Saturday, July 11, 2015

Why climate talks need to focus on agriculture

Frank Rijsberman in Negotiators at the Paris climate talks in December (COP 21) will focus on reaching a truly universal and legally binding agreement to drive the world’s transition towards resilient, low-carbon societies and economies. This is being talked about as humanity’s last chance to avoid truly disastrous effects for our planet — the floods in the Philippines and persistent drought  in Thailand are just two current examples of the types of events that climate change makes more likely.

In parallel, the scientific community’s focus will be on using and creating practical solutions to complex climate challenges. This week, scientists are gathering in France for a conference hosted by UNESCO (the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) to debate evidence-based solutions.

Agricultural scientists are getting organised to increase their involvement in such climate meetings, which the energy and transport sectors often dominate.

Food systems’ high sensitivity to climate is well-known — maize production, for example, could fall by a whopping 40 per cent by the end of this century. Less widely recognised is that agriculture is also a major driver of climate change. Agrifood systems — systems involved in producing, processing and transporting food — are estimated to contribute at least a quarter of global, human-caused greenhouse emissions. It is therefore hard to imagine a successful climate treaty without agrifood systems as a central element.

Agricultural scientists at this week’s meeting will lay the groundwork for a more ‘climate smart’ agriculture, and wider recognition of soil as a carbon reservoir with a major impact on the climate system....

A plowed field in Poland, shot by Krzysztof T, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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