An action-oriented scientific agenda for tackling global climate change and its impacts on agriculture emerged from the international, three-day Climate-Smart Agriculture Conference, which drew more than 300 participants last week to the University of California, Davis.
Conference participants, who represented 34 nations on six continents, grappled with the need to dramatically ramp up agricultural production to feed a world that will tip the scales at more than 9 billion people by the middle of the century -- a task severely complicated by global climate change. By the end of the conference, they had begun to sketch a roadmap to get there.
Highlights of the conference included strongly voiced commitments from U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack and Undersecretary Catherine Woteki to pursue solutions to climate-change impacts for agriculture in the U.S. and abroad.
“Climate change, and particularly its impacts on agriculture, present the world with a very difficult challenge,” UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi said during the final session of the conference. “We all know that the planet is getting warmer, the seas are rising, and snowpack patterns have been changing. Fresh, reliable water is becoming scarcer.
“Of all the sectors of the earth that must adapt and mitigate for climate change, none is more susceptible than agriculture -- and none more crucial,” Katehi said.
The chancellor stressed that tradeoffs between increased food production and environmental protection will be needed as the global population expands and people become more prosperous -- increasing per capita demand for food.
Developed in coordination with the World Bank and the Dutch ministry, the conference was designed to establish scientific priorities, building upon the broad science and policy agenda established during a 2011 international meeting on climate-smart agriculture in the Netherlands.
The conference examined farm and food systems, land use and ecosystem issues, and policies. The goal: Make sure that science translates into practices that will ensure food security, alleviate poverty and provide multiple ecosystem benefits.
Due to the steep trajectory of global population growth, experts project that the world will have to increase food production by at least 70 percent by 2050. Climate change is anticipated to make that challenge all the more daunting by reducing food crop yields throughout the next 50 years by 16 percent worldwide and by 28 percent in Africa.