How Agriculture Can Be Used to Combat Climate Change in Developing Countries
GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES ESSAY ON THE ROLE OF AGRICULTURE IN COMBATING CLIMATE CHANGE IN DEVELOPING COUNTRIES PRESENTED BY; MWAURA PHILIP W DATE; 25TH MARCH 2013 INTRODUCTION Climate change is now recognised as one of the most serious challenges facing the world – its people, the environment and its economies. There is now clear scientific evidence that the high concentration of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere is causing global warming. While the world has experienced climatic changes before, the issue we now face involves human influence.
It is a challenge that must and can be dealt with because its impacts will have very dire consequences on us and the generations to come. Greenhouse emmissions results from various sources in our societies. We have emmissions from industries and other human activities such as agricultural practises. It is believed that most global warming we can now observe is attributable to emissions of GHGs that result from human activities, in particular land use changes such as deforestation, and the burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas).
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All these activities are human influenced and thus something needs to be done at the local, regional and globals levels. This essay highlights the role of agriculture in tackling climate change and some of the mitigation and adaptation measures. CLIMATE CHANGE AND AGRICULTURE The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change(IPCC) define climate change as the term generally used to describe human influences on the climate. The most significant threat is the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which contribute to the ‘greenhouse effect’.
The greenhouse effect is a natural mechanism essential to life on Earth, but human activity has altered the balance in the mechanism. Radiant energy emitted by the sun comes through the Earth’s atmosphere and warms its surface. This heat then radiates back into the atmosphere, but some of the sun‘s heat is absorbed in the atmosphere by gases. With increasing concentration of GHGs, this effect is amplified, thus increasing the Earth‘s temperature. There is now little doubt that climate change is happening. Most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations. The observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it is very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone”. These are some of the conclusions of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC 2007). Countries and individuals acknowledge the extent of the climate change problem and have agreed that it exists and needs to be addressed.
Agriculture can be defined as the spatial distribution of of crops and animals for commercial and subsistence purposes all over the earth’s surfaces. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO, 2008) reports that agriculture and land-use change, such as deforestation, account for about 13 and 17 per cent, respectively of total GHG emissions from human activities. Changes in land use such as deforestation and soil degradation are two devastating effects of unsustainable farming practices that emit large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.
Agriculture is a major contributor to emmissions of methane (CH4), Nitrous oxide (N2O) and Carbon( iv)oxide (C02). On a global scale, agricultural land use in the 1990s has been responsible for approximately 15% of all the GHGs emmissions. One third of all carbon(iv)oxide comes from land-use changes such as shifting cultivation and intensification of agriculture whereas about two thirds of methane and most nitrous oxide emmisions originate from agriculture ( FAO, 2008). In addition to the direct agriculture emissions mentioned above, the production of agrochemicals is another important source of greenhouse gas emissions.
Especially the life cycle of fertiliser contributes significantly to the overall impact of industrialized agriculture. The greatest source of GHG emissions from fertiliser production is the energy required, which emits carbon dioxide during its manufacture. Animal farming has a wide range of different impacts, ranging from the direct emissions of livestock, manure management, use of agrochemicals and land use change to fossil fuel use. Climate change presents a dual challenge which involves how to reduce GHG emissions through itigation, while lessening the adverse impacts by adaptation. These challenges are evident in the agricultural sector where a changing climate will have serious impacts on agriculture and food production. A rise in temperature will result into the following impacts( FAO 2008); * affect food supply dramatically by shifting crop growing zones; * change the habitats of pests; * increase risks of plant disease, insects and weeds; * shrink the area of cropland due to floods; and * raise sea levels. Potential direct effects on agricultural systems: Seasonal changes in rainfall and temperature could impact agro-climatic conditions, altering growing seasons, planting and harvesting calendars, water availability, pest, weed and disease populations, etc. * Evapotranspiration, photosynthesis and biomass production is altered. * Land suitability is altered. * Increased Carbon(iv) oxide levels lead to a positive growth responsefor a number of staples under controlled conditions, alsoknown as the “carbon fertilization effect”. MITIGATION Agriculture offers options to reduce CHGs significantly.
