Climate Risks for African farmers

Press Release by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK):


Large climate risks for African farmers: IPCC was on the right track

Climate change poses severe risks to food production in many African countries. This statement of the last assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was attacked fiercely one year ago. Critics suggested this assessment lacked scientific foundation, trying to challenge the credibility of the IPCC as a whole. But the IPCC finding has been confirmed by recent research, reported by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in the renowned US-journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “None of the agricultural regions in Africa is on the safe side,” lead-author Christoph Müller says. “This is a robust conclusion, even though we still don’t know many things as precisely as we would like to.”

The authors draw this conclusion from a review of twenty studies covering a wide range of impact projections. Under future climate and, yields may be reduced to zero or increase by 168 percent, depending on the region. The projections vary by region, crop, and time horizon of the studies. Indirect climate change effects on agriculture, like cropland inundation and erosion, are often disregarded, Müller says. “The quantitative results presented in some studies therefore seem to be rather optimistic.” Uncertainties are connected to the chosen methodologies, e.g. the extrapolation of statistical relationships into the future without considering the dynamics of the world agricultural market.

“From a risk-management perspective, the focus has to be on the most critical regions in Africa and the people affected there,” Wolfgang Cramer says, chair of PIK research domain Earth System Analysis. For parts of African agriculture, climate change could also be beneficial, because of possible increases in precipitation in arid regions and because the so-called CO2-fertilization effect could enhance plants’ productivity. In other parts, climate change will be detrimental. Overall, the damaging potential is very high.

In many cases, climate change impacts are projected for African agricultural systems that already today do not meet the local demand for food. At the same time, the potential for increasing yields is very large as agricultural productivity often suffers from inefficient management. In some countries like Angola, yields could be theoretically multiplied–according to one study. Recent research sees the restoration of soils, efficient and soil-conserving cultivation methods and integrated pest management as promising for adaptation to climate risks. Equally important is the reduction of trade barriers, including the development of roads and infrastructure.

“African Agriculture has potential for improvement,” Cramer says. “Rather than closing the eyes to imminent risks from climate change, research should now study resource-efficient ways to secure food production for the coming generations.”

Article: Müller, C., Cramer, W., Hare, W.L., Lotze-Campen, H.: Climate change risks for African agriculture. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (2011) [doi: 10.1073/pnas.1015078108]

Weblink to the Article

(Visited 216 times, 1 visits today)

You may also like...

1 Response

  1. Poo says:

    “This is a robust conclusion, even though we still don’t know many things as precisely as we would like to.”

    Sounds pretty conclusive to me.

    Was there ever a time (thinking here of my lifetime) where farming production in Africa was considered to be sufficient to supply the needs of the population, taken in total ?

    Proper crop management, modern fertilization methods and viable, consistent irrigation to name just a few would drastically alter production as it does in all other agribusiness oriented countries. Weather is a constant problem to the farming community regardless of continent. It changes dramatically from region to region and always has, always will. It explains the heavy subsidies we in the west supply to our farmers. Unfair to less fortunate areas but that’s what we do.

    I don’t fault the science just the agenda. When the weather changes or the climate cycle takes another turn will farming in Africa improve ? Again, thinking here only in terms of my lifetime which has yet to see such a positive surge in Africa, taken in total.

    By the way, I believe in man made global warming. I just do not subscribe to the theory that we are solely the problem. Moreover, inasmuch as most of the world’s industrial population cannot be nor will not be controlled, we may be left to those scientists that are researching alternative fuels and solutions to problems rather than those that repeatedly state, and in many cases, over state the problems.

    As environmental journalist Phil Pearce (author of The Climate Files:The battle for the truth about global warming) points out, there is serious concern about the “peer review” standards throughout the scientific community. For the record, Pearce writes regularily in the Guardian and both he and his paper support the theory of man made global warming. He quotes the testimony of climate scientist Phil Jones in front of a British parliamentary committee. Jones is the Director of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. The IPCC relies heavily on the university’s data for temperature and climate. It is considered to be the world’s leading research institution on climate change. See the stuff that crosses my desk? Anyhow, Dr. Phil stated that he and his fellow scientists did not publish all their data and methods because, “it hasn’t been standard practice to do that.” Further, he did not supply data, methology or computer codes to fellow scientists for review before publication because, “they’ve never asked.” So much for the rigor of “peer review.” Pearce is a believer and no doubt most of the East Anglia’s research would stand up to scrutiny. Pity they did not have my confidence in their work. Perhaps this is why the quote at the top is so telling.

    This blog is the 1st thing I read each morning after checking my emails. It provides some of the most varied, interesting and educational information I see throughout my day. Thanks for all your efforts. I trust you do not mind when I “submit” a few of my own opinions, for better or for worse.

    Hopefully, one way or the other, my lifetime will see the people of Africa (taken in total) finally achieve the ability to not only feed themselves but to create products and trade with other nations sufficient enough to vastly raise their standard of living.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *