This year is turning out to be a milestone year for the world’s future: In September, 192 countries signed the Sustainable Development Goals and on November 30, delegates from 195 countries will converge in Paris for 12 days to hammer out a new global climate accord. There are several cross-cutting issues between the two mega meets, climate change and agriculture being the two big ones.
It is a no-brainer why the impact of climate change on agriculture is significant: While all economic activities experience hazards from nature, agriculture is one of the riskiest and climate change is becoming a source of significant additional risks for agriculture and food systems. In fact, in the last 40 years, the impact of climate change on agriculture has been significant and going forward, it will increasingly become tougher.
A World Bank paper says that each degree Celsius of global warming is projected to lead to an overall yield loss of about 5%. As climate change progresses, it is increasingly likely that current systems will no longer be viable in many locations. This is a serious warning for the world, particularly India, since figures show that the country will have 1.5 billion mouths to feed by 2030.
The World Bank paper rightly advises focusing more on risk management in agriculture. There are already examples of such work: The International Rice Research Institute in collaboration with advanced US research labs, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, state agricultural universities, and the ministry of science and technology’s department of biotechnology have spearheaded plant breeding to develop strains of rice that are resistant to effects of climate change, like flash flood, stagnant flooding, salinity, and drought.
Just think how much farmers in Bundelkhand and Maharashtra today would have benefited if they had access to drought-resistant crops. Investing in climate-resilient agriculture has several downstream effects: It can stem migration, improve rural demand and ensure food security. The farmers, however, not only need access to climate-resistant varieties across agrarian products, but such interventions have to reach them before a natural disaster actually strikes.