Climate change will affect agriculture, forestry, fisheries and livestock production through higher temperatures, changes in rainfall and elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration. Global mean surface temperatures are projected to rise by 1.8°C to 4.0°C by 2100. Such changes could severely impact food production and availability. Therefore, it is essential to take action now to mitigate the effects of climate change and adapt to its consequences.
The impacts of climate change on crop, forestry, fish and livestock production will affect developing countries most. Although those countries contribute least to climate change, they are expected to suffer the greatest damage through declining yields and greater frequency of droughts and floods.
The increasing risks due to climate change include increased heat and water stress in crops, trees and livestock, sea-level rise and salinity intrusion in coastal areas. These come on top of existing problems due to floods, droughts and cyclones, and the need to increase food production to keep pace with population growth. The Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna delta in Bangladesh, the Mekong delta and the Nile delta are the three “hot spots” for potential out-migration of people due to sea-level rise and population growth. Sharing of experiences, ideas and plans across regions with similar risks would be useful.
The directions of climate change in Bangladesh are still uncertain. All climate models for the Indian subcontinent predict increasing temperatures, but the different models vary in their predictions of rainfall increase or decrease in the monsoon season and the dry season, and models cannot yet predict changes in flood or cyclone frequency. Bangladesh must therefore be prepared for all eventualities.
Carbon sequestration and trading
Agriculture currently contributes about 13.5 percent to greenhouse gas emissions (6.8 Giga ton (Gt) of CO2), mainly through methane emissions from livestock and paddy fields. However, it has also an important mitigation role by storing carbon, with the potential to mitigate between 5.5 and 6 Gt of CO2 per year by 2030, mainly through soil and forest carbon sequestration. Despite this, little of the carbon trading market goes to agriculture (Bangladesh has only two Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) projects), but the forestry sector gets relatively more attention.
Particular efforts should be made to include agriculture in the forthcoming Copenhagen agreement on climate change. Carbon offsets in developed countries could be used to promote carbon emission reduction, but at the same time to enhance productivity and production through agricultural technologies and investments in developing countries.
Vulnerable low-income countries need special assistance in improving disaster preparedness and resilience against disaster risk caused by extreme weather events. Because of its long experience of disaster management, its existing institutional capacity and knowledge, past and ongoing research, and its soil, climatic and hydrological data base, Bangladesh is in a better position than most other countries to meet the challenges presented by population growth and changes in climate and sea-level rise in the coming decades. This capacity – institutional, financial, and societal – needs to be strengthened by investments in research, development of social entrepreneurship and increasing small-holders’ access to agricultural technologies and financial services.
Copenhagen and beyond
In recent months, the voice of Bangladesh, led by the Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has been heard in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York and the World Summit on Food Security (WSFS) in Rome. Instead of begging or blaming, she raised the demands for greater cooperation and more investment in agriculture.
Bangladesh and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) joined hands to bring these concerns to international attention in the Rome Summit (of FAO) and we should do it again in the Copenhagen Conference on Climate Change (of UNFCCC). FAO will continue to support the Government and people of Bangladesh in their efforts to sustain self-sufficiency in food production in pace with climate change and its growing population.
06 December 2009