Exploring climate change impacts on agriculture

The type of agriculture practiced in a given region depends heavily on the climate and weather that region receives.

So naturally, with climate change, agriculture will be forced to change. Certain crops will have to be discarded for alternative crops which may grow better in the new climate. In other cases, agriculture will simply be no longer sustainable.

Farms may have to close down or move to different latitudes or elevations. The unpredictable nature of climate change will make this quite a conundrum for farmers and the world at large. One man has attempted to explain it all through a book which can help guide us through a potentially rocky transition. Ariel Dinar, director of the Water Science and Policy Center at the University of California (UC), Riverside, has co-edited the book, “Handbook on Climate Change and Agriculture.” The book has contributions from scholars around the world. It explores direct effects on agriculture, economic impacts, and farmer adaptation.

The writers of the book make the argument that climate change will likely have a significant impact on agriculture around the world. The changes will be in the form of temperature, precipitation, CO2 concentrations, and available water flows.

“Developing countries already face food problems,” said Dinar. “The effects of climate change on agriculture in these and other countries will depend on how well the agricultural sector can adapt through technology institutions, and better management practices. Developing countries are better able to engage in adaptation since mitigation is much harder for these countries to do.”

Dinar first began his studies on climate change in 1994 and realized the effects on agriculture were largely ignored. The effects could be particularly dire for developing countries where farming is still relatively low-tech and there is a strong reliance on steady climate. Livestock as well, would be particularly hard hit.

“It soon became clear to me that people did not know much about adaptation to the effects of climate change,” he said. “The net effect of climate change on agricultural production is still not well understood. It’s not just the production of food from crops that is involved, but also livestock. Agriculture suffers from climate change, but it also contributes to it through land use and abuse, as well as the adoption of practices that are unsustainable where climate change is concerned such as unsuitable cropping patterns and irrigation technologies.”

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