Global Partnerships for Climate Change Editor’s note: As part of its on-going effort to build global partnerships, ASABE is sponsoring a series of Global Initiative conferences. The first conference in this series, The 1st Climate Change Symposium: Adaptation and Mitigation, was held in May 2015 in Chicago, Ill. This article, which was also published as an ASABE white paper, summarizes the conference presentations. The next Global Initiative conference, Global Water Security for Agriculture and Natural Resources, will be held in October 2018 in Hyderabad, India (http://asabewater.org). The American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE) has a long history of helping its member engineers solve problems in food, agriculture, natural resources, and the environment. In 2012, ASABE implemented a global initiative, recognizing the need to connect its members with other organizations around the world to address emerging challenges: “ASABE will be among the global leaders that provide engineering and technological solutions toward creating a sustainable world with abundant food, water, and energy, and a healthy environment.” In 2015, ASABE published “Global Partnerships for Global Solutions: An Agricultural and Biological Engineering Global Initiative,” which identified six goals related to food security, energy security, and water security in the context of sustainability and climate change. To further explore these issues, ASABE is hosting a series of Global Initiative Conferences in locations around the world. This paper reports on the first of those conferences, which focused on climate change. The Challenge The 2009 report from the U.S. National Agricultural Biotechnology Council (NABC) indicates that agriculture produces about 10% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which are the major contributor to climate change, and states that agricultural production systems must mitigate their emissions while adapting to the stress of climate change. The NABC report identifies multiple adaptation strategies and emphasizes the importance of education (bringing climate change to classrooms and informing the public), climate modeling with increased precision and reduced uncertainty, soil science as a basis for plant breeding (as well as a sink for carbon), and economics and policy, with the intent that scientists educate policymakers and the public about climate change and its impact on food production. The 2014 U.S. National Climate Assessment recognizes that the effects of human-induced climate change are occurring throughout the U.S. and include increased droughts, floods, heat waves, wildfires, and assaults from invasive species. These extreme events are already affecting our ecosystems (including agricultural, urban/suburban, forest, and wetland areas), while glacial melting, sea level rise, and saltwater intrusion in coastal areas are stressing our water resources. Climate change is also a global concern, as documented by the annual conferences held by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), particularly the 1997 conference that established the Kyoto Protocol. In December 2009, the Copenhagen Accord was drafted by the U.S., China, India, Brazil, and South Africa. The Accord recognized that climate change is one of the greatest challenges of the present day, and that actions must be taken. The draft Accord was debated by all the participating countries, with many countries and non-governmental organizations initially opposed. However, in January 2010, 141 countries signed the Copenhagen Accord. More recently, the 2015 Paris Conference, sponsored by the United Nations, achieved a legally binding agreement to keep global warming below 2°C. Climate change is the most pressing challenge of our time. In responding to this challenge, agricultural and biological engineering will be essential for meeting the food, water, and energy needs of future generations with environmentally and economically sustainable solutions. ASABE’s Response: The First Climate Change Symposium As a first step in responding to this challenge, ASABE organized the “1st Climate Change Symposium: Adaptation and Mitigation,” which was held on May 3-5, 2015, in Chicago, Ill. The symposium was organized around the following topics: • Adaptation strategies • Mitigation strategies • Ecosystem health • Ecosystem sustainability • Climate change modeling • Uncertainty and complexity • Water resources policy. Recognizing the need for partnerships to address climate change, ASABE reached across disciplines and national boundaries to bring together a diverse group of professionals from a range of organizations, including the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, Land Grant and other universities, as well as representatives from other countries and regions, including Canada, South America, Asia, and Europe. Agricultural and biological engineers, hydrologists, soil scientists, atmospheric scientists, plant biologists, animal scientists, and other experts documented the alarming stress that climate change is imposing on agriculture, water resources, and natural ecosystems. These experts presented their research on strategies