In the coming decades, increased demand from a growing population will intersect with rising temperatures, changes in precipitation patterns, and other climate-related hazards to put unprecedented pressure on food and agricultural commodities. Of the many risks we are exposed to from a changing climate, perhaps one of the most important relates to agriculture and food security.
To help business understand climate risks and strategies for resilience in the agriculture sector, BSR has been working with the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, the Cambridge Judge Business School, and the European Climate Foundation to translate thousands of pages of science prepared by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for its Fifth Assessment Report. Our goal is to distill climate science into concise, relevant, and actionable findings for companies.
The resulting report is “Climate Change: Implications for Agriculture.” It is one of a series of thirteen, which includes briefs on primary industries and extractives (which BSR also coauthored), investors and financial institutions, and energy.
Key findings of the agriculture summary report include:
- Climate-related impacts are already reducing crop yields, a trend that is projected to continue as temperatures rise.
- Farmers can adapt to some changes, but there is a limit to what can be managed if we exceed a 2C global temperature increase.
- Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture comprised about 10-12 percent of manmade GHG emissions in 2010, and agriculture is the largest contributor of non-carbon GHGs like methane.
- Important opportunities to reduce emissions from agriculture include land-use change and management of land and livestock.
- The potential for reducing GHG emissions through changes in consumption may be substantially higher than mitigation options.
Implications for Asia
Greenhouse gas emissions linked to agriculture are highest in Asia, and climate change will be particularly hard on agricultural production in the region, causing declines in productivity in the range of 18-32 percent in Southeast Asia by 2080. Water scarcity challenges may also be significant, with any shifts in precipitation compounded by increased water demand from population growth, increased consumption per capita, and poor management. The impacts on agriculture will spread beyond individual farmers and communities to affect global businesses and their supply networks.
BSR is working with food and agriculture companies and other public and private sector partners to strengthen resilience in Asia. Our work on reducing supply chain GHG emissions recognizes that true resilience requires an aggressive approach to mitigation. Our work with farmers on sustainability training balances technical education with guidance on tested approaches to development. Our work on biodiversity and ecosystem services acknowledges the value of natural resources in supporting livelihoods and natural defenses in the face of climate impacts. And our work through the HERproject helps build adaptive capacity in vulnerable communities, particularly women, by empowering them with information and access to resources in the workplace and wider community.
We hope to expand our work to translate the recommendations in the climate summary reports into ambitious action through projects with individual companies and through collaborations, in Asia and around the world.
Read more about BSR’s new climate strategy, Business in a Climate-Constrained World, and join us for an event in Hong Kong on July 28 on findings from our AR5 summary reports for agriculture, extractives and primary industries, and transport. We will also discuss BSR’s priorities for Asia under our climate strategy.