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1.1. Climate Change, Population Growth, And Crop Production: An Overview

H. Lotze-Campen
Published 2011 · Environmental Science

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The publication of the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change in 2006 and the Fourth Assessment Report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007 have pushed the scientific and public debate on climate change a decisive step forward. It is now beyond doubt that anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the main cause for recently observed climate change and that early and bold mitigation measures will eventually be much cheaper than later adaptation to potentially drastic climate impacts. The agricultural sector is directly affected by changes in temperature, precipitation, and CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, but it is also contributing about one-third to total GHG emissions, mainly through livestock and rice production, nitrogen fertilization, and tropical deforestation. Agriculture currently accounts for 5% of world economic output, employs 22% of the global workforce, and occupies 40% of the total land area. In the developing countries, about 70% of the population lives in rural areas, where agriculture is the largest supporter of livelihoods. In many developing countries, the economy is heavily depending on agriculture. The sector accounts for 40% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa and 28% in South Asia. However, in the future, agriculture will have to compete for scarce land and water resources with growing urban areas and industrial production. A large share of the world’s poor population lives in arid or semiarid regions, which are already characterized by highly volatile climate conditions. Under conditions of future climate change, a worldwide increase in climate variability and extreme weather events is very likely. The connections between agricultural development and climate change reveal some fundamental issues of global justice. The industrialized countries, mostly located in medium to high latitudes, are responsible for the major share of accumulated GHG emissions. They are economically less dependent on agriculture, they will be less affected by climate impacts, and they have on average a higher adaptive capacity. Most developing countries are located in the lower latitudes, they are dependent on agriculture, they will be strongly affected by climate impacts, and they have lower (or nonexistent) adaptive capacity. Creating more options for climate change adaptation and improving the adaptive capacity in the agricultural sector will be crucial for improving food security and preventing an increase
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