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1 December, 2010 by (comments)

Farmer testimonials highlight the challenge of adapting agriculture to two degrees of global warming

You hear a lot about “two degrees” nowadays. Conventional wisdom has it that if the international community can contain global temperature rises to within two degrees Celsius by 2050, it can prevent “runaway” global warming that can never be reined back in.

But agricuture is highly vulnerable to even small changes in temperature, which can drastically affect crop suitability and food production. For this reason, two degrees of global warming should not be considered “safe”.

As the Two Degrees Up case studies illustrate, two degrees is too much.

TWO DEGREES UP – PART ONE: COLOMBIA, from the country’s southwestern Cauca Department, the effect of a two-degree rise in temperature is illustrated by comparing farming systems in the same area, but several hundred metres apart in altitude. At higher, cooler elevations, we see small coffee producers who are already seeing the effects of climate change on this vital, high-value cash crop. Move downhill and you get a terrifying glimpse of what the future could hold if temperatures continue to rise: in this former coffee zone you now find abandoned plants, and farmers who have been forced to switch into less profitable crops. For farmers uphill, adapting coffee production to rising temperatures and increasing pest pressure, is crucial. Click to view:

In TWO DEGREES UP – PART TWO: GHANA, from the country’s Upper West region, we see unpredictable rains and rising temperatures compounding the long-running problems of population pressure and declining soil fertility. The result is crop failure. The situation has led to a scramble for farmers to plant near local rivers, and also the migration of farmers further south, to Ghana’s Northern Region, which is two degrees cooler, and has more productive land. Click to view:

These case studies coincide with the launch of the CGIAR’s new climate change research program (CCAFS), led by CIAT, which will be officially unveiled later this week at the United Nations COP16 climate change conference in Mexico. While decision makers in Cancun negotiate the latest high-level climate deals, the stories and testimonies featured in Two Degrees Up give a glimpse of what life is like on the ground, and emphasise the importance of finding sustainable, scientific solutions to enable small farmers around the world to adapt to the challenge of climate change.

These case studies are freely available for all to embed where they see fit. You can access the embed codes through Youtube.

Stay tuned for more.

PS – we love the way Youtube doesn’t give you much control over your video thumbnail…we’re working on a solution. In the meantime, please enjoy the nice Colombian farmscape.

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