Agriculture is both a major cause of global warming, and will be significantly affected by global warming.
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Global warming is likely to generate rising temperatures and more severe storms such as hurricanes that erode agricultural land. This could lead to more competition for agricultural land and water that has been shifted likely to urban areas. With increasing population deforestation to make land available for habitation, crops and livestock and to produce biofuels could accelerate global warming. Deforestation itself is a major cause of accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) such as carbon dioxide and methane emitted in the atmosphere causing global warming. We might expect acceleration in the pace of rural-urban migration within countries due to global warming. We might also expect out-migration of farmers to areas that are likely to become more viable for farming or other sectors.
Climate change and agriculture
More demands are now being placed upon agriculture: global food security, responding to climate change and protecting environmental services. Climate change challenges need to be understood as they interact with other major development processes such as globalization, de-agrarianisation, urbanization and migration. In the agricultural sector, the broad concept of Climate-Smart Agriculture is moving to the fore. It merges productivity, adaptation, mitigation, sustainable intensification and climate resilience, alongside broader development goals. Climate change may only be adding to the challenges facing agriculture, but could also act as a catalyst, alongside other global concerns, to create fresh opportunities for sustainable agricultural development. Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA): CSA has quite a broad definition and draws together sustainable productivity, resilience, adaptation, emissions reductions, national food security and development goals under one umbrella. CSA is perceived as a threat to modernizing agriculture and achieving food security. CSA presents potentially new funding opportunities but will require strong political leadership, supportive government policies and institutional arrangements that make investments worthwhile. These are challenges already central to debates on agricultural development for many decades. While adaptations or mitigation projects can be important sources of learning, more programmatic and mainstream planning responses are needed. Attention needs to be paid not only to productivity issues, but also to how climate change may change value chains and global trade flows. FIMOAT-CIG is promoting Climate Smart Agriculture, which brings together responses to climate change like adaptation, mitigation, resilience alongside broader development goals. However, as a result of merging multiple objectives these concepts can appear somewhat ambitious in terms of implementation. The broad nature of the concepts allows for varied interpretations in implementation, encourages inclusiveness and sparks debate. Potential synergies and trade-offs among food production, adaptation and mitigation include: Expansion of agricultural land, increased use of mechanization, fertilizer and other inputs. Improved irrigation infrastructure and weather forecasting. Use of single high-yielding variety. Restoration of degraded land, improvement of soil-macro- and micro-nutrients. Diversification of crop, livestock and fisheries varieties, improved on-farm and off-farm food storage. On-farm production and use of biofuels. Reforestation, decreased livestock production and agroforestry options that have low food benefits.
Climate change, agriculture and migration
The agricultural sector employed about 1.4 billion of the world’s 3.4 billion workers in 2008. Even without climate change, coming years are likely to witness continuing large-scale migration out of the agricultural sector, particularly in developing countries where farm incomes are significantly lower than non-farm incomes. Climate change, specifically global warming, is likely to accelerate this pace of migration. Several economic models project that global warming will have more effects on the distribution of farm production than global farm output, with new areas becoming viable for farming as a result of higher temperatures. However, far more people are likely to be displaced by global warming than those likely to find jobs in these new farming areas. Existing policy addressing the challenges already faced by agricultural workers as they seek alternative economic opportunities is limited. The likely impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, more displacement, underscores the urgent need for policymakers and the international community to commit greater attention and resources towards developing a package of innovative policies to provide workers with alternative opportunities within the agricultural sector or to ease their out-migration from the sector. The agricultural sector comprises the largest reservoir of workers looking for higher wages and more opportunity. Global warming is likely to exacerbate the challenges faced by agricultural workers. While it may be difficult to isolate climate change from other factors encouraging people in rural areas to move to urban areas, there can be little doubt that climate changes will add to out-migration. It is also clear that existing policy is inadequate to address the current flow of migrants from the agricultural sector, much less an increased movement as a result of climate change. The likely effects of global warming underscore the urgency of developing effective and comprehensive policy to address the challenges faced by agricultural workers. A concerted effort on the part of home and host governments, and the international community, and a commitment of resources towards developing feasible and innovative options and incentives to make both the rural sector attractive or to assist migrants in making the transition out of the agricultural sector will be critical in the next years.