Global Climate Change and Its Impact on Agriculture

Global Climate Change and Its Impact on Agriculture
Manisha Shukla,
Assistant Professor,
Department of Economics,
Mahila Mahavidyalaya Post Graduate College, Kidwai Nagar, Kanpur: U. P.

Climate change is one of the greatest environmental threats for the sustainable development of various economies of the world. Global climate change is the result of the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere. The main cause of Green House Gases (GHG) emission is increased human activities releasing Carbon dioxide (CO2) and deforestation. Greater the climate change more will be the impact on weather condition resulting into flood and storms. Changes in the pattern of rain fall due to El-Nino events are causing danger to the endemic floura and fauna all over the world. Major example of destruction to human life and property can be seen from Tsunami which took place in the island of Sumatra at Indonesia due to impact of climate change. CO2 emission is basically a stock pollutant mainly responsible for climate change because CO2 emitted 100-150 years back still appears to be prevalent in the current stock of GHG’s, so the emission of today will pose a threats to the future generation.

Agriculture is the first culture that mean learnt to practice as a means of living and a way of life. It is primary sector of developed or developing any economy. The agricultural sector is a driving force in the gas emission and land use effects. In addition to being a significant user of land and consumer of fossil fuel, agriculture contributes directly to greenhouse emissions through practices such as rice production and the raising of live stock. There are three main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases observed in past 250 years have been fossil fuels, land use, and agriculture. Agriculture is itself responsible for an estimated one third of global warming and climate change.

Climate and agriculture are interrelated process, both of which take place on a global scale. Global warming is projected to have significant impacts on conditions of affecting agriculture, including temperature, precipitation and glacial run off. These conditions determine the carrying capacity of the biosphere to produce enough food for the human population and domesticated animals. Rising CO2 levels would also have effects, both detrimental and beneficial on crop yields. The overall effect of climate change on agriculture will depend on the balance of these effects. Assessment of effects of global climate change on agriculture might help to properly anticipate and adapt farming to maximize agricultural production.

It is obvious that the impact of climate change has been felt on agriculture sector. Economist reveals that agro development needs to focus on decrease GHG emission through sundry measures namely enhance the forest coverage area, improve conservation and its management, efficient management of livestock waste [through biogases recover], develop scientific instrument and more expenditure on research etc. it is necessary to make huge investments to support climate change to adoption, mitigation, transfer and dissemination.

The global climate system is consequences of and a link between the atmosphere, earth, ocean, ice, and the land system. Any change to this system resulting in climate change is produced by forcing agent - the cause of climate change. Such forcing agents may be either internal or external. External forcing mechanism involves agents acting from outside the climate system.

Climate includes patterns of temperature, precipitation, humidity wind, and seasons. Climate change affects more than just a change in the weathers; it refers to seasonal changes over a long period of time. These climate patterns play a fundamental role in shaping natural ecosystems and the human economies and cultures that depend on them. Because so many systems are tied to climate, a change in climate can affect many related aspects of where and how people, plants and animals live, such as food production, availability and use of water and health risks. For example, a change in the usual timing of rains or temperatures can affect when plants bloom and set fruit, when insects hatch or when streams are their fullest. This can affect historically synchronized pollination of crops, food for migrating birds, swimming of fish, water supplies for drinking and irrigation, forest health and more.

Climate change is one of the greatest environmental threats for the sustainable development of various economics of the world to the future generation.

In recent years climate changes has become synonymous to global warming. But the climate has more variables than just the temperature. Moreover, when one asks what impact climate change has on human life one has to take into consideration the connection between various climate variables (such as temperature, or the amount of perception) and human activities (such as agriculture).

Vulnerability to climate change will mainly depend on economic position and infrastructure capacity of nations, climate changes effects will impose significant additional stress on ecological and socio-economic system, but currently these systems, but currently these systems are burdened by pollution, natural recourses scarcities, and other unsustainable practices. Technologically advanced countries are prepared well for responding to climate changes, particularly by developing and establishing suitable policies institutional and social capable for dealing with the consequences. But the poor and the developing countries are mostly affected by climate change, because they are not having enough and sound technologies or scientific development to deal with this impact. In developing countries like India, climate change is an additional burden because ecological and socio-economic systems are already facing pressures from rapid population, industrialization, and economic development. India’s climate could become warmer under conditions of increases atmospheric carbon dioxide. The average temperature change is predicted to be in the range of 2.33ºC to 4.78ºC with the doubling in CO2 concentrations.

