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Climate change, agriculture and food security

24 April 2015
San Francesco - Cappella Guinigi
Climate change directly impacts agricultural production. It triggers accelerated growth and early flowering in certain plants as well as changes in the rural agricultural calendar and viticultural practices. In addition to changes to the species’ growth itself, they are also increasingly impacted by the spread of pathogens and pests over a wider geographic area and the decrease in usable water and land resources. While crops in some parts of the world benefit from the changing climate, anthropogenic climate change is posing an overall negative impact on agriculture and the food security that is dependent on it. Agriculture and food will play a prominent role in the post-2015 development agenda. The agro-food sector alone accounts for some 80 percent of total freshwater use, 30 percent of total energy demand, and 12-30 percent of man-made greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. With global food production expected to increase 70 percent by 2050, the sector is facing unprecedented resource pressures, with more on the horizon. A sustainable development path for future food systems will require transformative changes in technologies, policies and behavior of all actors along the whole food chain. New technologies and new business models for farming and food processing will need to play a major role. R&D investment in the agro-food sector is a prerequisite for achieving a sustainable intensification of agriculture and wise investments would need to become available in the next 10-20 years. Agriculture and its associated food practices play a two-sided role in the climate change challenge. On the one hand, agriculture is in itself a major contributor to the atmospheric greenhouse gases that cause climate change. On the other hand, crops also capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and sequester it, thereby mitigating part of the greenhouse gas effect. Whether the goal is climate change mitigation or adaptation, we need to develop strategies that intelligently manage agriculture and food supply. This is essential if we are to ensure that the ten billion people who will inhabit this planet by 2050 have access to sufficient and nutritious food. And that this access is sustainable.
Valentini, Riccardo - Università degli Studi della Tuscia - Viterbo