Rapid Climate Change Threatens Asia’s Rice Bowl
Researchers focus on innovations to adapt agriculture to wild swings in climate extremes, as vividly manifested by Southeast Asia’s catastrophic flood-drought cycles
As Asia’s monsoon season begins, leading climate specialists and agricultural scientists warned today that rapid climate change and its potential to intensify droughts and floods could threaten Asia’s rice production and pose a significant threat to millions of people across the region.
“Climate change endangers crop and livestock yields and the health of fisheries and forests at the very same time that surging populations worldwide are placing new demands on food production,” said Bruce Campbell of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). “These clashing trends challenge us to transform our agriculture systems so they can sustainably deliver the food required to meet our nutritional needs and support economic development, despite rapidly shifting growing conditions.”
Southeast Asia recently has experienced dramatic meteorological swings, as last year’s horrendous flooding in Thailand was preceded by a record drought across the region in 2010. These and many other extreme weather events around the world have hammered global food prices, stretching their impact beyond immediate personal and ecological tragedies.
In Thailand, a drought during the 2010 growing season caused $450 million in crop damages. One year later, massive flooding in 2011 caused $40 billion in damages that rippled through all sectors of Thailand’s economy.
“In the fields, there is no debate whether climate change is happening or not,” said Raj Paroda of the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI). “Now, we must think about what the research community can provide governments to guide effective action. Given the region’s current state of food insecurity, climate-smart agriculture has to become the central part of Asia’s adaptation strategy.”
South and Southeast Asia are home to more than one-third of the world’s population and half of the world’s poor and malnourished. Absent new approaches to food production, climate change in this region is expected to reduce agriculture productivity by as much as 50 percent in the next three decades. And with agriculture serving as the backbone of most economies in the region, such plunging yields would shake countries to the core.
Also, farmers are being pressed to focus not just on coping with climate change but also on mitigating the impact of agriculture on greenhouse gas emissions. Farming, along with forestry and land use change, accounts for almost one third of greenhouse gas emissions globally.
Source: AAAS EurkAlert