Global climate change due to rising levels of GHGs in the atmosphere is one of the most serious environmental concerns of our time. The inter-government Panel on climate Change (IPCC), established in 1988 by the world Metrological organization and the United Nations Environment Program, has worked extensively on evaluating past trends and the future prospects of climate change. The synthesis report of the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Panel was released in November 2007.

The IPCC reports present a grim picture. It is estimated that the Earth’s surface temperature has risen by 0.6±0.07ºC per decade and the recent years have been the warmest since 1860, the year from which regular instrumental records are available. The Panel has concluded that the fact of global warming is unequivocal and there is enough evidence to indicate that this is due to anthropogenic reasons. Although some of these conclusions have been disputed, the assessment of the IPCC represents a broad and growing consensus in the scientific community world wide. The current level of atmospheric CO2 is estimated as 379 parts per million (ppm) compared with the pre-industrial level of only 280 ppm. The annual growth rate of CO2 concentration has been greater in the last 10 years (1.9 ppm/yr) compared to the last 40 years (1.4 ppm/year). Halocarbons (Chlorofluoro- carbons, etc) in the atmosphere, however, are observed to be decreasing due to be decreasing due to their phase out under the Montreal protocol.

The Green House Effect
The green house effect occurs as a result of green house gases trapping the sun’s heat and keeping it close to the earth. Anyone who has parked a closed car in the sun for a few hours on a summer day has experienced something like the green house effect. The “green house effect” refers to how gases in the earth’s atmosphere naturally keep the earth warm; similar to how a greenhouse keeps plants warm, hence the name. The earth is natural green house effect keeps it about 60 degrees warmer than it would be otherwise. This enables us to live comfortable on earth (NOAA).

Although many “green house gases’’ occur naturally, human activities have increases their level and added new ones. Green house gases of concerned include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases. Scientist says that increased levels of theses gases are contributing to climate changes. Water vapor is the most abundant greenhouse gas, but human activity isn’t considered a direct cause of changes in its concentration. However a warming atmosphere can trigger change in water vapor levels. (NOAA) some examples of activity that contributes to green house gas levels;
  • Burning fossils fuels – Oil, gasoline, gas, and coal.
  • Industrial Processing and mining.
  • Landfills, septic and sewer system.
  • Agriculture practices, including fertilizer and manure management,
  • Land use practices, including deforestation.
The agricultural sector is a driving force in the gas emissions and land use effects. In addition to being a significant user of land and consumer of fossil fuel, agriculture contributes directly to greenhouse gas emissions through practices such as rice production and the raising of livestock. According to IPCC, the three main causes of the increase in greenhouse gases observed over the past 250 years have been fossil fuels, land use, and agriculture. Agriculture is itself responsible for an estimated one third of global warming and climate change. It is generally agreed that about 25% of the main greenhouse gas, carbon-dioxide, is produced by agricultural sources, mainly deforestation and burning of biomass. Most of the methane in the atmosphere comes from domestic. So main forest fires, wet land rice cultivation and waste products, while conventional tillage and fertilizer use account for 70% of the nitrous oxides. The food and Agriculture Organization has estimated that meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. These are generated during the production of animal feeds. Ruminants particularly cows, emit methane which is 23 times more effective as global warming agent than carbon dioxide.

Effects on Agriculture
One of the most important questions to ask is how climate change affects the agriculture. Various studies have shown that a dire future awaits Africa. As the mountains glaciers melt completely (as they are no longer replenished by snow) many regions will be left with substantial water shortages.

