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Getting Past Climate Change Paralysis

March 23, 2011

Photo: Neil Palmer.

A recently created international Commission on Sustainable Agriculture and Climate Change will seek to define the actions most needed to achieve global food security and deal effectively with the climate threat. While there is general agreement about agriculture’s vulnerability to climate change, the sheer variety of approaches available for coping with it has so far slowed progress toward formulating a coherent global response.

“Our ability to deal with the effects of climate change on food security, in both the developed and developing world, will largely determine whether our future is one marked by stability or perpetual food shocks,” said Bruce Campbell, Director of the Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) – launched last year by the CGIAR and Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP) with support from the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development. “But there are so many perspectives on the best way for farmers to adapt and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that we have ended up paralyzed by a lack of clear choices.”

In a 10-month effort to overcome this paralysis, the commission will derive a clear synthesis, together with specific policy recommendations, from a wealth of scientific findings on likely climate change impacts in agriculture and on the potential of diverse practices for achieving sustainable increases in farm production. Its findings will be directed primarily to international policy bodies, including the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Rio+20 Earth Summit and Group of 20 (G20) industrialized and developing countries.

Chaired by Sir John Beddington, Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK government, the commission brings together senior scientists from more than a dozen countries.

“Extreme weather like the droughts in Russia, China and Brazil and the flooding in Pakistan and Australia have contributed to a level of food price volatility we haven’t seen since the oil crisis of 40 years ago,” Beddington said. “Unfortunately, this could be just a taste of things to come.”


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