One of them is to reduce emmissions and thereby minimise the production of anthropogenic gases such as methane and carbon(iv)oxide whereas at the same time increasing food production to achieve food security especially in developing countries. Mitigation is a response strategy to global climate change, and can be defined as measures that reduce the amount of emissions (abatement) or enhance the absorption capacity of greenhouse gases (sequestration). The total global potential for mitigation depends on many factors, including emissions levels, availability of technology, enforcement, and incentives.
In many situations, the efficiency of agriculture can be improved at a low cost. However, when low cost incentives are unavailable, policy development is important. Mitigating GHG emissions from the agricultural sector will be an important element of climate change and agriculture policy at the national and international levels, and especially so in developing countries where 75 per cent of poor people live in rural areas, most of whom depend on agriculture for their livelihoods directly or indirectly (World Bank, 2008).
The Bali Action Plan (BAP), agreed to at COP 13 in December, 2007, identified four pillars to address in reaching a new agreement–mitigation, adaptation, technology development and transfer, and financing and investment. The BAP calls for mitigation actions by all developed countries, including quantified GHG emission reductions objectives, as well as mitigation actions in developing countries, “that are supported and enabled by technology, financing and capacity building in a measurable, reportable and verifiable manner” (UNFCCC, 2007, p. 1).
Agriculture could be an important component of a new climate change agreement, addressing two priorities of the BAP; * Mitigation ; Agriculture must play a role in climate change mitigation by storing carbon in soils, reducing its GHG emissions (for example, transportation and livestock) and providing fossil fuel offsets from biomass; and * Adaptation ; Agriculture must adapt to new climatic conditions (increased temperatures, drought, increased climatic variations, among others) to ensure a sufficient food supply for the world and contribute to the maintenance of rural livelihoods and viable rural economies.
Emission reductions in the agricultural sector can also be a meaningful way for many developing countries to contribute to the goal of the convention and participate in a future regime. The IPCC report estimates that 70 per cent of the mitigation potential in agriculture is in developing countries (Smith et al. , 2007). Sustainable agricultural practices that mitigate carbon can have important co-benefits, including increased soil fertility and productivity, enhanced resistance to drought and extreme weather, and better capacity to adapt to climate change.
Sustainable agriculture can contribute significantly to increased food production, as well as make a significant impact on rural people’s welfare and livelihoods. Despite the significant potential and important sustainable development benefits, minimal progress has been made to capitalize on opportunities in this sector, mainly because of complexities, perceived or otherwise, around accounting, monitoring, verification, non-permanence and other issues.
Mitigation measures in the agricultural sector could contribute to substantial GHG emission reductions up to 2030 with potential ranges from 5 to 20 per cent of total Carbon(iv) oxide emissions by 2030. The global technical mitigation potential of agriculture, excluding fossil fuel offsets from biomass, is estimated to be between 5. 5 and 6 Gigatonnes Carbon(iv) oxide emmissions per year by 2030 (Smith et al. , 2007). However, actually meeting this potential is a complex issue with both technical and economic challenges.
An estimated, 89 per cent of the total potential can be achieved by soil carbon sequestration through crop-land management, grazing land management, restoration of organic soils and degraded lands, bio-energy and water management (Smith et al. , 2007). Developed countries are discussing if agricultural soil carbon sequestration should be included in overall accounting of emissions and removals, and how to provide incentives in the area of agriculture for developing countries (UNFCCC, 2009).
Intensity targets in the agricultural sector are also an issue, recognizing the fact that food production will need to increase to keep pace with rising populations and improvements in standards of living. Mitigation of Methane can provide an additional 9 per cent through improvements in rice management, and livestock and manure management. The remaining 2 per cent can be achieved from mitigation of Nitrous(ii)oxide emissions from soils mainly through crop management (Smith et al. , 2007).
The wide diversity of agricultural practices around the world means there is a corresponding large array of possible mitigation opportunities. Agricultural Emissions Mitigation in Developing Countries Developing countries play a central role in agricultural GHG emissions mitigation. Without sufficient mitigation of GHG emissions in coming decades, including those from agriculture, there will likely be severe negative impacts on natural and human systems, including global food supply and food security, and developing countries are most at risk.
