Agriculture is extremely vulnerable to climate change, but it also produces about 14% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. There is consensus that climate change will have a significant impact on agriculture in developing countries. Even a 2°C rise in the mean global temperature by the year 2100, which is regarded as an optimistic scenario, will radically change the face of farming.
So far agriculture has been on the fringes of negotiations, despite it being a role player in any future legally binding agreement. But because it stands so central to climate change, voices are getting stronger that agriculture should get its own work programmed at the talks. One of the debates will be whether the agricultural sector should be exempt from any greenhouse gas caps because of food security.
At a recent meeting of African agriculture ministers on a climate-smart industry, South Africa’s Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said any changes in the climate could have wide-ranging repercussions not only in the production of food, fibre and fuel, but also on GDP, employment and foreign exchange earnings. “Climate change will have dramatic consequences for agriculture. Water resources will become more variable, droughts and floods will stress agricultural systems, some coastal food-producing areas will be inundated by the rising sea levels, and food production will fall in some places,” she said;
Farmers are responsible for just under a fifth of greenhouse gas emissions. About 47% of total anthropogenic methane emissions and 58% of anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions come from farmers. But in reality this percentage may be even higher—estimates put it at 30%—because agriculture is the leading cause of forest and woodland conversion.