for adapting to climate change, and on methods and technologies for mitigating emissions of greenhouse gases. The conference proceedings are available from ASABE (see “Further Reading”). The following sections provide highlights of the presentations. Adaptation strategies We are already experiencing changes in climate, as evidenced by longer summers, more severe storms, species migrations, changing patterns of precipitation, and melting glaciers and ice caps. These changes are affecting the availability of natural resources. For example, rising water tables in coastal areas reduce the productive land area, reduce access to clean water for domestic use, and increase flooding and water pollution. Adaptation strategies must be developed to sustain agriculture without further harm to our ecosystems. These strategies include: • Incorporating climate information and sustainable practices into crop production systems. • Using satellites, unmanned aircraft, and computer-based modeling to collect and share climate information that affects crop production. • Implementing large-scale practices for reducing discharges of pollutants, including chemical runoff from agricultural areas. Mitigation strategies The symposium participants demonstrated that mitigation strategies must include more than greenhouse gas emissions. To sustain agricultural production in a changing climate, mitigation strategies must ensure efficient use of all resources?soil, water, air, and energy. Research, education, and public policy must emphasize environmentally sustainable production. Mitigation strategies include: • Producing energy from biomass, such as agricultural waste, without adversely affecting the organic matter content and fertility of the soil. • Assisting farmers in installing digesters to capture methane from animal production, which can generate energy while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. • Using biochar as a soil amendment. Biochar production can transform agricultural waste and other biomass into stable carbon, which can be sequestered in the soil. Biochar can also increase soil water storage, adsorb pollutants in the soil, and reduce water pollution. Ecosystem health Despite the immense benefits that agriculture provides, there is clear evidence that agriculture adversely affects the health of local and regional ecosystems. Deeper understanding of the relationships among climate, agriculture, and native biological communities will help us assess the impacts of climate change on fragile ecosystems. For example, most models of climate change predict increased flooding in the U.S. mid-Atlantic region. This flooding will particularly affect wetlands, which are essential for long-term environmental sustainability through reduction of sediment and pollutants, sequestration of carbon, and control of insect pests, such as disease-carrying mosquitoes. We can improve ecosystem health by abandoning policies that have led to environmental degradation. Ecosystem sustainability Sustainability is the ability of an ecosystem to maintain ecological processes, biodiversity, and productivity into the future. Unfortunately, in many parts of the world, sustainability loses priority when confronted by poverty, food insecurity, water scarcity, and the lack of human health. According to a 2002 report by the United Nations Development Program, more than one billion people lack access to clean water and proper sanitation. Maintaining ecosystem sustainability in a changing climate requires economic and environmental strategies that also maintain the sustainability of our agricultural production systems, for both ecological health and human health. Climate change modeling Because science cannot measure the future climate, climate forecasting must rely on computer-based models. These climate models are generally designed for large areas, such as entire continents, and their resolution is often very coarse. On the other hand, specialized models of hydrology and water quality are frequently applied to ecosystems that range in size from field to watershed, while specific crop models are often applied at field scale. Combining these different modeling scales will allow researchers to forecast the impacts of climate change at the local farm scale as well as the global scale. Uncertainty and complexity As climate scientists, agronomists, and ecologists work together to explore how a changing climate will affect agricultural sustainability and natural ecosystems, they must also evaluate the uncertainty inherent in their models, as well as the uncertainty in climate information. The relationships among climate, crop yields, and natural resources are complex, and projections from oversimplified models will undermine adaptation and mitigation strategies. For example, elevated levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, due to climate change, may actually increase grain yields. Similarly, increased temperatures may increase photosynthesis, and thus increase crop water use, which would offset increased precipitation. Water resources policy According to a 2011 report from the Overseas Development Institute, “water will be the primary medium through