The technical potential for GHG mitigation in developing countries’ agriculture by 2030 indicates significantopportunities for emissions reductions, together with anenhanced income earning potential for farmers, and associatedbenefits from lower natural resource degradation(Smith et al. , 2007). The agricultural sector is more vulnerable to climate change in developing countries than developed nations, which is a real concern because agriculture in developing countries is a major food provider.
Agricultural practices must adapt to changing climatic conditions to ensure sufficient global food supply, while implementing management practices that have the greatest GHG emission reduction potential. Approximately 30 per cent of GHG emissions reduction potential from agriculture can be achieved in developed countries and 70 per cent in developing countries (Smith et al. , 2007).
The mitigation potential of developing countries is about 75 to 80 per cent of the global potential for soil carbon under bio-energy and the restoration of degraded lands; roughly 90 per cent for grazing land management; and 98 per cent for rice management, water management, set-aside management and agro-forestry. Approximately 89 per cent of the technical mitigation potential in the agricultural sector can be achieved through soil carbon sequestration and about two-thirds of this potential is in developing countries (Smith et al. , 2007).
The largest mitigation potentials in agriculture are the restoration of cultivated organic soils and degraded lands, and rice management; developing countries have the largest mitigation potentials. Mitigation is generally most cost effective in developing nations. The Food Agriculture Organization report (2008) estimates that mitigation measures in developing countries through agriculture and forestry projects might cost about one-fourth to one-third of total mitigation in all sectors and regions, while generating one-half to two-thirds of all estimated GHG emission reductions.
With growing agricultural GHG emissions and the largest and most cost-effective mitigation opportunities in the agricultural sector, developing countries are likely to play a prominent role in efforts to reduce agricultural GHG emissions. However, these countries also have the greatest barriers to overcome. At the national level, agriculture may be eclipsed by other priorities in many developing countries, such as poverty alleviation. A lack of capacity and political will to encourage mitigation are also contributing factors, where efforts in the agricultural sector are mainly focused on securing food for a growing population.
Agricultural policy is viewed by many countries as a sovereign right that is linked to food security, meaning that they are reluctant to open up this sector to any perceived control by an international body. Barriers are often country or region-related and understanding the situation in different countries is crucial to realizing the mitigation potential in the agricultural sector. Responses to climate change in these countries should involve measures that aim to reduce poverty and ensure food security (FAO, 2008). Developing countries will require technology ransfer,investment and financial support to implement relevant mitigation strategies in the agricultural sector. And these programs will need to be developed with full consideration of economic and sustainable development. Such programs will need to include methods for verifying and validating GHG emission reductions from agricultural activities and for comparing the effectiveness of various mitigation options, as well as the associated environmental, economic and social benefits and impacts for the overall production cycle.
The economic potential for mitigation in agriculture depends on the price of carbon and on policy, institutional,and transaction cost constraints. To date little progress hasbeen made in the implementation of mitigation measures at the global level. The potential for GHG mitigationwould be enhanced by an appropriate internationalclimate policy framework providing policy and economicincentives. The emerging market for carbon emissions trading offersnew possibilities for agriculture to benefit from land usethat sequesters carbon or saves non Carbon(iv)oxide emissions.
TheClean Development Mechanism (CDM) under the KyotoProtocol of the United Nations Framework Conventionon Climate Change (UNFCCC) is the most importantmechanism for payments to developing countries. Currently, the CDM limits eligible activities in agricultureto afforestation and reforestation, and reduction of non- Carbon(iv) oxide gases. Hence carbon sequestration activities, such asconservation tillage and restoration of degraded soils, arepresently considered ineligible.
Financing options will need to include grant funding, but there is also a need to develop market mechanisms for sustainable development (MMSDs) that will allow farmers and rural communities to benefit from such initiatives and have an elaborate livelihood strategy. On-farm mitigation Improved management practices that reduce on-farm emissions include livestock and manure management, fertilizer management, and improved rice cultivation. Methods to reduce methane emissions from enteric fermentation include enhancing the efficiency of digestion with improved feeding practices and dietary additives.
