Climate Change and Food Security: Adapting Agriculture to a Warmer World

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But whether climate change represents a minor impediment or an existential threat to development is an area of substantial controversy, with different conclusions wrought from different methodologies and based on different data. In explains the nature of the climate threat, the ways in which crops and farmers might respond, and the potential role for public and private investment to help agriculture adapt to a warmer world.

This broader understanding should prove useful to both scientists charged with quantifying climate threats, and policy-makers responsible for crucial decisions about how to respond. The book is especially suitable as a companion to an interdisciplinary undergraduate or graduate level class. JavaScript is currently disabled, this site works much better if you enable JavaScript in your browser. Buy eBook. Buy Hardcover.

Buy Softcover. Climate change renders generational and historical information about farming less valuable. What worked before may no longer apply in an altered climate. When historical knowledge no longer works, farmers must rely on other sources of information, such as meteorologists, agronomists and other scientists, as well as the development of new sustainable technologies. Farmers in the most advanced economies, including the United States, already rely heavily on scientific knowledge , which is often mediated by the private sector or by local extension services.

However, farmers in the poorest countries — which in many cases will suffer the most severe impacts from climate change — rarely have access to such knowledge. Even in wealthy countries, these adjustments are costly. And public funding for agricultural research and development has been declining for a decade in the United States. The poorest countries in the world account for just 3 percent of global spending on agricultural research.

Without investments into sharing research discoveries, many advances in wealthier countries will not be transferred to low-income nations. Climate change also intensifies other stresses on global food production.

Agriculture and food security

Consider the critical role of water. Meat consumption alone accounts for an estimated 22 percent of global water use , and this need will increase in a hotter world. Climate change also alters rainfall patterns: Some places will have too little water to farm, while others may have enough but find that it falls at the wrong time, or arrives less frequently but in larger rainfall events.

Even seemingly disparate factors like international trade are affected by climate change, with serious ramifications for food security. As climate change drives permanent shifts in the geography of world agricultural production zones, international trade will emerge as an important resiliency mechanism for reducing hunger and for enhancing equal access to food.

Food Security Under a Changing Climate

For instance, a heat wave and drought prompted major losses in corn harvests in the United States. Producers in the Southern Hemisphere adjusted to the shortfall, which served to moderate price increases in the United States. This was only possible because of international trade. An effective response to climate change will also be critical to making progress on a host of other food security challenges, such as curbing food loss, improving nutrition and promoting sustainable production systems.

Food-producing nations will need creative policies and new technologies to meet these challenges successfully. Climate change is anticipated to force more than million people into extreme poverty by Adapting to climate change is a key way to combat this — and technology can help.

For instance, precision agriculture can leverage computers, global positioning systems, geographic information systems and sensors to provide the data necessary to give each tiny parcel of land on a field exactly the inputs it needs.

How will climate change affect food security?

Increased evaporation will lead to an increase in storms in some areas, while leading to accelerated drying of other areas. These storm impacted areas will likely experience increased levels of precipitation and increased flood risks, while areas outside of the storm track will experience less precipitation and increased risk of droughts.

Drought stress impairs mitosis and cell elongation via loss of turgor pressure which results in poor growth. Drought stress also causes a decrease in photosynthetic activity in plants due to the reduction of photosynthetic tissues, stomatal closure, and reduced performance of photosynthetic machinery. This reduction in photosynthetic activity contributes to the reduction in plant growth and yields.


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For rice, the amylose content of the grain—a major determinant of cooking quality—is increased under elevated CO 2 " Conroy et al. Cooked rice grain from plants grown in high- CO 2 environments would be firmer than that from today's plants. However, concentrations of iron and zinc, which are important for human nutrition, would be lower Seneweera and Conroy, Moreover, the protein content of the grain decreases under combined increases of temperature and CO 2 Ziska et al.

Studies have shown that higher CO 2 levels lead to reduced plant uptake of nitrogen and a smaller number showing the same for trace elements such as zinc resulting in crops with lower nutritional value. Reduced nitrogen content in grazing plants has also been shown to reduce animal productivity in sheep, which depend on microbes in their gut to digest plants, which in turn depend on nitrogen intake. In North America, fewer hail days will occur overall due to climate change, but storms with larger hail might become more common including hail that is larger than 1.

Climate change may increase the amount of arable land in high-latitude region by reduction of the amount of frozen lands. A study reports that temperature in Siberia has increased three degree Celsius in average since much more than the rest of the world. Sea levels are expected to get up to one meter higher by , though this projection is disputed.

A rise in the sea level would result in an agricultural land loss , in particular in areas such as South East Asia. Erosion , submergence of shorelines , salinity of the water table due to the increased sea levels, could mainly affect agriculture through inundation of low-lying lands. Low-lying areas such as Bangladesh, India and Vietnam will experience major loss of rice crop if sea levels rise as expected by the end of the century. Vietnam for example relies heavily on its southern tip, where the Mekong Delta lies, for rice planting.

Any rise in sea level of no more than a meter will drown several km 2 of rice paddies, rendering Vietnam incapable of producing its main staple and export of rice. The warmer atmospheric temperatures observed over the past decades are expected to lead to a more vigorous hydrological cycle, including more extreme rainfall events. Erosion and soil degradation is more likely to occur. Soil fertility would also be affected by global warming. The demand for imported fertilizer nitrogen could decrease, and provide the opportunity for changing costly fertilisation strategies.

Due to the extremes of climate that would result, the increase in precipitations would probably result in greater risks of erosion, whilst at the same time providing soil with better hydration, according to the intensity of the rain. The possible evolution of the organic matter in the soil is a highly contested issue: while the increase in the temperature would induce a greater rate in the production of minerals , lessening the soil organic matter content, the atmospheric CO 2 concentration would tend to increase it.

