The Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture

