Last week’s UN climate summit in New York drawing together leaders from around the world marked the priority governments across the globe are giving to the threat posed by growing changes to the Earth’s weather patterns.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon brought government, finance, business and civil society leaders to New York because it is recognized that climate change is not a theory or a concept, but is, in fact, an immediate problem, having a very real impact on people’s lives. But the summit underscored the fact that affordable, scalable solutions are becoming increasingly available.
And agriculture and forestry are leaders in providing many of those solutions. Scientific and technological advances used by agricultural producers and foresters not only meet increased food and wood product demands, but also decrease the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to a changing climate.
It’s been amply demonstrated that growers now produce more crops on increasingly limited arable acres; that they sequester carbon with low-till practices; and that they produce biofuels, including ethanol made from corn and biodiesel derived from soybeans, that emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases than comparable, fossil-based fuels.
25x’25 Alliance members have participated in forums around the world in recent years, helping redirect the global conversation about climate change and reinforced the role agriculture and forestry can play in countering increasing temperatures and volatile weather.
Leaders at last week’s summit reinforced the mission of the Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture, a coalition of governments, farm and conservation organizations, corporations and civil society groups who have pledged to work together and develop the tools that will help agricultural producers around the world to increase production while reducing operational emissions, as well as implement the practices that can help counter existing greenhouse gases.
The United States will provide tools for global resilience to climate change, including improved and extended extreme weather risk outlooks to help avoid loss of life and property; and data, tools and services to enable countries to better prepare for the impacts of climate change, including a new release of global elevation data. The U.S. is also launching a new public-private partnership that will ensure that the climate data, tools and products made available by U.S. technical agencies are useful to developing countries.
Last week also marked the launch of the North American Climate-Smart Agricultural Initiative, which organizers say will give farmers, ranchers and foresters the opportunity to collaborate with industry, academia, government and NGO partners in developing ways to improve production resiliency and mitigate current and future risks of changing climatic conditions.
The North American initiative will offer a platform to facilitate discussion among stakeholders about new adaptation practices, tools and production systems; and review the latest information on what science is saying about changing climate conditions and their impact on U.S. agriculture and forestry.
At the heart of the North American initiative is an advocacy group, Solutions from the Land, an outgrowth of adaptation research done over the past three years by a 25x’25 work group. That work resulted in recommendations that will not only enable the U.S. agriculture and forestry sectors adapt to changing climate conditions, but help reduce emissions.
That adaptation work is now being taken on and broadened by Solutions from the Land, which is charged with sustaining a national dialogue led by agriculture, forestry and conservation thought leaders to help landowners and managers make the most of the land’s potential. The North American Climate-Smart Initiative widens this critical discussion to include producers from Mexico and Canada, as well as here in the United States.
U.S. farm, commodity and conservation producer groups are taking this effort seriously. Among those that have signed on to play a leadership role in the initiative are the American Farm Bureau Federation, American Farmland Trust, American Soybean Association, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, Conservation Technology Information Center, Environmental and Energy Study Institute, Farm Foundation, Iowa Soybean Association, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Corn Growers Association, National Council for Agricultural Education, National Council on Science and the Environment, National Farmers Union, National FFA Foundation, Native Pollinators in Agriculture Project, Soil Science Society of America, and the Soil and Water Conservation Society. Organizers say the alliance will be “evergreen” – continually growing, open to any organization that embraces the effort and wants to be a constructive participant.
Producers and policy makers should take advantage of this critical work that will offer many strategies agriculture and forestry can use to adapt to the temperature and precipitation changes that are projected for the next 25 years.