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Feeding poor people while the climate changes

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Author:
Rachel Slater
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Climate change is likely to affect agricultural production all over the world. This will affect strategies for poverty reduction. Although the impacts of climate change cannot be predicted exactly, poverty reduction strategies must consider all possible future scenarios.Research from the Overseas
Development Institute in the UK
considers the possible impacts of climate change on agricultural production. About
40 percent of the world’s land area is currently used for agriculture, and this
is highly dependent on the climate. Agriculture is also central for modelling
the impacts of climate change on poverty, because many
poor people depend on agriculture for their livelihood.
Climate change is likely to have
different impacts around the world. For example, some models predict that 11
percent of the land in southern African will be unsuitable for growing crops by
2080. However, by the same date, the land suitable for growing cereals in North America could have increased by 40 percent. This
means that policies concerning the global trade in food will be increasingly important
for poverty reduction.
The
research shows:
Extreme
climate events, such as floods and droughts, are likely to become more severe
and frequent over the next 100 years in most areas.
The
land available for agriculture is likely to decrease in tropical regions, and
increase in temperate regions. Most tropical developing countries will become
more reliant on cereal imports from developed countries.
Changes
in crop yields are expected, but the biological and chemical relationships
behind these are extremely complex. This makes it very difficult to predict
future yields accurately.
Most
models predict that countries with diverse economies and strong agricultural
sectors will fare best under different climate change scenarios.
There
is a high degree of uncertainty in most predictions about the impact of climate
change on agriculture. One problem is scale, meaning how to link global
agricultural models to local crop models. It is also important to consider other
possible factors, such as improvements in agricultural technology, changes to
farming systems, and assumptions about population growth and the demand for
food.
The
many different models used to predict how climate change will affect agriculture
each use different assumptions. However, most models predict that climate
change will increase the number of people in the world at risk from hunger. Policy
responses can either seek to reduce the rate of climate change or manage its
consequences. Both these responses will be based on uncertain models, however.
The researchers suggest:
Policymakers
may need to develop more flexible policies that can cope with increasing uncertainty
about possible future scenarios.
Development
assistance over the next few decades should focus on economic diversification
and strengthening the agricultural sector in developing countries. This means measures
such as more investment in agricultural research and development.
The
co-ordination between climate change modellers, agricultural economists and
agricultural policymakers must improve. Climate change issues should also be
integrated into existing agricultural policies and programmes.