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2009: Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Agriculture

Adaptation and mitigation

Debate about climate change has moved on from discussions about whether change is happening and whether humans have caused it, to what we should do about it. Two sorts of response are common. First, if we accept that climate change is happening, we must also accept that it will have an impact on current agricultural practices and that we must find ways of adapting to a changing situation. A changing climate is likely to mean altered weather regimes and the emergence of new pests and diseases. Such changes may require the adoption of new crop cultivars and livestock breeds that can cope with the new situation and may present new opportunities as previously untenable enterprises become viable.

Much adaptation will take place without policy intervention. As farmers recognise the impact of climate change on yields, they will alter their practices to maximise yields in a new situation. Farmers may change the timing of operations, the choice of crops or livestock breed or the mix of their enterprises. Policy intervention may be required, however, to ensure that farmers can respond when they need to and that support is available as farmers consider their options. Support for research will also be required to ensure that we have the knowledge required to deal with new pests and diseases.

The second response to climate change focuses on mitigation. If we accept that current climate change is primarily caused by human activities, we have to find ways of mitigating, or lessening, the negative contribution that agriculture makes.

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