Big Facts on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security


Region Description
North America Farmers across the continent are adopting incremental adaptation strategies such as changing planting dates. The North American agricultural industry is expected to have the adaptive capacity to maintain yields under 2°C warming (Butler and Huybers, 2012; Romero-Lankao, 2014). Drought-tolerant varieties can increase yields. By 2030, drought-tolerant soy varieties are expected to raise yields by 10% on non-irrigated land in areas with annual precipitation under 700 mm. Yet even though technological improvements have improved yields under normal conditions, these conventional adaptation methods are not protecting harvests from extremes. Moreover, some measures may have maladaptive effects such as increased consumption of groundwater and energy (U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2009).
Latin America Crop diversity, local knowledge, soil conservation, population migration and economic diversification are key components of adaptive capacity in Central and South America (Magrin et al., in press). Coffee production will need to move. In Nicaragua, for example, if current climate change trends continue, 80% of the current growing area will no longer be suitable in 2050. Climate forecasts for use in agricultural planning are particularly important to Latin American farmers who must cope with weather fluctuations related to El Niño (Baethgen, 2010).
Europe European farmers will need to grow different crops as warmer climates move northwards. By 2050, climate change may boost crop yields in the north of Europe by 8-25%, while the south may see yields decrease by up to 8% or increase by 22%. Early sowing could be a solution to more frequent end-of-season droughts. Yet in Mediterranean climates, early sowing of cereals requires sufficient rain in autumn, and climate projections indicate that autumn rain may decline in many Southern European regions. Yields may therefore be squeezed at both ends of the season (Porter et al., in press). Higher temperatures hurt livestock production, with heat stress harming livestock welfare, reducing productivity and increasing the risk of death (Tubiello et al., 2007). For example, high temperature and air humidity during breeding raised cattle mortality risk by 60% in Italy (Crescio et al., 2010). Changes in diets and farm buildings as well as genetic improvement programmes are among the adaptive responses needed (Renaudeau et al., 2012; Hoffmann, 201
North Africa and West Asia Many countries in this region face low rainfall that varies greatly over space and time—a pattern expected to intensify under ongoing climate change. Pastoralists will need to move their livestock to adapt to changing water availability, productivity of pasture and browse, and diseases like ticks. Mobility will become more important than ever. Just 28 percent of northern African agriculture is irrigated, but even this exceeds the capacity of local water resources. Agricultural withdrawals are over twice the available renewable water resources in northern Africa. Water management and water harvesting and storage are key interventions across the region (You et al. 2011).
Sub-Saharan Africa >90% of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is rain-fed, and water supplies are expected to shrink and become more erratic in most regions. Local-level water management—through micro-catchments, dams and tanks, or small-scale irrigation from underground water, for instance—is crucial for adaptation. Conservation agriculture can address climate-related risks such as water scarcity while also bolstering crop yields. The approach integrates practices such as zero tilling, incorporation of crop residues, and rainwater harvesting. These low- or no-cost practices have been shown to protect soil from erosion, increase rainwater capture and the water retention capacity of soil, and replenish soil fertility (Thierfelder and Wall, 2010). In many parts of sub-Saharan Africa, a lack of institutional integrity and institutional capacity limit decision-makers' ability to coordinate and implement adaptation strategies (Ludi et al., 2012). Furthermore, where systems for land tenure are uncertain or insecure, farmers have less incentive to make long-term planning and investment decisions (Byran et al., 2009).
East and South East Asia Most of the world's fishers and fish farmers live in this region, and small-scale operations remain vital to livelihoods and food security among the poorest. As water temperatures rise and river flow regimes begin to change, the catch potential in different fisheries will likely shift. In some places, diversifying livelihoods may become one of the few options for adaptation (Dudgeon, 2011). In low-lying coastal areas, agriculture must adapt to large-scale submergence, flooding and salinization. For example, 420,000 hectares in the Mekong Delta will be salinized by 2030. Rice is the most important staple food in the region. New hybrid rice cultivars selected from promising genotypes are under continual development. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is using its extensive germplasm collection to develop drought-tolerant and heat-resistant varieties (Xie & Hardy, 2009).
South Asia South Asia’s extreme climatic variability has major consequences for agricultural production. For example, fluctuations in summer monsoon rainfall are responsible for almost 50% of the differences in food grain harvests from year to year (Lal, 2011). Safety nets, disaster preparedness and disaster relief mechanisms are essential here. Cropping should be adapted through changes in sowing dates, improved genotype selection and greater use of irrigation (Lal, 2011). Farmers could also gain resilience and food security with seed and fodder storage systems that are fit for local climates, as well as by adopting alternative cash crops such as mango or jujube (Niino, 2011). Climate services can deliver crucial weather information through mobile phones and other ICTs, helping farmers to adapt their practices.