Agriculture and Global Warming

Randy Opoku Barimah
Randy Opoku Barimah

24 Nov 2021

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Global warming has created and will continue to create challenges for the agricultural sector. Temperature increases, rainfall variability, and the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events are all being exacerbated by climate change, putting additional strain on the global agricultural and food systems.

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Most crop and livestock production systems are expected to suffer as a result of global warming, though some countries (primarily in colder regions) may benefit from the changing conditions. Climate change is also exacerbating resource issues such as water scarcity, pollution, and soil degradation.

It may surprise you to learn that agriculture contributes significantly to the problem of climate change, just as climate change affects agriculture in a variety of ways. According to OECD, “agriculture contributes a significant share of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that are causing climate change – 17% directly through agricultural activities and an additional 7-14% through changes in land use. It is, therefore, both part of the problem – and potentially an important part of the solution.”

The primary direct agricultural GHG emissions as explained by OECD are nitrous oxide emissions from soils, fertilizers, manure, and urine from grazing animals, as well as methane production by ruminant animals and paddy rice cultivation. Both of these gases have a much greater potential for global warming than carbon dioxide.

Yes, there have been some efforts from farmers who are aware of the delicate situation these activities create, but they are insufficient, and policymakers must do much more to scale up and facilitate the efforts.

On the national level:

• In addition to adaptation and mitigation initiatives, broader social, economic, and environmental policy settings — such as trade, investment, infrastructure, and education policies – should consistently support sustainable productivity growth. Farmers' bad decisions might be exacerbated by inconsistencies or contradictory signals, such as import bans that safeguard water-intensive crops. Improving overall policy coherence will be more effective than fine-tuning existing agriculture policies on a case-by-case basis.

At sector level:

• Misaligned and distortive agricultural policies that foster unsustainable intensification, exploitation of natural resources, and potentially harmful inputs must be reformulated. More than half of agricultural support in the OECD area is still potentially harmful to the environment, while initiatives aimed at achieving sustainable productivity or addressing climate change are still in the minority. Insurance that is oversubsidized, market price support, and input subsidies should all be lowered, with the goal of eliminating them altogether.

• More investment in research and development (R&D) is required to stimulate innovation that can improve long-term productivity growth. Governments can help the private sector innovate even more by removing investment barriers to R&D, ensuring the dissemination of private knowledge, and encouraging – where appropriate – public-private partnerships for R&D with public goods outcomes.

Climate-change policies should emphasize outcome-based farmer incentives and knowledge transfer platforms that help farmers achieve sustained productivity growth through mitigating and adaptation measures.

• Financial incentives should, whenever possible, be aimed at sustainability performance rather than practices. Incentives that are not targeted may urge farmers to adopt methods with significant upfront costs or that are socially beneficial but financially costly.

• Governments should guarantee that relevant and up-to-date information on resource usage efficiency and risk management is available and widely disseminated to assist farmers and other private agents in making educated investments in adaptation and mitigation measures. Access to knowledge and risk management mechanisms must be improved in order to increase the adoption of sustainable and productive practices. It is frequently recommended that adaptation and mitigation advisory actions be streamlined into existing institutions and coordinated with the private sector.

On the international level:

• According to OECD, putting in place the Paris Agreement, which was reached at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference – COP21. Both the text and the country-level strategies for reducing emissions, which are outlined in the form of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), recognize the threat that climate change poses to sustainable food production and provide valuable opportunities for agriculture and the food chain to play an active role in climate change mitigation.

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Based on the evidence and analysis presented in the numerous OECD reports above, much more policy navigation is required, as well as a more rigorous attempt at implementation, in order to aid the realization of climate improvement, which will ultimately benefit agriculture. 

References 

OECD. (n. d.). Agriculture and Climate Change: Towards Sustainable, Productive and Climate-Friendly Agricultural Systems. Retrieved from https://www.oecd.org/agriculture/ministerial/background/notes/4_background_note.pdf

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