CLIMATE ADAPTATION IN AGRICULTURE
GS 3: Biodiversity: Conservation, Environmental pollution and degradation,
Environmental impact assessment, Disaster and disaster management.
Climate change and agriculture are interrelated processes, both of which take place on a
global scale. Climate change affects agriculture in a number of ways, including through
changes in average temperatures, rainfall, and climate extremes (e.g. heat waves); changes
in pests and diseases; changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide and ground-level ozone
concentrations; changes in the nutritional quality of some foods and changes in sea level.
Not only is agriculture one of the main drivers of climate change, it is also its most
significant victim. Agriculture will be directly affected by all indications and consequences of
climate change, such as droughts and floods, storms and tornados, rising sea levels,
salinization of groundwater, more frequent and extreme weather events, increasing species
extinction and the spread of old and new diseases. The latest report of the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 2014 is even more explicit than an
earlier assessment from 2007 on which the IAASTD drew upon: Some coastal regions and
arid areas will be completely lost for agricultural use. Many regions will suffer heavy losses
whereas only a few regions may benefit. Millions of people will lose their homes and their
means of existence.
Climate change impacts
Physiological effects on crops, pasture, forests and livestock (quantity,
Changes in land, soil and water resources (quantity, quality).
Increased weed and pest challenges.
Shifts in spatial and temporal distribution of impacts.
Sea level rise.
Changes to ocean salinity.
Sea temperature rise causing fish to inhabit different ranges.
Decline in yields and production.
Reduced marginal GDP from agriculture.
Fluctuations in world market prices.
Changes in geographical distribution of trade regimes.
Increased number of people at risk of hunger and food insecurity.
Migration and civil unrest.
The Sixth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on
“Global Warming at 1.5°C”
The report establishes that the world has become 1°C warmer because of human activities,
causing greater frequency of extremes and obstruction to the normal functioning of
ecosystems. Climate-induced risks are projected to be higher for global warming of 1.5°C
than at present, but lower than at 2°C (a catastrophic situation). However, the magnitude of
such projections depends on in-situ attributes and the level of developments. Moreover, for
such a change in global warming, indigenous populations and local communities dependent
on agricultural or coastal livelihoods are very vulnerable to the climate impacts.
Vulnerability of India
India, with its diverse agro-climatic settings, is one of the most vulnerable countries. Its
agriculture ecosystem, distinguished by high monsoon dependence, and with 85% small and
marginal landholdings, is highly sensitive to weather abnormalities. There has been less than
normal rainfall during the last four years, with 2014 and 2015 declared as drought years.
Even the recent monsoon season (June-September) ended with a rainfall deficit of 9%,
which was just short of drought conditions. Research is also confirming an escalation in heat
waves, in turn affecting crops, aquatic systems and livestock. The Economic Survey 2017-18
has estimated farm income losses between 15% and 18% on average, which could rise to
20%-25% for unirrigated areas without any policy interventions.
Key policy reforms across three pillars are needed to strengthen farmer incentives to
achieve productivity growth sustainably, and without sacrificing climate change mitigation
and adaptation objectives
- At the national level: The agriculture sector is subject to a wide range of influences,
including innovation, macroeconomic, trade, investment, infrastructure, and
education and training policies. For example, import restrictions protecting water intensive crops can exacerbate maladaptive choices by farmers. Moreover, the
general education level of farmers has a significant effect on how farmers are able to
absorb innovative and resource efficient practices. The Agricultural Policy
Monitoring and Evaluation report (2015) expressed the need for broader reforms in
such areas to achieve sustainable productivity in agriculture.
- At the sector level: Policies in the agriculture sector should be internally consistent.
This requires reforming misaligned and distortive policies which encourage
intensification and the overuse of natural resources and potentially damaging inputs.
Further investment in research and development on sustainable productivity is also
- At the farmer level: The emphasis should be on targeted initiatives – such as
outcome-based farmer incentives and knowledge transfer systems – that enhance
farmer capacity to achieve sustainable productivity growth through mitigating and
PREVIOUS YEAR QUESTIONS
- Define the concept of carrying capacity of an ecosystem as relevant to an environment. Explain how understanding this concept is vital while planning for the sustainable development of a region. (2019)
- Sikkim is the first ‘Organic State’ in India. What are the ecological and economical benefits of an Organic State? (2018)
- Climate Change’ is a global problem. How will India be affected by climate change? How Himalayan and coastal states of India will be affected by climate change? (2017)