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Climate Change and Agriculture

Talking about climate change, Al Gore said, “It is deepening. We are entering a period of consequences.” It is also true that climate change knows no borders and is no longer just an ‘environmental issue’. It affects the world and its people at almost all levels – economic, health, society, community life, industries, and our future. Almost every aspect of life, including agriculture, is feeling the impact of climate change.
Climate change & agriculture
On the one hand, agriculture is said to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions & climate change itself. And perhaps coming full circle, climate change has affected agriculture in many ways as well. Climate change impacts almost everything around the world. For instance, availability of water may drop, and this impacts agriculture most directly. Climate change also affects energy prices and weather events and both these affect agriculture directly too.
In India, two major changes have caused fluctuations in major crops. These two changes are:

  • Rise in frequency of extreme rainfall
  • Rise in mean temperature

Both these phenomena have been studied by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA). Their findings project reduction in yields in the next 2 decades:

  • Maize by 18 to 23%
  • Rice by a maximum of 2.5%
  • Wheat by 6 to 25%

The study extended to 573 rural districts of India to assess vulnerability to climate change and 109 districts (19%) have been classified as ‘very high risk’.

The Climate Transparency Report 2022 states that weather events such as flash floods, and cyclones have caused losses around $3.75 billion to India’s farmers. These events damaged crops in over 36 million hectares. Measures like organic farming, inter-cropping, developing climate resilient agriculture, promotion of agro-climatic zone crops, and even the extension of the insurance schemes will help in combating climate change.

Hand holding a sapling surrounded by chemical symbols

ICAR has done a lot of work in this area. Introduction of climate resilient crops, development of location-specific climate resilient technologies, and agricultural contingency plans are a few of the recent developments. ICAR is also working with India Meteorological Department to issue regular advisories to farmers. Models have also been developed to study sugarcane, agronomic management, pest damage, and nitrogen levels.

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has also announced that it will issue Sovereign Green Bonds, for the very first time. These green bonds are aimed specifically at raising money for environmental projects. Rs 16,000 crore sovereign bonds could go a long way in getting more investors in eco-friendly projects.
Important factors
According to a United Nations body for assessing the science related to climate change - The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is likely to raise surface air temperature by 0.4 to 2.6°C. This will result in increasing percentages of decrease in yield.

A trifecta of rising temperatures, change in rainfall pattern, and heat waves directly change levels of carbon dioxide. Just a few years ago millions were battling food security because of climate change. The year 2019 saw elevated levels of food insecurity along with a prediction of an 80% rise in food prices by the year 2050.

Through it all, a few reports highlight the plausibility of reducing the impact of climate change with tangible, concrete measures taken right away.