Climate change and agriculture
We are now in August; the month that should have symbolized the height of our rainy season, yet downpours are scarce. This situation is an indictment of the dark side of climate change; the likelihood of further changes occurring, and the increasing scale of potential climate impacts give urgency to addressing agricultural adaptation more coherently.
There are many potential adaptation options available for marginal change in existing agricultural systems, often variations of existing climate risk management. We are sure that implementation of these options are likely to have substantial benefits under moderate climate change for some cropping systems.
However, there are limits to their effectiveness under more severe climate changes. Hence, more systemic changes in resource allocation need to be considered, such as targeted diversification of production systems and livelihoods.
We argue that achieving increased adaptation action will necessitate integration of climate change-related issues with other risk factors, such as climate variability and market risk, and with other policy domains, such as sustainable development.
Dealing with the many barriers to effective adaptation will require a comprehensive and dynamic policy approach covering a range of scales and issues, for example, from the understanding by farmers of change in risk profiles to the establishment of efficient markets that facilitate response strategies. Science, too, has to adapt.
Multidisciplinary problems require multidisciplinary solutions, i.e., a focus on integrated rather than disciplinary science and a strengthening of the interface with decision makers. A crucial component of this approach is the implementation of adaptation assessment frameworks that are relevant, robust, and easily operated by all stakeholders, practitioners, policymakers and scientists.