We have moved from “Climate Change will happen stage to Climate Changing is happening” stage as evident by ever increase in number of cyclones, floods, hurricanes forest fire, drought in recent years. Floods cover vast regions, causing people to lose their homes. Drought causes crop to die, which mean people go hungry. The sea level is rising, and will one day swallow up entire countries.
In a very simple words, Climate Change is a serious global environmental concern, it is primarily caused by the building up of Green House Gases (GHG) in the atmosphere. GHG trap heat and contribute to warming. The global increases in carbon dioxide concentration, a GHG are due to primarily fossil fuels use and land use change, while those methane and nitrous oxide are primarily due to Agriculture. Increase anthropogenic activities such as industrialization, urbanization, deforestation etc. lead to emission of greenhouse gases due to which the rate of climate change is much faster.
Impact of climate change on Indian agriculture was studied under National Innovation on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA)
A Government think tank, The National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) in a report in 2018 said that 21 Indian cities – including New Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai could run out of groundwater by 2021.
Impact of climate change on agricultural productivity
- Rainfed Rice yields are projected to reduce marginally 2.5 % in 2050.
- Irrigated Rice yields by 7 % in 2050 and 10 % in 2080
- Wheat yield projected to reduce by 2.5 % in 2050
- In 2050, 300 million people will be at risk of annual floods, with the number rising to 480 million by 2100
- currently More than 110 million people live on land that is below the high tide line, and more than 150 million people’s dwellings may be permanently below it by 2050.
According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR-2018), disaster-hit countries experienced direct economic losses to the tune of US$ 2908 billion during 1998– 2017. Of the total losses, 77 percent were due to climate related disasters. Climate change impacts are more pronounced on agriculture sector in the recent past. The Government of India’s economic survey (2018) estimated that the annual loss of US$ 9-10 billion was due to the adverse effects of climate change.
Impact of climate change on Agriculture & food security
Agriculture sector in India is highly vulnerable to climate change. The increasing temperature and changing pattern of rains reduce crop yields and favour weed and pest proliferation
The interaction between agriculture and climate has been a main area of research interest due to the direct dependence on former or later. Such interest has been more so in the developing countries such as India, where agricultural output is often determined by the whims of nature. However, research in this area has traditionally focused on the influence of yearly weather on agricultural production. With the threat of possible climate change gaining momentum, the focus has now shifted to the exploration of the relationship between agricultural performance and the long-term climate variables such as temperature, rainfall and atmospheric CO2 concentration level.
According to the estimates of climate change impacts on developing countries, there is an urgent need for detailed studies in these countries such as in India and South Asia. It will also raise the price for the most important agriculture crops like rice, wheat, maize and soyabeans due to decrease in crop yield. This in turn leads to higher feed on meat consumption and cause a more substantial fall in cereal consumption leading to greater food insecurity
Agriculture and Climate are deeply interconnected to each other with global process. Even a small change in climate affects agriculture adversely decreasing the production rate which affects all the human population. Agriculture contributes towards climate change through anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and by the conversion of non-agricultural land such as forests into agricultural land.
Impact of climate change on groundwater
Climate change influences groundwater systems in several ways. In terms of the hydrological cycle, climate change can affect the amounts of soil infiltration, deeper percolation, and hence groundwater recharge. Also, rising temperature increases evaporative demand over land, which limits the amount of water to replenish groundwater.
By contrast, the anthropogenic effects on groundwater resources are mainly due to groundwater pumping and the indirect effects of irrigation and land use changes. A major section of India falling under extinction of water crisis and if we take long term perception it would be the biggest concerning water problem scarcity than novel coronavirus.
There are lot of cities in the world which only depends only on ground water, nearly 50% of population is dependent on groundwater for water need whether it is a big city or small village. United Nation International Groundwater Resources Assessment Centre (UN-IGRAC) report revealed that the groundwater is the main source of drinking water for nearly half of the population.
According to the WHO, there are million and millions of people deprived of water, sanitation and hygiene. 23% almost 2.2 billion peoples do not have access to drinking water services. In least developed countries (LDC) 74% of rural population is living without access to the safe drinking water.
In indain states Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra are at semi critical level in term of water stress condition.
Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) in its 5th minor irrigation census mention that during 2007-17 the groundwater has depleted by 61 %.
Some key takeway from the 6th assesment report by IPCC 2021
- At current projections, it is likely that we will reach 1.5 degree Celsius sometime between 2021 & 2040.
- Humans have driven CO2 level to ‘highest in at least two million years’
- Changes that occur with ice, oceans and sea levels are ‘irreversible for centuries’.
- There is a rise of compound extreme weather events due to human induced global warming like droughts and heatwave.
- “It is unequivocal that human influence has warmed the planet, ocean and land.”
- At current projections, it is likely that we will reach 1.5 degree Celsius sometime between 2021 & 2040. We need ‘strong, rapid and sustainedreductions’ in methane, which is mostly produced from agriculture, livestock rearing & production of fossil fuels.
