The term “weather” refers to how the atmosphere behaves in a specific area over a short period of time, usually hours or days. “Climate” refers to general weather patterns over a broad area for a long period. Both weather and climate account for qualities like temperature, precipitation, and humidity.
Both climate and weather are often used together. But climate is different from the weather because it is measured over a long period of time, whereas weather can change from day to day, or from year to year. The climate of an area includes seasonal temperature and rainfall averages, and wind patterns. Different places have different climates. Climate change is the long-term alteration of temperature and typical weather patterns in a place. Climate change could refer to a particular location or the planet as a whole. Climate change may cause weather patterns to be less predictable.
These unexpected weather patterns can make it difficult to maintain and grow crops in regions that rely on farming because expected temperature and rainfall levels can no longer be relied on. Climate change is a natural process that is undergone on the planet from its beginning. But the problem we are facing now is the accelerated rate of climate change due to human intervention.
What Causes Climate Change?
Global Warming is one of the major causative issues for climate change. Certain gases in the atmosphere block heat from escaping. Long-lived gases that remain semi-permanently in the atmosphere and do not respond physically or chemically to changes in temperature are described as “forcing” climate change. The major gases that contribute to global warming are: Water vapor, Carbon dioxide, Chloro-Fluro carbons, methane, nitrous oxide, etc.
The causes of these rising emissions are:
- Burning coal, oil, and gas produce carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide.
- Cutting down forests (deforestation). Trees help to regulate the climate by absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. When they are cut down, that beneficial effect is lost and the carbon stored in the trees is released into the atmosphere, adding to the greenhouse effect.
- Increasing livestock farming. Cows and sheep produce large amounts of methane when they digest their food.
- Fertilizers containing nitrogen produce nitrous oxide emissions.
- Fluorinated gases are emitted from equipment and products that use these gases. Such emissions have an extraordinarily strong warming effect, up to 23,000 times greater than CO2.
Food And Climate Change
A stronger greenhouse effect will warm the ocean and partially melt glaciers and ice sheets, increasing the sea level. Ocean water also will expand if it warms, contributing further to sea-level rise. This will eventually affect the marine species and on a bigger scale, the land available for the production and cultivation of crops reduce on a larger scale unnoticeably which will cause issues in the food supply throughout the globe.
Outside of a greenhouse, higher atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels can have both positive and negative effects on crop yields. Some laboratory experiments suggest that elevated CO2 levels can increase plant growth. However, other factors, such as changing temperatures, ozone, and water and nutrient constraints, may more than counteract any potential increase in yield. If optimal temperature ranges for some crops are exceeded, earlier possible gains in yield may be reduced or reversed altogether.
Climate extremes, such as droughts, floods, and extreme temperatures, can lead to crop losses and threaten the livelihoods of agricultural producers and the food security of communities worldwide. Depending on the crop and ecosystem, weeds, pests, and fungi can also thrive under warmer temperatures, wetter climates, and increased CO2 levels, and climate change will likely increase weeds and pests.
Finally, although rising CO2 can stimulate plant growth, research has shown that it can also reduce the nutritional value of most food crops by reducing the concentrations of protein and essential minerals in most plant species. Climate change can cause new patterns of pests and diseases to emerge, affecting plants, animals, and humans, and posing new risks for food security, food safety, and human health.
The extent and degree of warming are going to get more severe. As carbon emissions continue and those which are built into the climate system take effect, temperatures across the world are expected to increase between 3-5 degree Celsius by 2100. India is among the countries which are likely to bear the worst of a warming planet due to its tropical location and relatively lower levels of income.
The global population is expected to increase from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 8.5 billion by 2030 and 9.7 billion by 2050. According to the United Nation’s World Population Prospects (June 2019), the Indian population is projected to increase from 1.36 billion in 2019 to 1.5 billion by 2030 and 1.64 billion by 2050.
The solution to climate change will come from science alone. In 2011, research on the impact of climate change on agriculture and possible ideas to mitigate the risk was started by the Union agriculture ministry, and the National Innovations on Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) was launched through the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The primary objective was to develop suitable technologies for production and risk management for crops, livestock, and fisheries.
