See more from this Session: Agriculture’s Contributions to Climate Change Solutions: Mitigation and Adaptation At Global and Regional Scales
South Asia, home to more than 1.54 billion people, is very prone to climatic risks. In India, for example, even today 70% of arable land is prone to droughts, 12% to floods and 8% to cyclones, leading to considerable variability in food production. Climate change is projected to magnify these problems. Recent IPCC report and several other studies indicate a probability of 10-40% loss in crop production in South Asia with increases in temperature by 2080-2100 and decrease in irrigation water. There could be significant losses as well in some crops such as wheat even in short-term. These modeling-based estimates are in line with the recent field observations. Early signs of decrease in yields due to changing weather have started becoming visible. Rice yields during last three decades are showing a declining trend and this may be partly related to the gradual change in weather conditions. Apple yields have declined in lower hills of Himachal Pradesh due to non-fulfilment of chilling requirement. Climate change may, however, also provide new opportunities for growing crops in regions/periods not considered suitable earlier.
Producing enough food for meeting the increasing demand against the background of reducing resources in a changing climate scenario, while also minimizing further environmental degradation, is a challenging task. Large yield gaps in all crops at present throughout South Asia are an opportunity for meeting food demand in future even in the face of increasing climatic risks. In short-term, several options relating to technology transfer and adoption can help improve adaptive capacity - altered land use systems; providing weather services, insurance, and credit to farmers; community strategies of water, food and forage management; and providing incentives to farmers for use efficiency and conservation of natural resources. In long-term, better adapted genotypes and alternate land use plans would be needed. It may, however, be noted that problems related to widespread poverty, governance, institutions, and human capital limit agriculture growth today and can also limit adaptation to increasing climatic risks.
Agriculture contributes atleast 20% of the regional greenhouse gases emissions, primarily due to enteric fermentation in ruminant animals, methane emission from rice paddies, and nitrous oxides from application of manures and fertilizers to soils. Mitigation strategies often have some trade-off with food production and are not always economically viable.