The efficacy of these methods depends on the quality of feed, livestock breed and age, and also whether the livestock is grazing or stall-fed. Developing countries are assumed to provide lower quality feed to livestock, which raises the emissions rate per animal to over that for developed country herds(Smith et al. , 2007). In manure management, cooling and using solid covers for storage tanks and lagoons, separating solids from slurry,and capturing the methane emitted are relevant techniques.
Concerning developing countries, applying thissort of manure management may be difficult as animalexcretion happens in the field. Composting manure andaltering feeding practices may help reduce emissions to acertain extent. Improving the efficiency of fertilizer application or switching to organic production can decrease the amount of nutrientload and Nitrous(ii)Oxide emissions. However, overall benefitswould need to be weighed against the potential impact onyield(Smith et al. , 2007). Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Development
In addition to reducing GHG emissions, agricultural mitigation measures have other social, economic and environmental benefits, particularly in regard to sustainable development, food security and making progress towards meeting the objectives of the Millennium Development Goals. The list of co-benefits linked to soil carbon sequestration include reduced soil erosion, improved soil fertility and structure, improved water quality, reduced levels of phosphorous and nitrogen pollution, buffering against drought and improved agricultural performance.
Another mitigation strategy is considered to be the displacement of fossil fuels through the production of cleaner-burning bioenergy, such as ethanol, biogas, and methane, which can all be derived from agricultural production. Securing food for a growing population is a major global concern for developing countries and is a primary objective of agricultural policies. As such, mitigating climate change must not result in reduced food production (FAO, 2008). There are limits to GHG emissions reductions in the agricultural sector because of its importance in providing food for a growing global population.
Improvements in efficiency may be a more reasonable approach than absolute reductions in developing countries GHG emissions from agriculture. Linking Mitigation and Adaptation Efforts Formally defined, adaptation to climate change is an adjustmentmade to a human, ecological or physical systemin response to a perceived vulnerability (Smith et al. , 2007). Agriculture is a sector that can be used to link mitigation and adaptation policies and actions. Many mutually reinforcing synergies exist between specific mitigation and adaptation solutions that can lead to more efficient allocation of “climate response” resources (FAO, 2008).
Synergies may occur in cases where mitigation-driven actions in agriculture have positive adaptation consequences for example, carbon sequestration projects with positive drought preparedness aspects or when adaptation-driven actions have positive consequences for mitigation for example, residue return to fields to improve water holding capacity will also sequester carbon (Smith et al. , 2007). A large proportion of the mitigation potential of agriculture arises from soil carbon sequestration, which has strong synergies with sustainable agriculture.
Linking adaptation and mitigation measures have both positive andnegative aspects, depending on national circumstances and agricultural systems. In addition, many farmers may be ill-equipped to adapt or may notunderstand the risks that climate change imposes. As a result,information sharing, such as that involving climateforecasting, will likely play an integral part in managingclimate change risk. A future climate regime should encourage countries to recognize and enhance positive impacts. Such measures include the following; * Changes in tillage practices or adjusted livestock breeds are short-term measures. Longer-term measures, such as improved water management or the building of irrigation systems, can help in adapting to a changing climate. * Supporting policies that promote adaptation measures can help towards more effective implementation. * Modes of external assistance range from allocating information, advice, and training on adaptation measures, to developing institutional capacities and policies. * Adaptation is not a stand-alone activity, and its integration into development projects, plans, policies, and strategies will be crucial. * Synergies between mitigation and adaptation should be maximized.
Adaptation options and their supporting policies should be adopted by the appropriate level of government and implemented by institutions in direct contact with beneficiaries. For example, adaptation responses such as changing planting dates and tillage practices may require technicalservices provided by local extension agents, which are coordinatedby regional universities and research institutions. Agricultural research, including crop breeding to developdrought and heat tolerant crop varieties, will require bothpublic and private investment. Structural adaptation measures,such as creating water arkets and price incentives,will need to be implemented on a national level, most likelyin partnership with economic cooperation unions. National governments, NGOs and the international community all have a role to play in creatingthe means and cooperation required for adaptation. Conclusion In general, agriculture impacts climate change significantly through livestock productionand the conversion of forest to land cover that haslow carbon sink or sequestration potential. Nitrous oxideemissions from crop production and methane from riceproduction are also significant.
