The Assessment Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that come out every seven to eight years provide an excellent opportunity to gauge our global progress on dealing with climate change. The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) from Working Group 2 on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability was released earlier this year and runs at 3,000+ pages. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) has provided a 32-page summary of the information related to food system, drawn from many of its chapters.
The seriousness of climate change is once again in focus, with impacts registering on all types of agricultural production – crop production, livestock production, fisheries, and aquaculture. Observed impacts occur throughout the supply chain, from agricultural yields to supply chain disruptions, and climate impacts interact with other drivers to generate conflicts, migration, and poverty.
Citing new findings, the Assessment Report states that: 10% of the currently suitable area for major crops and livestock is projected to be climatically unsuitable by mid-century under high-emission scenarios; and increased, potentially concurrent climate extremes will periodically increase simultaneous losses in major food-producing regions, leading to price rises and food insecurity. The higher temperatures and humidity will create challenges for storage and water and energy use, reducing producer incomes and raising consumer prices. For example, in Michigan, US, climate change is expected to shorten the period of reliable cold local storage of potato by 11-17 days by mid-century.
Climate change disproportionately hits vulnerable groups and will be particularly problematic in Africa and South Asia.
But the agricultural sector has a lot to offer in terms of adapting to climate change, as well as contributing to emissions reduction, building resilience, and providing other co-benefits. There are a multitude of on-farm options available to farmers, with many of these already being used. These include: changes in livestock and farm management; switching varieties or species (for example to less water-intensive crops); diversifying farming systems and livelihoods; altered timing of key farm activities such as planting, stocking, and harvesting; and making fish harvesting gear modifications to access new target species.