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Agriculture and climate change: real problems, false solutions

Publication date:
H. Paul (ed)
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Agriculture plays an important role in climate change, both as a contributor emitting greenhouse gasses (GHGs) and as a potential reducer of negative impacts. This paper gives an overview of how current and proposed agricultural practices affect climate change and how the proposed measures for mitigation and adaptation impact agriculture. The paper states that industrial agriculture, as currently practiced with monocultures and agrochemicals in a globalised production system, is a major contributor to climate change. It warns against the intensification of industrial agriculture, which is proposed as a solution to the problems of climate change, unless its impacts on climate are adequately addressed.The paper states that the proposed technical solutions, such as biochar, the replacement of fossil energy products with agricultural products, the potential development of genetically modified (GM) crops and the widespread use of industrial biomass processing biorefineries, are a diversion from what is actually required. In most cases the effectiveness and the possible negative impacts of the proposed measures are not yet assessed and the plants are in the early stages of development. The paper concludes that there is not enough land to account for the proposed projects and the possibility of gaining carbon credits could place even more pressure on smallholders and marginalised people. The proposals, far from mitigating climate change, can seriously worsen climate change impacts thus having devastating consequences on biodiversity.Recommendations include:

recognise the multi-functional nature of agriculture
small-scale farming within an ecosystem approach must be supported
smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples and local communities need to be placed at the centre of policymaking
local communities need agrarian reform, security of land tenure and recognition of their collective or common rights to seeds, land, water and soil
funding should to be directed to shared and farmer-centred research
governments must support land reform and small-scale agriculture.