The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the final part of its Sixth Assessment report on 20th March 2023. This report is a holy grail to understanding climate change and its possible consequences. This report is the work output of thousands of research papers from multiple disciplines, from science to social sciences. The report highlights some of the key findings and possible climate catastrophes in future. This report also provides an overview of different adaptation and mitigation measures for governments and the public to tackle this climate crisis. The adverse effects of climate change can be observed in water availability and food productivity, health and well-being, infrastructure, biodiversity and ecosystems. One key aspect is the impact on the agricultural sector and food security.
The report suggests a significant reduction in crop production in this changing climate soon with a medium confidence level. According to the report, approximately 3.3–3.6 billion people are highly vulnerable to climate change. People from Africa, Asia, Central and South America, LDCs, Small Islands and the Arctic, and globally for Indigenous Peoples, small-scale food producers and low-income households may face acute food insecurity and water scarcity due to rising extreme weather events caused by climate change. The reports also suggest that the mortality rate due to flood and drought-affected regions has increased 15 times higher between 2010 and 2020, compared to the low vulnerable region with high confidence.
Eventually, climate change has reduced food security and hampered water security, making it more challenging to meet Sustainable Development Goals (high confidence). However, this report suggests that overall agricultural productivity has increased in recent decades. However, climate change has significantly slowed global crop production growth over the past 50 years with medium confidence. There is an impact in mid- and low-latitude regions and a positive impact in some high-latitude regions with high confidence. Similarly, climate change is also causing ocean warming and ocean acidification, adversely affecting food productivity from the fishery industry.
Source: IPCC AR6
The report suggests that changes in projected maize yield by 2080–2099 compared to 1986–2005 at projected Global warming levels (GWL) of 1.6°C–2.4°C (SSP126), 3.3°C–4.8°C (SSP370) and 3.9°C–6.0°C (SSP585). The results show an increasing pink pattern (decreasing) with rising temperature and indicating few green patches over South America and Africa.
The map indicates that <70% of the global agricultural land is under the sign of significant impact.
Similarly, there will be a massive drop in fisheries productivity by 2081–2099 compared to 1986–2005 at projected GWLs of 0.9°C–2.0°C (1.5°C) and 3.4°C–5.2°C (4.3°C) under RCP2.6 and RCP8.5 respectively. The map clearly shows a wide area of pink patches covering tropical and subtropical regions. In the Indian context, agricultural and fishery production will decline until the government carefully acts on adaptation and mitigation plans. In the previous IPCC assessment report (AR5), various adaptation and mitigation strategies have been mentioned precisely. Some of the adaptation strategies mentioned for sustainable agriculture are given as the Early warning systems, Hazard & Vulnerability mapping, Diversifying water resources, New crop & animal varieties, Indigenous, traditional & local knowledge, technologies & methods, Efficient irrigation, Water-saving technologies, Desalinisation, Conservation agriculture, Food storage & preservation facilities, Ecological restoration, Soil conservation, Afforestation & reforestation, Controlling overfishing, Fisheries co-management, Assisted species migration & dispersal, Ecological corridors, Seed banks, gene banks & other ex-situ conservation, and finally, Community-based natural resource management. Each adaptation strategy has pros and cons to execute regarding cost and infrastructure. Nonetheless, the most affected groups will be the smallholder farmers; for example, in India, more than 80% of the farmers fall into that group. On the other hand, several mitigation strategies are mentioned under the Agriculture, Forestry, and Other Land Use (AFOLU) category. For example, Emissions reduction measures, Sequestration options, Substitution options, and Demand-side measures. Under these mitigation measures, the commoners and government can act upon various aspects such as Livestock management ( Methane emission reduction); reducing the usage of fertilisers reducing nitrous oxide emission; conserving and increasing the existing carbon pools through sustainable forest management, managing deforestation & degradation, preventing forest fire and investing on agroforestry, Carbon sequestration in soil; Usage of biological products instead of fossil/GHG intensive products (e.g., bioenergy, insulation products); and then reduction of loss and waste of food, changes in human diets, use of long-lived wood products. These measures come at some cost and may only help adequately achieve the sustainable goal of a hunger-free future in this climate crisis.