But until recently climate studies were not able to properly model the impacts on agriculture because they only took temperature into consideration, while agriculture is most influenced by precipitations. “Even though the question often posed involves the impact of global warming on agriculture the real question ought to be ‘what is the effect of drought?’ said the Indiana state climatologist Dev Niyogi. To change this situation Niyogi’s team took into consideration four factors and their mutual interactions; temperature, precipitation and land use. Their study concluded that the lack of precipitation will have the most dramatic effect on living conditions in the future due to the impact on the sustainability of agriculture crops. Land use is also relevant because the urban temperature are large than rural ones.
Niyogi described the complex interactions between the four factors; “When temperature raises, more evaporation. More evaporation could lead to more clouds. More clouds might lead to change in radiation. Changes in radiation can impact the amount of conversation- the heating of the environment by the rising air, this lead to formation of rain, which can change the soil moisture again and again”.

Agriculture will be impacted by climate change in several ways. There will be reduced crop yield for example, an increase of temperature from 1 to 14ºC can reduce grain yield of rice by 0-49%, potato by 5-40%, green gram by 13-30%, Soya bean by 11-36%. Climate change can shorten Rabi season and decrease yield. Vulnerability diseases and pest attack increases. High temperatures affect the quality of produce. Increase in temperature can reduce 1000 grain weight and the amylase content and also adversely affected grain elongation and aroma in basmati.

Increase in temperature causes distress to dairy animals affecting milk production. Studies indicated that India loses 1.8 million tones of milk production due to climate stresses.
The Impact on Crop Yield
The overall impact of baseline climate change by 2080 is a drastic reduction in agricultural productivity (output per hectare) of 16% without carbon fertilization, and a reduction of 3% should carbon fertilization benefits actually matter of course when results are weighted by output, as in the table:

Table: Agricultural Productivity (% change in agricultural potential)
S. No.
Without CF1
With CF2
Output -Weighted
Population -Weighted
Median by Country
Industrial countries
Developing Countries excludes Europe
Middle  East and North Africa
Latin America
  • Assumes no benefits to crop yields from increased carbon dioxide in atmosphere.
  • Assumes a positive impact on yields from carbon fertilization.
Agricultural productivity improves as temperatures go from cold to warm, then deteriorates going from warm to hot. According to Sinha and Swaminathan (1991) increase of 2 degree centigrade temperature could decrease the rice yield by about 0.75ton/ha in the high yielding areas and a 0.5 degree centigrade increase in winter temperature would reduce wheat yield by 0.45ton/ha. The Indian council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has estimated that annual wheat output may decline by four to five million tones with every one degree Celsius rise in temperature. Climate change and agriculture are interrelated.

The Impact of Fisheries

In the short term, climate change is expected to affect fresh water fisheries through changes in water temperature, nutrient levels and lower dry season water levels which in turn will have impact on quality, productivity, output and viability of fish and aqua culture enterprises their by effecting fishing community. In the longer term, larger changes in the river flows are anticipated as glaciers melt reducing their capacity to sustain regular and controlled water flow.

The Impact of Land
Rising sea levels owing to climate change would force communities in low line coastal areas and river deltas to move higher ground levels. Similarly increasing frequency of droughts due to climate change would force formers and pastoralists on relay on rain fall to raise their frogs and live stocks to migrate areas in search of land and water. This migration displacement of people result direct conflict and completion between migrants and established communities for excess to land and water. It may be difficult for displaced community to maintain their forming or pastoral tradition.

The Impact of Hydrology and water Resources
Climate change will affect drinking, irrigation and hydro power production. It will have an impact on the predictability and variability of water and also increase in frequencies of drought and floods. Climate change will accelerate damage to fresh water, eco system such as lake, marshes, rivers, hill side, stone slide, and problems in water shade management. it is estimated that by 2050 annual run of off Brahmaputra is to decline by 14% and Indus by 27% ocean chemistry is changing more than 100 times rapidly than it was during last 2100 years. In India a study conducted by Unnikrishanan and Shankar also showed a trend of 1.06 to 1.75 mm rise of sea level per year since industrial revelations, ocean has become 30% more acidic and sea fish under threats. Climate change related melting of glacier could seriously affect half billion people in Himalaya-Hindu-Kush region a quarter billion people in china, depending on glacier melt for water supplies.

