The Climate-Agriculture Nexus: Understanding the Complex Relationship and Its Implications

Abstract: India may lose anywhere around 3–10% of its GDP annually by 2100 and its poverty rate may rise by 3.5% in 2040 due to climate change as per a recent report by Overseas Development Institute. Temperatures in India have risen by 0.7 °C (1.3 °F) between 1901 and 2018 for the rapid change in forest cover and thereby climatic trends in the country. Being heavily reliant on agriculture, these sudden climatic changes can have devastating effects on the India’s food supply and its economy.

Author: Kushagra Singh

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Climate change poses significant challenges to agriculture in India. The interdependence of climate and agriculture is a crucial concern for India, a country heavily reliant on farming for food security and economic growth. In recent years, climate change has started to have major impacts on rural development, farmer’s economy, and agricultural output in the country.

 Over the past five decades, India has witnessed a rise in average temperatures by over 0.7°C, leading to an increase in extreme weather events such as erratic monsoons, prolonged droughts, and intensified storms.

 

Fig. 1- Temperature change around India

 

This has had a profound impact on the country’s farming community, with a 25% decline in farm profits and a marked increase in farmer suicides – with over 60,000 cases recorded in the last 30 years alone.

In this paper, we will understand how rising temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events are disrupting crop yields and the livelihoods of farmers. Furthermore, we will be discussing upon what policies should government implement to help put these factors under check.

Rapid climate change due to global warming and other reasons in the modern scenario is affecting Agriculture in multiple ways-

  1. Environmental Changes- Climatic changes can increase temperatures, changing precipitation patterns etc. causing changes in the seasonal length. Hotter climate can also increase the risks of wildfires that can deplete hundreds of acres of forest cover in days. Temperature and precipitation changes also make the environment more sustainable for insects, weeds, and diseases. Warmer climate can also impact the Pollination process as to when the bees and butterflies come out.
  2. Changes in Agricultural Productivity– These climate changes have significantly impacted crop yields in India. Wheat yields have declined by 5.2% from 1980 to 2009. Rice and maize yields have also dropped. Projections indicate wheat yields may fall by 6-23% by 2050 and rice yields may fall by 2-14% under climate change scenarios. Pulses like chickpeas could see yield declines of 18-23% by 2050. By 2050, it is anticipated that some regions’ yields of legumes like soybean, pigeon pea, and peanut will drop by 20–40%.

Fig. 2- Projected changes in crop yield around the world

3. Impact on Biodiversity-Cropping patterns have also changed as a result of climate change, causing many crops to be vulnerable to new pests and diseases. Global Warming causes glaciers to melt and thus sea level rise and coastal flooding which in turn leads to saltwater intrusion thereby harming fertile lands. Changing climate can also become a threat to livestock, fisheries, and other similar agricultural activities.

This process of climatic change is not a one-ended story. It is a vicious cycle having various factors each of which are interconnected. Farming requires land resources due to which forests are cleared reducing the forest cover which in turn disturb the ecological balance.

CO2 and Methane are two gases that play a major role in climatic change. Recent research found that majority of these emissions are due to activities related to farming. According to the study, increased livestock numbers and manure management were responsible for 78% of the rise in methane emissions between 1990 and 2016, while increases in fertiliser use were responsible for 65% of the rise in CO2 emissions.