Growing Returns

What is climate-smart agriculture?

quoteYou may have heard by now about “climate-smart agriculture.” It’s the catchphrase that came out of the United Nations Climate Summit this week and the reason I was in New York to participate in a panel discussion on how to achieve food security for a growing population in a climate-changing world.

More than 20 governments and 30 organizations announced they would join the newly launched Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, which aims to enable 500 million farmers worldwide to practice climate-smart agriculture. This is wonderful. But what does it mean in practice?

My colleagues and I have been asking ourselves this question since the concept was originally introduced by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in 2010. Over the past four years, we’ve done some hard thinking on which practices, precisely, will get us to a point where we can keep pace with the food demands of a growing global population and increase the resiliency of our food systems to the harsh impacts of climate change.

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Five reasons to care about climate change and agriculture

Rebecca Shaw is an expert panelist at the 2014 Society of Environmental Journalists conference in New Orleans, talking about "Feeding Eight Billion People in a Warming World."

Rebecca Shaw is an expert panelist at the 2014 Society of Environmental Journalists conference in New Orleans, talking about “Feeding Eight Billion People in a Warming World.”

You may have seen the recent news about the potential impacts of drought on craft breweries like Lagunitas. Or the articulate Mother Jones headline – Lay Off the Almond Milk, You Ignorant Hipsters. Talking about climate change in terms of beer and almond milk isn’t a bad strategy for capturing the attention of thirsty Americans, but it’s not just our favorite beverages that are at risk.

Climate change poses a number of potential threats to the global food system, namely because of the impacts to agriculture. Here are five reasons why everyone from beer drinkers in California to bean farmers in Latin America should care about climate change and agriculture.

1. Rising temperatures could burn a hole in your wallet. The 2014 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found that, with average temperature increases of 3 to 4ºC, we will see large negative impacts on farm yields and severe risks to food security. Not only are food markets sensitive to climate extremes, but food prices are expected to rise anywhere from 3 to 84 percent by 2050.

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Climate change a risky business for America’s agriculture

texas drought

Economists estimate that Texas’ continuing drought has cost farmers up to $8 billion so far. [ScottOlsson/Getty]

Nobody escapes climate change, especially not farmers.

The report released this week by a group of prominent and politically diverse business leaders and public officials stood out, in part, because of the alarming losses it forecasts for America’s agricultural industry.

This matters to all of us, because commodity agriculture is big business in the United States, putting food on our plates every single day.

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