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Adapting Agriculture To Climate Change

Monitoring water quality at an agricultural field day in Mossman, Queensland. Image credit - Iris Bohnet, CSIRO
by Staff Writers
Canberra, Australia (SPX) Dec 05, 2007
Early action to adapt to climate change impacts could have substantial short-term benefits for some Australian agricultural systems but joint research between farmers, scientists and policymakers is needed to adapt to the larger-scale changes expected. A paper published today in the international science journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA (PNAS) identifies several practical steps to adapt Australia's agricultural sector to climate change.

"Given that our climate has already changed and that further change seems inevitable, it is important to take a pro-active stance to assess adaptation options, their benefits and costs, and how to alter policy and investment environments to facilitate their uptake," says lead author Dr Mark Howden of CSIRO.

Climate adaptation analyses can reward early adopters of climate information, build the capacity for effective climate risk management, inform infrastructure investment decisions and help inform international discussions on reducing greenhouse gas emissions such as those happening in Bali this week.

"Practical adaptations such as changing timing of plantings or the varieties or species of crops grown might avoid the damage caused by 1 to 2 degree changes in temperature - those expected over the next few decades," he says.

"However, their effectiveness declines with higher temperature increases. Consequently, the damages from climate change will increase unless a whole new array of adaptations are developed and used. These adaptations may need to include diversification of production systems and livelihoodsand would need supporting policies and programs in addition to soundly based research and development."

Dr Howden and his co-authors identify six key elements needed for putting in place effective adaptation responses:

- conviction that climate changes are real and likely to continue
- confidence that these changes will significantly impact on their enterprise
- technical and other options to respond to the changes
- support to make the transitions to new conditions
- new infrastructure, policies and institutions to support the new management and land use arrangements
- targeted monitoring of adaptations to learn what works, what does not and why.

Dr Howden says that getting increased adaptation action will need 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. It will also need adaptation assessment frameworks that are relevant, robust and easily operated by farmers, policymakers and scientists.

Dr Howden is a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change which was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Al Gore. Dr Howden says that large scale problems such as climate change have to be addressed by both individual and collective action.

The Climate Adaptation Flagship led by CSIRO will work with agricultural industries and natural resource managers to find effective solutions to the challenges of managing Australia's variable and changing climate.

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World farm output to drop due to global warming: experts
Beijing (AFP) Dec 4, 2007
Global warming is likely to cause a significant decline in world agricultural output, with poor countries in Africa set to be hurt the most, a group of farm experts said Tuesday.

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