The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says the rate of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) is increasing to levels that will push temperatures above the limits targeted by world leaders as outlined in the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. The warmer climate will, in turn, increase volatile weather patterns that will make tens of millions around the globe more vulnerable to longer and wider droughts, more wildfires, increased flooding and damaging winds.
The panel reports that significant action must be taken – and taken now – to limit the increase in global temperature to no more than the targeted 1.5 degree Celsius above preindustrial levels. This action would include rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in the energy, transportation and agriculture sectors.
Global temperatures today are already 1 degree warmer than preindustrial levels, and the report maintains that unless drastic measures are taken to reduce emissions over the next 10 years, global temperatures will cascade beyond the 2050 target of 1.5-degrees – possibly even as early as 2030 – and dramatically increase risks to communities, regions and nations.
The IPCC is the leading world body for assessing the science related to climate change, its impacts and potential future risks, and possible response options. Panel leaders say the report gives policymakers and practitioners the information they need to make decisions that tackle climate change while considering local context and people’s needs. To add critical perspective to the report’s recommendations, a co-chair of one of the panel’s working groups observed: “The next few years are probably the most important in human history.”
While the report details the challenges that this world faces, it also offers opportunities to find innovative ways counter and stem the rising tide that is climate change. Solutions from the Land (SfL) demonstrates the efforts being made in agriculture to address growing, climate-related risks. Among other strategies, SfL’s farmer leaders promote the use of production and conservation practices – cover crops, enhanced crop rotation, rotational grazing, and no- and low-till farming – to capture carbon in soil. As a result, soil health and crop resilience are enhanced, and the amount of climate-warming carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere is lowered.
SfL is facilitating farmer-led, multi-stakeholder adaptive management planning initiatives at the continental level through its North America Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance platform.
SfL is also heavily engaged at the state level; for example, it facilitated the North Carolina Agriculture and Forestry Adaptation Work Group (NC-ADAPT), which explored the impacts of increasingly extreme weather events and changing climatic conditions on the agricultural and forestry sectors of the state. The effort resulted in the construction of an adaptive management plan to improve agriculture and forestry resiliency against such weather events as the state has faced this season, as well as further enhance the economic viability of these sectors for decades to come.
SfL is spearheading a multi-year project designed to help Ohio farmers adapt to a changing climate, improve the resiliency of their operations, and boost a wide array of ecosystem services from their land. The Ohio Smart Agriculture: Solutions from the Land project, which also aims to support local communities by producing nutritious food, builds on multi-stakeholder partnerships that have been developing in the state around water quality, food policy and sustainable agriculture ideas. The initiative is bringing together innovators through dialogue and planning to both improve climate resiliency, and achieve nutrition, energy, environmental, health and economic goals.
In Missouri, SfL has since January been facilitating a working group of the state’s farming and forestry leaders to examine the potential impacts changing climatic conditions are having on their sectors in the state, assess whether an adequate strategy to help producers adapt is in place, and explore ways to protect and enhance the state’s invaluable soil resources. The work group has also learned how food, beverage and agribusiness companies are responding to consumer sustainability expectations throughout the supply chain. A final report is expected to be released later this month.
The agricultural sector can also benefit from the production of renewable energy, a solution pathway the IPCC says must play a critical role in avoiding carbon emissions. Through the 25x’25 platform since 2006, and more recently under the SfL aegis, we have promoted clean energy alternatives generated by rural America, including ethanol, biodiesel, wind, solar, geothermal and hydropower.
The IPCC report makes clear that time for action is now. While there remains political debate over the causes of climate change, it is virtually undisputed is that it is happening and is a growing threat to how we produce food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystem services. We call on SfL partners and all stakeholders to reach out to policymakers on all levels and impress upon them the urgency that must be acknowledged to meet and address the challenges of a changing climate. Urge national, state and community leaders to adopt and embrace policies that make agricultural and forestry landscapes more resilient in sustainably producing food, feed, fiber, energy and ecosystem services, all while simultaneously reducing and sequestering greenhouse gases.