the geographic range and incidence of many human, animal and plant diseases is likely to increase.

    4.2 A comprehensive approach with an equitable regulatory framework, differentiated responsibilities and intermediate targets are required to reduce GHG emissions. The earlier and stronger the cuts in emissions, the quicker concentrations will approach stabilization. Emission reduction measures clearly are essential because they can have an impact due to inertia in the climate system. However, since further changes in the climate are inevitable adaptation is also imperative. Actions directed at addressing climate change and promoting sustainable development share some important goals such as equitable access to resources and appropriate technologies.

    Some “win-win” mitigation opportunities have already been identified. These include land use approaches such as lower rates of agricultural expansion into natural habitats; afforestation, increased efforts to avoid deforestation, reforestation, agroforestry, agroecological systems, and restoration of underutilized or degraded lands and rangelands and land use options such as carbon sequestration in agricultural soils, reduction and more efficient use of nitrogenous inputs; effective manure management and use of feed that increases livestock digestive efficiency. Policy options related to regulations and investment opportunities include financial incentives to maintain and increase forest area through reduced deforestation and degradation and improved management and the development and utilization of renewable energy sources. The post-2012 regime has to be more inclusive of all agricultural activities such as reduced emission from deforestation and soil degradation to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by agriculture and forestry sectors.

    Source & ©: IAASTD  Executive Summary of the Synthesis Report (April 2008), p. 13-16