A very important point to consider is that weeds would undergo the same acceleration of cycle as cultivated crops, and would also benefit from carbonaceous fertilization. Since most weeds are C3 plants, they are likely to compete even more than now against C4 crops such as corn. However, on the other hand, some results make it possible to think that weedkillers could increase in effectiveness with the temperature increase.

Global warming would cause an increase in rainfall in some areas, which would lead to an increase of atmospheric humidity and the duration of the wet seasons. Combined with higher temperatures, these could favor the development of fungal diseases. Similarly, because of higher temperatures and humidity, there could be an increased pressure from insects and disease vectors. The continued retreat of glaciers will have a number of different quantitative impacts.

In the areas that are heavily dependent on water runoff from glaciers that melt during the warmer summer months, a continuation of the current retreat will eventually deplete the glacial ice and substantially reduce or eliminate runoff. A reduction in runoff will affect the ability to irrigate crops and will reduce summer stream flows necessary to keep dams and reservoirs replenished. Approximately 2.

Some scientists think agriculture could be affected by any decrease in stratospheric ozone , which could increase biologically dangerous ultraviolet radiation B.

Excess ultraviolet radiation B can directly affect plant physiology and cause massive amounts of mutations , and indirectly through changed pollinator behavior, though such changes are not simple to quantify. In addition, a possible effect of rising temperatures is significantly higher levels of ground-level ozone , which would substantially lower yields. Crops that lie on the equatorial belt or under the tropical Walker circulation, such as rice, will be affected by varying monsoon patterns and more unpredictable weather.

Scheduled planting and harvesting based on weather patterns will become less effective. Areas such as Indonesia where the main crop consists of rice will be more vulnerable to the increased intensity of ENSO effects in the future of climate change. University of Washington professor, David Battisti , researched the effects of future ENSO patterns on the Indonesian rice agriculture using [IPCC]'s annual report [] and 20 different logistical models mapping out climate factors such as wind pressure, sea-level, and humidity, and found that rice harvest will experience a decrease in yield.

Normal planting of rice crops begin in October and harevest by January. However, as climate change affects ENSO and consequently delays planting, harvesting will be late and in drier conditions, resulting in less potential yields. Several mitigation measures for use in developed countries have been proposed: [].

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The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change IPCC has reported that agriculture is responsible for over a quarter of total global greenhouse gas emissions. Innovative agricultural practices and technologies can play a role in climate change mitigation [] and adaptation. This adaptation and mitigation potential is nowhere more pronounced than in developing countries where agricultural productivity remains low; poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity remain high; and the direct effects of climate change are expected to be especially harsh.

Creating the necessary agricultural technologies and harnessing them to enable developing countries to adapt their agricultural systems to changing climate will require innovations in policy and institutions as well. In this context, institutions and policies are important at multiple scales. Travis Lybbert and Daniel Sumner suggest six policy principles: [].

The Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project AgMIP [] was developed in to evaluate agricultural models and intercompare their ability to predict climate impacts. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, South America and East Asia, AgMIP regional research teams RRTs are conducting integrated assessments to improve understanding of agricultural impacts of climate change including biophysical and economic impacts at national and regional scales. Other AgMIP initiatives include global gridded modeling, data and information technology IT tool development, simulation of crop pests and diseases, site-based crop-climate sensitivity studies, and aggregation and scaling.

The agricultural sector is a driving force in the gas emissions and land use effects thought to cause climate change. In addition to being a significant user of land and consumer of fossil fuel , agriculture contributes directly to greenhouse gas emissions through practices such as rice production and the raising of livestock; [] according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change , the three main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases observed over the past years have been fossil fuels, land use, and agriculture. The planet's major changes to land cover since have resulted from deforestation in temperate regions : when forests and woodlands are cleared to make room for fields and pastures , the albedo of the affected area increases, which can result in either warming or cooling effects, depending on local conditions.

Livestock activities also contribute disproportionately to land-use effects, since crops such as corn and alfalfa are cultivated in order to feed the animals. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Background | CCAFS: CGIAR research program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security

This section needs to be updated. In particular: change from 4th assessment report to more recent sources. Please update this article to reflect recent events or newly available information. July See also: Regional effects of global warming. See also: Alliance of Small Island States. Main articles: Climate change mitigation and Climate change adaptation. In particular: it needs more recent info e. Global warming portal Environment portal Energy portal.

Science News. Retrieved 21 January Archived from the original on 12 May Retrieved 30 May CS1 maint: archived copy as title link , in: Agriculture , in: Karl, T. BBC News. Retrieved 30 August Climate Change. Comptes Rendus Geoscience. Bibcode : CRGeo. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. Climatic Change. Bibcode : ClCh.. Environmental Research Letters. Bibcode : ERL Live Science. Retrieved 2 May Norwegian Institute for Nature Research. Union of Concerned Scientists. Annual Review of Phytopathology. In ML Parry; et al. Climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability: contribution of Working Group II to the fourth assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

This version: IPCC website. Retrieved 25 June Appendix I: Glossary. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change. Journal of Hydrology. Bibcode : JHyd.. Disaster Prevention and Management. Retrieved 27 January Indian Express. World Bank. Food and Agriculture Association of the United Nations. Archived from the original on 13 July Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Inside Climate News. Retrieved 9 August The Guardian. Archived from the original on 12 March Retrieved 4 May Technical summary. Archived from the original on 19 August Nature Climate Change. Retrieved 29 August Chapter 5: Food, Fibre, and Forest Products. Cambridge University Press.


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Retrieved 7 July Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change. Current knowledge about future impacts". Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Parry et al. Retrieved 8 August Retrieved 21 September Policy Research Working Papers. The World Bank. Brief: future climate projections for Tanzania.



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