Impact of climate change on agriculture: problems and their solutions

Impact of climate change on agriculture: problems and their solutions

Posted on 30 Jul 2016

By: Olga Makarova, 
PR Manager, OpenWeather

It is not news nowadays that the climate on earth is changing. And this change is not a long-term prospect, this is a process happening here and now. Consequences of it one can observe in this day and age. Climate change has a global impact on the human environment, nature, wildlife. And surely it also takes its strongest toll on economics. The most vulnerable to climate change agricultural sector turns to be. Many agricultural plants, on manufacture and market sale of which economics of some countries and large sectors of world trade are based, are extremely susceptible to weather changes; unexpected climate changes, not to mention here a process of global warming, can affect production of these plants in the most disastrous way. In its turn this process can directly influence the majority of population of export countries, where cultivation of these plants is basically the only source of income, and in some cases the main element of the food supply.

Kenya where about 9% of the world leafy tea are produced and this tea is the largest source of foreign currency for the country faces the situation when more abundant rainfall, severe drought and unexpected frost damage fragile bushes. In consequence, tea plantations are reduced, and to maintain export level of tea it is necessary to start locating new plantations at higher altitudes. This case makes farmers’ work complicated, and many of them can lose their livelihood.

A rise in temperature, frequent droughts and heat waves reduce the growth period of cassava (Manihot esculenta) on African fields that accordingly affects the crop adversely. Considering that cassava is a staple food in this overpopulated region threat of famine seems quite real.

 “In the case of the US drought, soybean production decreased by 12%, while core production fell by 13% to its lowest level since 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture. Insured crop losses were almost $12bn and overall GDP suffered as a result. Credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s has predicted that weather events like extensive droughts or high temperatures will have a negative impact on credit ratings of corporations and institutions that are affected.”
(с) Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty

Due to frost in Brazil, millions of tons of sugarcane were damaged, which led to a significant reduction in sugar exports. Reuters informs that frosts also would lead to considerable losses of wheat crop in the current season and of coffee crop next year.Thus one of the most important questions related to climate change including global warming is how it will affect the food supply of the world population which keeps growing.Humanity can influence climate change only to some small extent. And even if a battle with global warming is successful, the climate on earth still will keep changing. Impact of such phenomena as El Niño is hardly underestimated. And also one should pay respect to rainfalls, drought or frost, which are temporary, but sometimes protracted.

Currently a whole package of measures is suggested which can if not change the situation then smooth out the impact and consequences of various weather phenomena on economics in general and on agriculture in particular. For instance, increasing of efficiency of agricultural measures, so-called “current land use” is worth mentioning here. Nowadays these technologies exist which help making choices in how much land to cultivate, how many and what kind of crops to plant in some region and what the best use for fertilizers is in a condition of changing climate.Here come to help weather forecasts specially designed for agriculture, analysis of  historical data, processing of satellite images in various spectrums, etc. A new sector of economics called the weather risk management market highly develops.

Public attitude to insurance in agricultural sphere has been changed. The standard common approach gives its way to thoughtful, based on analysis of all available data one, to insurance of farmers, which can help them survive crises caused by natural disasters.

And there is a hope that the use of cloud and big data technologies, the use of platforms such as VANE Spatial Data Science Platform by OpenWeatherMap if not tame weather phenomena, then make them a calculated object for forecast and analysis.