which climate change impacts will be felt.” Water scarcity in many parts of the world, unsanitary conditions due to limited fresh water, yield losses due to water shortages, and shrinking lakes and aquifers are all evidence of a growing water crisis. Policies to protect water resources and promote water conservation must be established at regional, national, and global levels. These policies can start by limiting withdrawals of groundwater and other water resources to sustainable levels. In addition, controlled drainage systems can help mitigate climate-induced flooding and drought. Controlled drainage also reduces greenhouse gas emissions and can mitigate the effects of rising temperatures. The Path Forward The ASABE 1st Climate Change Symposium demonstrated that multi-disciplinary collaborations can meet the challenges of climate change. The symposium’s overall findings are as follows: • We are facing an existential threat in climate change, as we must meet basic human needs while enhancing environmental quality and sustaining economic vitality for an increasing population. • We must deal with various forms of uncertainty, including the uncertainty of our own predictions; therefore, we must identify the sources of uncertainty and rigorously verify our results. • Agricultural and biological engineers are uniquely positioned to respond to this challenge. Our work benefits the world?and it would do so without the impetus of climate change. The reality of climate change makes our work essential. Global partnerships will allow us to extend our knowledge, share our experience, and pursue a common strategy for adapting to climate change and mitigating its effects. The ASABE 1st Climate Change Symposium is an example of that collaboration, as ASABE successfully brought together scientists, engineers, and other experts from a variety of backgrounds and regions. Similar efforts and improved communication will lead to workable solutions and an informed society. ASABE is committed to leading this global engagement, and including partners from other engineering societies and professional organizations from around the globe, to address the challenge of climate change. Selected papers from the ASABE 1st Climate Change Symposium were published in Transactions of the ASABE 59(6), and a USB containing 122 extended abstracts is available at: www.asabe.org/CCSymposiumUSB. Further Reading ASABE. (2015). ASABE 1st Climate Change Symposium: Adaptation and Mitigation. St. Joseph, MI: ASABE. Available at www.asabe.org/CCSymposiumUSB. ASABE. (2015). Global partnership for global solutions: An agricultural and biological engineering global initiative. St. Joseph, MI: ASABE. Available at www.asabe.org/media/195967/globalinitiative.pdf. NABC. (2009). Adapting agriculture to climate change. Report 21. Ithaca, NY: National Agricultural Biotechnology Council. Available at http://nabc.cals.cornell.edu/Publications/Reports/pubs_reports_21.htm. ODI. (2011). Climate change, water resources, and WASH: A scoping study. London, UK: Oversees Development Institute. Available at www.odi.org/publications/5998-climate-change-water-resources-water-policy-wash. UNDP. (2002). Human development report 2002: Deepening democracy in a fragmented world. New York, NY: United Nations Development Program. Available at http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/263/hdr_2002_en_complete.pdf. UNEP. (2015). COP21 Paris Conference. Nairobi, Kenya: United Nations Environment Program. Available at www.cop21paris.org. UNFCC. (1997). Kyoto Protocol. Bonn, Germany: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Available at http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/items/2830.php. UNFCC. (2009). Copenhagen Accord. Bonn, Germany: United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Available at http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2009/cop15/eng/l07.pdf. U.S. National Climate Assessment. (2014). Climate change impacts in the United States. Washington, DC: U.S. Global Change Research Program. Available at http://nca2014.globalchange.gov. Acknowledgements ASABE appreciates the organizing committee of the ASABE 1st Climate Change Symposium: Adaptation and Mitigation, which was held on May 3-5, 2015, in Chicago, Ill.: • Adel Shirmohammadi, University of Maryland College Park (co-chair) • David Bosch, USDA-ARS, Tifton, Georgia (co-chair) • Rafael Muñoz-Carpena, University of Florida (cochair) • Indrajeet Chaubey, Purdue University • Pouyan Nejadhashemi, Michigan State University • Puneet Srivastava, Auburn University • Daren Harmel, USDA-ARS, Temple, Texas • Ali Madani, McDonald College of McGill University • Hubert Montas, University of Maryland • Ali Sadeghi, USDA-ARS, Beltsville, Maryland • Paul Leisnham, University of Maryland College Park • Randy Johnson, USDA Forest Service, Washington, D.C. ASABE appreciates the financial support from the following conference sponsors: • USDA Climate Hubs • McGill University • University of Guelph • NOAA • USDA Agricultural Research Service
Published by ASABE. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://bt.e-ditionsbyfry.com/article/ASABE+Global+Initiative/2919460/448262/article.html.