Climate change threatens humanity's greatest accomplishment: farming

Climate-smart agriculture can raise and stabilize crop yields, increase farmers' incomes, and reduce the effects of climate change. Photo: X. Fonseca/CIMMYT.

Yesterday we highlighted a new analysis that maps out how science can help put agriculture on the climate agenda. The analysis was published in Science and was co-authored by members of the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change. The authors highlight specific actions for the research world including clarifying definitions of climate-smart agriculture, and more knowledge of adaptation strategies that span agriculture and forestry.

Now TIME has picked up these messages, noting that the most important reason to act on climate change is to counter "the impact that climate change might have on the most vital function of any species: feeding itself."

The human population broke the 7 billion mark late last year, and the reason that happened — and the reason we can and will keep growing, barring major changes — is that we've become amazing proficient at raising food. Our distribution is far from perfect — which is the reason the world is simultaneously home to 1 billion hungry and more than 300 million obese people — and the side effects of large-scale farming can damage the environment. But food production still remains humanity's most amazing accomplishment. That's why the threat that climate change could mess with agriculture is so scary — and why experts are worried that we're not stepping up to the challenge.

The TIME article by Bryan Walsh touches on a number of arguments that were outlined in November by the Commission including the need for better distribution, and also more financing for climate-smart agriculture. The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security is undertaking work in all of these areas with research partners worldwide, and is engaging with policy makers to ensure these messages

Read more:

Achieving Food Security in the Face of Climate Change: Summary for policy makers from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change 

J. Beddington et al. 2011. What Next for Agriculture After Durban? Science VOL 335, 20 January 2012. DOI: 10.1126/science.1217941 (subscription required)

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