The research was undertaken at seven major institutions of ICAR across India. NICRA has identified 151 climatically vulnerable districts but politicians in many of these states may be oblivious to this. Research on impact assessment on crops was conducted using simulation models for climate projections for 2020, 2050, and 2080. Simulations show that the yield of rice in irrigated areas may decrease by 7% in 2050 and 10% in 2080. The yield of maize in irrigated areas of Kharif was projected to decline by 18% by 2020.
The yield of maize did decline in 2018-19 due to low rainfall in several maize growing areas but better rainfall in July and August 2019 may have ensured that the projection of decrease in maize yield may not happen again in 2019-20.
Research at the National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal has found that heat stress harms the reproduction traits of cows and buffaloes, and their fertility will be adversely impacted.
Scientists of the Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute have found that fish species on the east coast may be much more vulnerable to climate change than fish varieties found on the west coast. Climate change will impact ocean current, acidification, temperature, and food availability. All of this will affect the production of fish.
NICRA has projected that rice and wheat in Indo-Gangetic plains, sorghum, and potato in West Bengal and sorghum, potato, and maize in the southern plateau are likely to see reduced productivity. The study also found that the productivity of soybean, groundnut, chickpea, and potato in Punjab, Haryana, and western Uttar Pradesh may go up. Similarly, the productivity of apples in Himachal Pradesh may increase. An increase in temperature and rainfall pattern may also result in a lower yield of cotton in north India.
Solutions and Development from India
Scientists have been working hard to breed varieties of different crops that are climate resilient. One such success is Sahbhagidhan, a variety of paddy which was jointly developed by the International Rice Research Institute and Central Rainfed Upland Rice Research Station of ICAR at Hazaribagh. It was released in 2010 and since then, it has gained success in uplands in eastern India in drought conditions. It matures in 105 days while most other varieties take 120-150 days to maturity. Farmers can plant another crop after harvesting this.
IRRI is also breeding a flood-tolerant variety of paddy by manipulating genes to get better strains which can enable paddy rice to survive for up to 15 days of submergence in floodwater. It has identified such varieties in Odisha and Sri Lanka which have a Sub 1 gene. If and when this flood-tolerant variety is released either through breeding or through genetic modification, farmers in flood-prone regions would be keen to accept it, even if activists are opposed to the release of new GM varieties in India.
Research on climate-resilient varieties of wheat, mustard, lentil, chickpea, mung bean, groundnut, and soybean are also under progress in various institutions of ICAR.
What can we do?
When it comes to climate change, the major question that arises in everyone’s mind is that what can a single person do in it. There are many things’ individuals can do in reducing the pace of climate change. Some of them are:
- Speak Up:
Raising voices is an easy and most effective solution against any huge problem in the current era of social media. The issues can reach up to the government and policymakers, which is in fact happening now from various parts of the world.
- Switch to Renewable energy:
Switching to possible renewable energy sources will reduce the carbon emission in the atmosphere.
- Invest in Energy Efficient Appliances:
This is a basic thing which each individual can focus on if he/she wants to take part in climate protection activities.
- Reduce water wastage:
Saving water reduces carbon pollution, too. That is because it takes a lot of energy to pump, heat, and treat your water. So, take shorter showers, turn off the tap while brushing your teeth, and switch to Water Sense-labeled fixtures and appliances.
- Reduce Food wastage:
The food industry uses a tremendous amount of energy per year to feed the global population. Food wastage hence has a drastic effect on climate change. If you’re wasting less food, you’re likely cutting down on energy consumption. And since livestock products are among the most resource-intensive to produce, cutting down the excess meat consumption can make a big difference, too.
- Shrink your Carbon Profile:
You can offset the carbon you produce by purchasing carbon offsets, which represent clean power that you can add to the nation’s energy grid in place of power from fossil fuels.
Countries that are most vulnerable to climate change have typically been responsible for a small share of global emissions, which raises questions about justice and fairness. Climate change is strongly linked to sustainable development. Limiting global warming makes it easier to achieve sustainable development goals, such as eradicating poverty and reducing inequalities. The goals on food, clean water, and ecosystem protection have synergies with climate change mitigation.