Why Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change?
Agriculture, food security and climate change pose key challenges for the world. The 2007-2008 world food crisis was a stark reminder that all countries need to build more resilient food systems in the light of expected (and unexpected) changes ahead. Research must play a leading role in bringing solutions. Europe has and continues to develop knowledge and technologies to underpin sustainable and competitive food production systems.
Agriculture (including forestry and aquaculture) are highly exposed to climate change – the variability of crop yields has already increased as a consequence of extreme climate events, such as the summer heat of 2003 and the spring drought of 2007 in Europe. However the agriculture and forestry sectors also offer the potential of mitigation of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) emissions, while reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions associated with indirect land use change and the development of verifiable GHG mitigation and carbon sequestration measures. Agriculture has to meet a demand for food which is estimated to rise globally by 50% by 2030 and to double by 2050, due to population growth, urbanisation and increased affluence in many societies.
Key facts and figures:
• Global demand for food is expected to increase by 50% by 2030 and to double by 2050, due to population growth, urbanisation and increasing affluence in parts of the developing world (FAO, 2008). The world’s population is projected to increase from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050. Food supply must increase sustainably to meet this demand, and is made more complicated by climate change. (UK Royal Society 2009 “Reaping the Benefits – Science and the sustainable intensification of global agriculture”.)
• Global climate change can be expected to threaten food production and its supply, for example through changing patterns of rainfall, increasing incidence of extreme weather and changing distribution of diseases and their vectors. Global stocks of some staple foods have declined, and spikes in food prices (such as those seen during 2008) may become more frequent if rising demand cannot be consistently matched by supply.
• The agricultural sector of tropical and sub-tropical countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa, is extremely fragile and vulnerable to climate change. Any major food crisis in these regions will directly and indirectly impact on Europe and it is therefore in its interest to work with these regions on preventive and adaptive measures. In fact, current trends towards relative social and political stability in parts of SSA, representing joint economic opportunities for Europe, could be reversed by negative impacts of climate change on agriculture. This threat will be amplified by increasing competition between food and (bio)energy production objectives if no innovative and coherent solutions are found.
• By the late 21st century, plant species are projected to have shifted several hundred kilometres to the north and 60 % of mountain plant species may face extinction. A combination of the rate of climate change, habitat fragmentation and other obstacles is projected to lead to a large decline in European biodiversity.
• We need sustained growth in the agricultural sector (crops, livestock, fisheries, forests, biomass, and commodities) :
- to feed the world
- to enhance rural livelihoods
- to stimulate economic growth
- to maintain and restore ecosystem functions / services
• This proposal therefore focuses on the activities for joint action to address the combined challenges of food security against the continuous threat brought by various scenarios of climate change:
- we need to act now to secure safe, nutritious and affordable food for the future
- we need to mobilise funding and coordination across the EU agri-food research sector now in order to have the science and skilled scientists to underpin sustainable food production for the future
- it takes 10 years to get plant science from lab bench to crop in field
- this is a preventable crisis – and research is going to be crucial in providing the answers
- EU research has a key role to play – drawing on world leading expertise and facilities in plant, animal and microbial sciences.
• Long term use of land as a resource for human life does not seem possible without the preservation of ecosystem functions and services. Furthermore they are essential when it comes to resilience and adaptability to climate change and other phenomena of future global change.
• The Millenium Ecosystem Assessment has shown that many ecosystem services are decreasing worldwide, mainly as a result of non-sustainable forms of land use. This is not least due to the fact that many mechanisms involved in the interference of land use with ecosystem functioning and ecosystem services are still unknown or cannot yet be quantified with sufficient precision. This is of particular importance at the level of regions and landscapes and refers to both the direct and the indirect impacts which are due, for example, to the interference with special components of biodiversity.
• Globally, about 2,150 Pg C are stored in plants and soil. Up to a quarter of this amount could be released in the next century through climate change and land use change, which would in turn again accelerate climate change. At the same time, there is regional and sectoral potential for increasing the carbon content of terrestrial ecosystems, even more effectively than in other areas, e.g. oceans. Climate change not least affects the possibilities for land use in various regions of the Earth to a considerable extent, though with clear regional variation.
It will be extremely difficult to balance food deficits in one part of the world with food surpluses in another, unless major adaptation investments are made soon to foster the comparative advantage of affected regions in appropriate agricultural sectors. These investments may include trade policy and also the generation of innovative technical and economic opportunities, well beyond conservative measures, such as agricultural breakthrough technologies able to face environmental transformations induced by climate change.
Joint programming on adaptation to and mitigation of climate change in the agriculture, forestry and land use sector will integrate research on climatic trends with extreme events, natural sciences with social sciences, research with actual policy and management, ecosystems with products and services, production with health, food security and food quality issues.
Pour un résumé en français, merci de suivre ce lien.