Impact of climate change on soil
Soil just might save us, but we are going to have to save it first. “It will be impossible to stop climate change without changing agriculture. Soil degradation is slowly turning one third of the world into a desert. At this rate, fertile soil will be depleted in 60 years. Loss of topsoil releases carbon into the air. Modern petroleum-fuels agriculture, beginning around 1930, has released 50 to 70 percent of the soil’s carbon into the atmosphere
The best machines for binding the carbon in the ground already exist: “The Plants” and the method to do so already exists as well: Regenerative Agriculture”. Plants break the CO2 from the atmosphere down into its components and sequester the carbon in the soil. Modern, industrial agriculture disturbs this natural process, mainly through tilling, monocultures, and overuse of synthetic, toxic chemicals. But methods such as composting, perennial plants, holistic grazing and building biodiversity in and on the ground and help to regenerate the soil.
The idea behind regenerative farming is simple and ancient, it builds on old indigenous methods of farming: The mother soil, which nurtures the harvest, in turn has to be nurtured and protected.
“We have practiced Agriculture since 9000 BCE on our motherland, but it’s high time to talk about Carbon Farming, Polyculture Farming in India, The warming of the Indian Ocean and Global Climate Change makes us move towards Sustainable Agriculture and of course this is the need of hour.”
Climate change adaptation and mitigation in agriculture | Climate resilient agriculture
Climate-smart mitigation and adaptation includes any practices that are adopted or followed to reduce the impacts of climate change and increase system resilience. These are smart adaptations or practices to cope with the effects of climate change.
Soil is the most important factor in the germination, growth and development of plants. It provides nutrients and water to plants. It is home to so many microbes that can colonize plants symbiotically or pathogenically. Extreme climatic conditions, such as heavy rainfall and strong winds, destroy the soil structure, causing leaching of nutrients and evaporation of moisture. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance to implement wise practices to prevent loss of soil water content and nutrients. Cover crop vegetation can prevent water and nutrient loss during high temperatures and high wind conditions. Changing tillage to zero tillage helps plants adapt to water stress.
Crop diversification includes crop substitution and crop rotation. These two approaches are cost effective and build resilience in the farming system. Crop rotation improves soil structure and nutrients. Diversification in cropping system improves agriculture. For example, growing short duration crops and early/late maturing plants can escape various diseases, pests or drought.
3-Changing crop patterns
Changing crop patterns can mitigate or adapt to harsh climatic conditions. In India, for example, farmers are growing drought-resistant crops such as sorghum in water-stressed areas to adapt to climate change.
4-Similarly, harvesting pulses, especially mung, red gram and groundnut can help mitigate the effects of climate change. These crops add nitrogen to the soil, which is lost through soil erosion.
5- Shifting planting dates could also mitigate the effects of climate change by reducing yield loss.
6-Agroforestry is the cultivation of forest trees with crops on the same plot of land. Agroforestry systems build resilience to climate change by preventing crop flooding and higher temperatures.
Adaptation to climate change is essential for sustainable agriculture. These adaptations include increased production of stress-resistant varieties, micro-irrigation systems, efficient use of nutrients and water, and conservation of soil water content. Applying these practices can benefit farmers in terms of crop yield and building resilience to climate change.
How Farmers Can Fight Climate Change ?
Efficient irrigation management
Conservation of water use is vital for any farm, especially during times of drought. But given that most of the energy use on farms comes from groundwater pumping (in California, it is estimated that agricultural irrigation consumes enough electricity to power 1.5 billion homes), irrigation efficiency also comes from fossil fuel consumption and Reducing Greenhouse Gas (GHG) is the key. Emission water- and climate-wise farmers can use a number of methods to save water—and reduce energy consumption—such as using drip irrigation, planting cover crops, dry farming, and more.
energy efficiency and moving away from fossil fuels are important steps farms can take to reduce their climate footprint. This could include on-farm renewable energy generation such as solar panels and wind turbines, reducing the use of petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides, and reducing reliance on fossil fuel inputs for cultivation, storage and transportation of crops.
Since the middle of the 20th century, the industrialization of agriculture has led to a widespread reliance on petroleum-based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers in traditional farming. Organic farming restricts most synthetic inputs, which means a reduction in GHG emissions, as well as clean soil, water and food. In addition, organic and sustainable technologies bring additional benefits for farmers, such as increased soil health and fertility, providing additional climate-friendly benefits.
Reducing Livestock Methane Emissions
Agriculture is responsible for more than half of California’s GHG emissions, and methane emissions from beef and dairy livestock are the primary sources. Through anaerobic decomposition, manure lagoons on industrial dairies and cattle farms (concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs) create harmful emissions and pollute our water supplies. Holistic pasture-based livestock management through practices such as rotational grazing can help mitigate this effect, as hay provides high-quality forage that is better for cattle’s digestion, while their hooves break down soil and manure. as they move through the rangeland, helping to fertilize the soil. ,
Pasture-Based Livestock Management
More than half of California’s land is rangeland, with great potential for carbon sequestration. All of this contributes to soil health and microbial life, while helping perennial grasses grow and store water in the soil.
“Feeding the world while fighting climate change is no easy feat—and it will not happen automatically. It needs stronger policies, action and equal contribution of every individual of the world towards sustainable development and agriculture.”
To read more about Impact of climate change in agriculture you can download our September issue of Times of agriculture magazine in which we have covered this topic as cover story of magazine.