Mitigation options thatare the most technically and economically feasible includebetter rice, crop- and pastureland management. Although there are viable mitigation technologies in the agricultural sector, particularly in developing countries,some key constraints need to be overcome. First, rules of access which still do not credit developing countries forreducing emissions by avoiding deforestation or improving soil carbon sequestration must be changed. Second,operational rules, with their high transaction costs for developingcountries and small farmers and foresters in particular,must be streamlined.
Climate change is also likely to have a significant negative impact on agricultural production, prompting outputreductions that will greatly affect parts of the developing world. Adaptation, including crop choice and timing, hasthe ability to partially compensate for production declinesin all regions. In addition, to date, only a limited number of studies have focused on theclimate change and carbon fertilization effects related tocrops of importance to the rural poor, such as root crops and millet. As a result of changes in production, food security will beaffected by climate change.
Even the most aggressive mitigation efforts that can reasonably be anticipated cannot be expected to make asignificant difference in the short-term. This means thatadaptation is an imperative. Yet, in the face of this imperative,many developing countries are lacking in sufficientadaptive capacity(FAO, 2008). As a result, there is a large role for nationalgovernments, NGOs, and international institutionsto play in building the necessary adaptive capacity and riskmanagement structures. Finally, climate change adaptation and mitigation have to proceed simultaneously.
Since adaptation becomes costlierand less effective as the magnitude of climate changesincreases, mitigation of climate change remains essential. The greater the level of mitigation that can be achieved at affordable costs, the smaller the burden placed on adaptation. Policies focused on mitigating GHG emissions, if carefully designed, can help generate a new developmentstrategy; one that encourages the creation of new value inpro-poor investments by increasing the profitability of environmentallysustainable practices.
To achieve this goal,it will be necessary to streamline the measurement andenforcement of offsets, financial flows, and carbon creditsfor investors. It will also be important to enhance globalfinancial facilities and to reform their governance, namelyto simplify rules and to increase the funding flows for mitigationin developing countries. we know what to do,and it is therefore the right time to act before it is too late. It is so unfortunate to see people dying from famine in the 21st century.
Climate change may worsen this situation, therefore we should cooperate toghether to ensure thatthe global issue of climate change is handled in a manner that it deserves. Agriculture is just one of those options especially by the developing countries. REFERENCES 1) Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) (2008) [Available online at http://cdm. unfccc. int/index. html] DATE accessed 20th November 2012. 2) IPCC (2007) Summary for policy makers. Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report. Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change. [Available online at http://www. pcc. ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm. pdf ]. Date accessed 19th November 2012. 3) FAO, 2008. “Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation: Challenges and Opportunities for Food Security. ” Paper presented at the High Level Conference on World Food Security 4) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (2008). Financial mechanism for adaptation to and mitigation of climate change in the food and agriculture sectors. Paper presented at the High Level Conference on World Food Security 5) Smith, P. , Martino, D. , Cai, Z. , Gwary, D. , Janzen, H. , Kumar, P. , McCarl, B. Ogle, S. , O’Mara, F. , Rice, C. , Scholes, B. , & Sirotenko, O. (2007). Agriculture. In B. Metz, O. R. Davidson, P. R. Bosch, R. Dave & L. A. Meyer (Eds. ), Climate Change 2007: Mitigation. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 6) Smith, P. , D. Martino, Z. Cai, D. Gwary, H. Janzen, P. Kumar, B. McCarl, S. Ogle, F. O’Mara, C. Rice, B. Scholes, O. Sirotenko, M. Howden, T. McAllister, G. Pan, V. Romanenkov, U. Schneider, S. Towprayoon, M. Wattenbach and J.
Smith, 2008. “Greenhouse gas mitigation in agriculture. ” pp. 789-813. 7) United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). (2009). Copenhagen Accord. Conference of the Parties. Accessed at http://unfccc. int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/l07. pdf. 8) UNFCCC, 2008. Challenges and Opportunities for Mitigation in the Agricultural Sector. Technical Paper. FCCC/TP/2008/8. http://www. unfccc. int/resource/docs/2008/tp/08. pdf. Date accessed 20th November 2012. 9) World Bank. (2008). World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development. Washington, D. C. : World Bank.