Washington, D.C.— Climate change presents a major threat to sustainable food security. Recent changes to agriculture consistent with climate change include shifts in the production of rice and maize in the northern hemisphere and climate-induced changes in crop productivity across the world. There will be additional changes as global temperatures rise, precipitation patterns change, and the likelihood of more extreme climate-related events grows.
While the general trend of increasing temperatures is clear, major uncertainties remain in the distribution and magnitude of climate change outcomes, the location-specific consequences for agriculture, the possibilities for adapting to a changing climate, and the potential role for agriculture in reducing the amount of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) in the atmosphere.
At the International Conference on Climate Change and Food Security held in Beijing, November 7-8, organized by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), scientists from the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) plus Indonesia and the United States reported results on the food security and climate change challenges facing their countries. Based on their research, they identified two sets of priority actions to address the challenges from climate change (a) strengthening public sector agricultural research and (b) increasing the amount, appropriateness, and accessibility of spatial data. “Delays in action today will raise the costs of climate change in the future,” said Huajun Tang, vice president of CAAS.
Agricultural research expenditures must be increased substantially to address the needs for agricultural adaptation and mitigation. While the exact amounts needed and the nature of the research to be funded have yet to be determined, research on the effects of climate change in the following twelve areas are priorities:
1) Pests and diseases—higher temperatures will generally increase their prevalence and pressure;
2) Soil ecosystems—healthy soils are complex ecosystems that contribute to crop productivity;
3) Ruminant agriculture—it contributes to GHG emissions and is likely to grow in developing countries as rising incomes increase demand for meat;
4) Irrigation structure and efficiency—a growing population with higher incomes will increase nonagricultural demand for water, so efficient returns to irrigation investment and best technologies are a must;
5) Perennial crops—have several potential advantages, including carbon sequestration, resilience to stresses, and synergies with annual crops;
6) Grain quality—especially protein content is reduced by increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide, especially under influence of limited nitrogen;
7) Storage losses—losses in storage and along the food supply chain are reportedly as high as 40 percent;
8) Biotechnology—explore innovative techniques to develop varieties and breeds with desirable traits;
9) Land use change—A major contributor to GHG emissions is land use change (the conversion of forest and savannah areas that store large amounts of carbon in the soil to agricultural use that stores less carbon);
10) International trade—relatively open trade in agricultural commodities can make an important contribution to climate change adaptation ;
11) Intellectual property regimes for new research results—ensure that scientific and management breakthroughs are quickly translated into products and information on the ground; and
12) Human capital development— training researchers, extension workers, and farmers to respond to changing climate
Weather, soil, market access, and prices are crucial variables in a farmer’s decision-making process. Yet the availability of location-specific data to document changes in these variables over time is extremely limited. Understanding the potential effects of climate change is needed at farm, state, province, and county levels. “It is crucial that major improvements are made in the cost-effective collection of spatial data,” said Gerald Nelson, research fellow at IFPRI. “These improvements should include more cost-effective design and operation of remote sensing equipment, collection and integration of crowd-sourced data with official collection efforts, and improved tools to easily access the data.”
The recommendations will be presented today at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) side event “Climate Change and BRICS: Findings from the International Conference on Climate Change and Food Security.” “We urge the UNFCCC delegates to approve a Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice work program on agriculture,” said Elisio Contini, head of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation’s (EMBRAPA) Office of International Affairs. “It would catalyze new research and be a central venue for the world’s research community to report its findings and identify the highest-priority research on adaptation and mitigation to reduce the suffering of the world’s poor and vulnerable.”
These recommendations are endorsed by Roger Beachy, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center; Kevin Chen, IFPRI; Elisio Contini, EMBRAPA; Sikhalazo Dube, Agricultural Research Council, South Africa; David Gustafson, Monsanto; Jarot Indarto, National Development Planning Agency (BAPPENAS), Indonesia; PK Joshi, IFPRI; Sergey Kiselev, Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU); Geraldo Martha, EMBRAPA; Endah Murniningtyas,BAPPENAS; Gerald Nelson, IFPRI; Roman Romashkin, MSU; Nono Rusono, BAPPENAS; Bob Scholes, Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa; Setyawati, BAPPENAS; Deepak Shah, Gokhle Institute of Political Economy; Eugene Takle, Iowa State University; Huajun Tang, CAAS; and Liming Ye, CAAS.
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an alliance of 64 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations. www.ifpri.org
Sarah Immenschuh, + 1 (202) 862-5679