Effect on Erosion and Fertility
The warmer atmospheric temperatures observed over the past decade are expected to lead to a more vigorous hydrological cycle, including more extreme rain fall events. Erosion and soil degradation is more likely to occur. Soil fertility would also be affected by global warming. However the ratio of carbon to nitrogen is a constant, a doubling of carbon is likely to imply a higher storage of nitrogen in soils as nitrates, thus providing higher fertilizing elements for plants providing better yields. The average needs for nitrogen could decrease and give the opportunity of changing often costly fertilization strategies.

Effect on Livestock
Livestock also emit some gas which leads to climate change. In the case of methane emissions from the livestock sector, it has been perceived that although cross bred cattle emit relatively more methane per animal, the bulk of the total discharges are accounted for by buffaloes and indigenous cattle due to their far larger population. Out of the total livestock sector’s GHG emissions’ female buffaloes contributed 59.6% followed by indigenous Cows 28.9% and cross bred Cows 11.5% the total emissions from this sector are reckoned at 9.37 Tg, varying in different years from 7.26 Tg. To 10.4 Tg.

Adoption and Mitigation
  • India needs to chart multiple strategies to cope with the impending threats of climate change, which are additional to the existing environmental stresses. This should include a) Research for improved understanding of climate change- related issues; b) The adoption of sustainable development pathways; c) Increasing the adaptive capacity of the poor; and d) Working towards a global arrangement to reduce ambitions of green house gases at the earliest. 
  • The synergy, or trade-off, between addressing climate change and economic development from the long term perspective needs to be understood. India should not focus only on short term financial gain from climate change-related global institutions and mechanisms. The government should treat it as a fundamental problem with potentially serious adverse socio-economic and environmental consequence. It should seek long term solutions to mitigate climate change to reduce its adverse impact on the poor. 
  • Developing climate impact modules that give a better understanding of how climate change affect crop, livestock and fish farming and forestry at a local level in order to be well prepared. 
  • Agricultural Research Institutes and Universities have already been engaged in researching drought resistant and saline resistant crop varieties for arid regions and rainfall tolerant and short duration varieties for flood proven regions. Government and private sector will have to invest substantially in agricultural research on one hand and motivate/ train farmer to take better advantage of the dry rabi season in the flood proven regions help them supplement their income through non- farm activities on the other. 
  • To develop land use plans, food security programs, fisheries and forestry politics that can help farming community suitably adapt to climate change. 
  • Improve management of livestock population especially ruminants and its diet. Increase soil organic carbon through minimal tillage residue management. 
  • Improve energy use efficiency in agriculture through better designs of machinery and by resource conversation practice. 
  • Huge funds are required for adoption. A new model of development is required to give urgency to copping with climate change. Funds are required to go in for researching crop varieties that are resident to drought heat and floods that sequester more carbon and can make better bio-fuels. Beside other sectors too need funs adapt as well. 
  • Agro-forestry that is cultivation of trees together with crop can help formers cope with several of the adverse consequences of climatic change. Planting of trees between the crops and in the boundaries around crops can help prevent soil erosion restore soil fertility and provide shade for other crops. The practice of improved fallow also holds great promise. Optimal use of retained rain water through agro-forestry practice could be one of the effective ways of improving adapting capacity of the systems to the climate changes.
Climate changes and agriculture are inseparably linked global scale, both affecting and influencing the other. Agriculture development needs to focus on decrease CHG emission through sundry measures namely, enhance the forest coverage area, improve conservation and its management, efficient management of livestock waste [through biogas recover], develop scientific instrument and more expenditure on research etc. the government should emphasis on climate change adoption issues in development strategies and programmes. It is necessary to make sufficient investments to support climate change to adoption and mitigation, technology development, transfer and dissemination among formers. Any delay in action to address the climate change will make future action more expensive and even more difficult to agree upon.

  1. V. S. Ramakrishna et. al., Impacts of Climate Change Scenarios on Indian Agriculture
  2. Inter-Governmental Panel on climate change, 2001, Climate Change2001: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Third assessment report, Bonn, P.556
  3. UNDP 2009 Human development report; 2003, United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Oxford University, New York.
  4. Anil Kumar Thakur, Mohan Patel, Global Climate Change and Sustainable Development.
  5. Shabir Ahmad Padder, Climate Change-Impact on Agriculture, Kurukshetra. 


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