Population growth is a decisive element that must be taken into account right away if we are to obtain a better understanding of the relationship between agriculture and climate change. The world population is quickly expanding, and according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), it could reach 9.7 billion by 2050, up from 7.5 billion currently. At the same time, crop yields, mostly grain and corn, might fall by 50% over the next 35 years due to changing climatic conditions.
The output of the global agricultural system has more than doubled since the beginning of the Green Revolution, enhancing food security for an expanding population and satisfying nutritional needs of a growingly affluent global community. There are environmental costs associated with this incredible output. Although there are many obstacles facing global agriculture, the one that may surprise people the most is how agricultural affects our climate.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) from tropical deforestation, methane (CH4) from cattle and rice production, and nitrous oxide (N2O) from burning or fertilizing croplands are the main sources of agricultural greenhouse gases (GHGs). 90% of deforestation, 60% of biodiversity loss, and nearly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) are caused by the way we grow, prepare, package, transport, and consume food. Nonetheless, approximately 900 million people experience food insecurity worldwide.
With the global agri-food system producing 31% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the agriculture industry is a major contributor to climate change. But these effects also affect agriculture, as seen by the 20% global decline in farm production since 1961 brought on by climate change. The agri-food system itself will be more severely impacted if existing methods continue to contribute to global greenhouse gas emissions.
Governments recognized at the 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP26) that soil and nutrient management methods, as well as the optimal use of nutrients, are at the heart of climate-resilient, sustainable food production systems that can contribute to global food security. While livestock management systems are prone to climate change, boosting sustainable production and animal health can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while also improving sinks on pasture and grazing lands.
The United Arab Emirates hosted the COP28 to the UNFCCC from November 30 to December 12, 2023. The COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, a historic proclamation advocating for the transformation of food systems, demonstrates how the UAE, the host nation for COP28, placed the intersection of climate and agriculture as a focal point for its programming. Already, the conference has produced a historic statement for the reform of food systems while the international community appeared to be dedicated to advance climate-smart agriculture and food security.
The Emirates Declaration, which was officially launched at the World Climate Action Summit and was endorsed by FAO, emphasized the critical role of agriculture and food systems in addressing climate change and supporting shared prosperity. It specifies goals such as increasing resilience efforts, promoting food security, and assisting sector workers. It also emphasizes the significance of incorporating climate change into agricultural policies and commits to equitable participation by 2025. Collaboration and progress monitoring are stressed for COP29, with a pledge to continue beyond 2025.
The issue is more serious but, to some part, goes unreported in nations like Bangladesh. Chemical pesticides and fertilizers are severely damaging water supplies in addition to severely deteriorating the soil. It is directly destroying ecosystems by causing the extinction of numerous species. We are becoming more and more reliant on chemical pesticides and fertilizers in an attempt to meet the growing demand for food goods from the growing population. In addition, because we lack land, we are clearing forest regions for harvesting crops in addition to building homes for habitation. Each of these has an impact on climate change.
To keep our food edible for days, we also add other chemical compounds, such as formalin, to it. These substances pose serious health risks and are not good for the environment. Furthermore, neither do these chemically produced foods mix with the soil naturally nor are they consumed by other living creatures. Thus, it is endangering biodiversity and the ecosystem indirectly. These factors make us a hazard to all living things, including humans, and hence, we also contribute in driving climate change.
The government should take immediate actions to motivate the farmers to stop use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides or preservatives. Use of organic feed rather than chemical ones should be promoted. Moreover, manure of the cattle must be stored properly rather than keeping in the open. Climate-smart agricultural methods must be promoted as well as provided assistance all around the nation. Most importantly, we need to take a holistic approach to reduce the contribution of agriculture behind climate change for our own sake.
This years COP28 concentrated even more on certain unexplored areas related to threats associated with climate change and food security. Food that is thrown out uneaten or never gets to the table is projected to account for 8 to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the conference. The first-ever reference of reducing food waste was made in the COP28. Furthermore, the globe must take into account the food waste that occurs from overproduction in certain nations, particularly the affluent ones. Food producers need to send what they grow to the places where it is scarce and not squander a single drop of it.
Few additional actions are needed in addition to the COP28 initiatives. We have to acknowledge that there is a growing need for food due to population growth. Although there are arable lands in many countries, some of these countries need not conduct agricultural production on all of their farmable lands. An agreement between the nations should be in place that would allow one to supply its populations desire for agricultural products grown on the territory of another in exchange for specific incentives. In the event that such an agreement is reached, using chemical pesticides and fertilizers to boost food production will not be necessary.
Although lowering agricultural emissions must be included in the mix of policies to prevent dangerously high levels of climate change, easing the influence of agriculture on our climate is unlikely to be simple. Global agricultural emissions are predicted to rise by at least 30% by 2050 if we continue to meet our food needs in the same way as in the past-that is, with developed countries increasing crop production primarily through yield increases and developing countries increasing crop production primarily through clearing land for agriculture. Deforestation in the name of urbanization or agriculture must be prevented while we focus on other areas to solicit our issues with food security or industrialization.
Given the current situation, it is imperative that all nations take decisive action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural sources while also coming up with creative solutions to guarantee food security. In order to combat this challenge, climate-smart agriculture and shared production may prove to be effective, but they will undoubtedly need collaboration across borders. While we feed every mouth on the earth, we must not enrage the Mother Nature any further.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Editor at Kishore Bangla