Adaptation to Climate Change

Not only is agriculture one of the main drivers of climate change, it is also its most significant victim.
Throughout the world, the anticipated consequences of climate change include droughts and floods, storms and tornados, rising sea levels, salinisation of groundwater, more frequent and extreme weather events, increasing species extinction and the spread of old and new diseases.
Some coastal regions and arid areas will be completely lost for cultivation. Over the decades to come, these factors will present agriculture with the most serious challenges it has ever faced in its history of almost ten thousand years.
Something we can be sure of already is that Africa, Latin America and South Asia will suffer the most from the impact of climate change. These are also the regions which are already hit hardest by hunger and poverty. Enormous investment is needed to enable rural communities to rise to the challenges of climate change. Furthermore, there is a huge demand for general education regarding the impact of climate change and possible adaptation strategies. >>more


Changes in Agricultural Productivity

Agriculture in industrialised countries - generally located in the northern hemisphere - benefits from economies of scale and favourable terms of global trade, as well as good access to information, technology and insurance programs. It is therefore already relatively well-prepared to adapt to climate change.
The situation is different for small-scale, non-irrigated production systems in semi-arid and sub-humid areas, particularly in the countries of Africa and Central and West Asia. They are faced with significant seasonal and inter-annual climate variability. Due to the marginal nature of the production environment and the constraining effects of poverty and land degradation, they are characterised by a poor adaptive capacity to climate change (Synthesis, p. 51).
In some northern regions of Europe, Asia and America, agricultural productivity may in fact increase, at least temporarily, as a result of climate change. In the medium term, however, major bread baskets of the world, such as the American Midwest, Brazil and parts of India and China, will be threatened by substantial crop losses. Areas which depend on glacier melt water from the Andes and the Himalayas will be particularly hard hit: As the glaciers melt, they are threatened by floods. Once the glaciers have gone, severe water scarcity will become a problem.


Facts & Figures

Agriculture contributes approximately 50% to Africa’s total export value and 21% of its total GDP, but as an economic sector, it is the most vulnerable and most exposed to climate extremes. It is projected that climate impacts on Namibia’s natural resources would cause annual losses of between one and six percent of GDP, of which livestock production, traditional agriculture, and fishing will be hardest hit. This would equate to a combined loss of US$ 461 to 2,045 million per year by 2050.

According to an International Institute for Environment and Development (iied) study, it is essential that strategies to adapt to climate change consider traditional knowledge and crop varieties. Compared with modern hybrids, traditional crop varieties are cheaper, easier to access, more diverse and more resilient to climate pressures. Over half of households surveyed in China still used local varieties of maize and rice which are better adapted to droughts. Evidence from Guangxi province shows that most farmer-improved landraces survived a drought in 2010, while most modern hybrids were lost.

A one-metre rise in the sea level could submerge around 15% of the area of Bangladesh, destroy rice fields in the region and threaten aquaculture of the Mekong delta. In Egypt, nearly 20% of the farmlands are less than two metres above the sea level and will therefore be severely affected by a rise in the sea level.

Changes in consumption patterns are necessary for agricultural systems to produce food in the required quantities in a climate friendly way. One measure necessary is a reduction of ruminant meat consumption. Another necessary change would be an increase in the consumption of resistant and locally adapted plant varieties. Research also indicates that consumer changes influence energy use, for example, choosing seasonal and locally produced products and reducing food waste would cut corresponding emissions released during food production.

As water is the most crucial element for growing food, farming will need to adapt to changing rainfall patterns brought about as a consequence of climate change. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, where climate variability already limits agricultural production, 95% of food comes from rain-fed farms. In some East African countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania,rainfall dropped by around 15% between 1979 and 2005, causing drastic losses in food production.


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Videos: Adaptation to Climate Change

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  • UNEP Natural Disaster TrendsUNEP Natural Disaster Trends
  • UNEP Forest DistributionUNEP Forest Distribution
  • UNEP Emission AgricultureUNEP Emission Agriculture
  • UNEP Productivity Climate ChangeUNEP Productivity Climate Change
  • UNEP Agriculture 2080UNEP Agriculture 2080
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Unterstützer von biovision Verlag der Arbeitsgemeinschaft bäuerliche Landwirtschaft e.V. Demeter Greenpeace Forum Umwelt und Entwicklung Eine Welt Stiftung Die Grünen, Europäische Freie Allianz Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst NABU - Naturschutzbund Deutschland e.V. Misereor Deutsche Gesellschaft für internationale Zusammenarbeit Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft in der GLS Treuhand
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