G8 climate deal a “step in the right direction” – Jarvis

10 July, 2009 by (comments)

CIAT’s climate change expert Andy Jarvis has welcomed the G8’s decision to limit global temperature rises to no more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The heads-of-state of the world’s most powerful industrialized countries have been meeting in Rome, Italy, this week, with carbon emissions targets high on the agenda.

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The 2-degree cap, agreed on Thursday (July 9th), is a commitment to keep temperature increases within what many scientists regard as a “safe zone”, beyond which global warming becomes irreversible. Jarvis, an award-winning CIAT geographer said it was a positive move: “It’s encouraging that some of the most powerful people in the world are now getting the message about climate change. This is definitely a step in the right direction.”

But he warned the international community against complacency: “Even a 2-degree rise will change the face of agriculture significantly, and already poor farmers everywhere are feeling the effects of rising temperatures and unpredictable rains. Production zones are disappearing and pest and disease pressure is on the rise. Without effective adaptation the result will be more failed harvests and rising global hunger.”

In order to avert a future climate crisis in agriculture, Jarvis called for a fundamental shift in the way the world produces food. “Agriculture must become eco-efficient. This means supporting cutting edge scientific research to make farming more sustainable. We need to move quickly, especially in perennial crops, because the decisions farmers make today will see results in 10-12 years time.”

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For Andy’s message to world leaders in advance of the Copenhagen climate meeting later this year, see here.

Andy also speaks to Colombian newspapers El Diario and La Tarde about the threat of climate change to coffee production. You can see his recent presentation on the subject here.

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Filed Under: Inside CIAT
  • Julian

    The questions that now arises are: how will the world achieve the required 50% reduction by 2050s in order to maintain temperature changes below 2ºC? Which adaptation measures are then required (and where) if this 2 degree target is achieved? and what's the role of CIAT in terms of adaptation technologies in the developing world?

  • Andy Jarvis

    Thanks Julian. It's a massive task. Here at CIAT we see the opportunity to mitigate future climate change in agriculture through an eco-efficient approach. That means more effective use of resources, whilst at the same time being competitive and productive for the farmers themselves. I suspect that there are big opportunities for mitigation in soil carbon, although we'll need to find novel financial mechanisms to reward farmers for investing in soil carbon.

    On the adaptation front, 2 degrees is still a major rise in temperature and has profound impacts on agriculture. CIAT's role is in a number of areas – starting at impact assessment to understand the vulnerabilities in the different crops, cropping systems and livelihoods. Then we need to develop adaptation strategies, be it at the policy level or through technological development. For example, we're looking at how climate change will impact on our commodities, for the breeding programmes to provide new varieties that are climate proofed to a 2020 climate.

    In conclusion, lots to do. Keep reading the blog to stay updated and please do contribute to the discussion. Shortly we'll have a blog for our climate change research, so look out for that!

  • Danielle

    The G8 agreement is one thing but this will require drastic changes in lifestyle. How is the developing world going to be able to do/afford this? One of the reasons the developed world is rich is because it developed when emissions were unregulated. How can the rich countries enforce this new agreement on the poor ones?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02945073804244710995 Neil

    Great question Danielle. As well as the temperature targets, the G8 announced a US$20 billion agricultural development package for poor countries. This money can help. But in order to make the most of the funding, it needs to be invested in the right way. CIAT believes that making agriculture sustainable is crucial to this. This might be easier to do in developing countries because sooner or later rich countries will have to restructure their inefficient industries in order for them to be sustainable. This will be an expensive job. The right kind of investment could allow developing countries to take a short cut, now.

  • Julian

    Definitely agree… developing countries are just at the beginning of the development roadway, so further development needs to be coupled with both adaptation and mitigation of climate change. Further, assessments are only the first step towards a sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change, contextualized and sustainable technologies must be developed and transferred to farmers asap, especially in those sectors in which the most significant impacts are expected.

  • Maya Rajasekharan

    Niel- Yes, $20 billion can certainly help if invested in the right way. What is the right way? I believe the answer is farmers. They are the ones who take the heat of changing climate and unless they take an active role, they won’t be a part of the solution. Farmers have to look for solutions in their own environment to find things they can control. One such example is Quesungual Slash and Mulch Agro forestry System, where a group of farmers emerged resilient to extreme weather like El Niño and Hurricanes. Formula to their success was joint action learning with the help of local institutions. Such farmer innovation combined with CIAT’s research [site specific information and climate proof varieties] can greatly help reduce the uncertainty.

  • http://www.greenelement.co.uk William Richardson

    To Danielle:
    How drastic are our changes going to need to be? What is it that you think we need to do? It is very easy to lead a low carbon life, by which I mean understanding your food miles, buying renewables, watching the travel and being on a general carbon diet! It is amazing what we can achieve through energy awareness and overall environmental awareness.

    Agreed: We developed at a time through overuse of fossil fuels and a disregard to the environment around us. BUT we know an awful lot more now, and this needs to be reflected in discussions with the developing world. We can also utilse the energy sources the developing world have through renewables and other means. This should be seen as a fantastic oppotunity to radically change the way we think. Life WILL be different but this difference should not hinder your standard much the opposite it should enhance your standard of living; done properly. How great would it feel to live in a world where you know that life is fun and carbon free: Esoteric and practical….

    We need to revew the way that we look at our agriculture – with specific reference to Potassium and phosphates. This is a hugely depleting resource that does not need to be this way. We need to close the agriculture circle through a greater understanding of sewage.

    We can really help the developing world on this journey and I think CIAT are doing a fantastic job of this…..