From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : Nothing much
Mains level : Climate change impact on food systems
The latest IPCC report on ‘Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems’ states that the land surface air temperature has risen by nearly twice the global average temperature, at about 1.3°C.
The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global warming of 1.5°C said that human activities have caused a 0.87°C rise in global average temperature over pre-industrial times.
- World’s land systems have a direct impact on human well-being, livelihood, food security, and water security.
- Desertification of land under agricultural use will exacerbate the already worsening dangers of declining crop yields and crop failures.
What needs to be done
- It requires the implementation of measures from several remedial options proposed in the report such as reduced tillage, planting cover crops, improvements in grazing management and greater use of agroforestry.
- Maintaining and extending forest cover is important as forests act as enormous natural carbon sinks.
Challenges to India
- The dilution of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) in India seems regressive.
- Agriculture in India accounts for more than an estimated 86% of the country’s freshwater use. The water intensity of Indian paddy is also below global best practices.
- 2019 HIMAP report by ICIMOD has shown that with receding glaciers, there is a need to manage water better both in the short and in the long run to address the challenge of food security.
- Consumption and waste management in the food sector are considered to have climate implications as well.
- Industrial development and environmental protection can be planned prudently to be compatible.
- Land sparing industrialisation, appropriate zoning and environmental safeguards are possible without the replacement of the ecological services provided by the forest ecosystem.
- Global assessment reports have shown that consulting indigenous people is an important way of integrating local knowledge with scientific knowledge.
- Water management is also critical. Union government has taken up the goal of “irrigation water productivity”. Other solutions include
- Promoting compatible irrigation practices like drip irrigation, sprinkler irrigation
- Shifting away from water-intensive cash crops
- Alternate wetting and drying (AWR) practices in paddy cultivation
- Extension services for providing access
- Sensitizing farmers to efficient water use technologies and practices
- Use of water-efficient agricultural practices
- Traditional rainwater harvesting practices like building tanks and artificial ponds in low-lying catchment areas
- A shift towards a more plant-based based diet is considered a healthy sustainable dietary option in the IPCC report.
- The UN estimates that the world’s population could breach 9.7 billion by 2050, so there is a need to augment food supplies per unit availability of land and water. This shift is even more important for India due to a largely poor population.
- Diversification of the food system, balanced diets, low meat diets is all identified with health benefits, adaptation, mitigation, and sustainable development benefits.
- Livestock sector management with crop management is necessary for multiple benefits.
- Education can play an important role in managing meat consumption. Market incentives to need to be aligned with human health benefits.
There are some cultural advantages and multiple options for India for adopting sustainable practices to avoid a carbon-intensive development path.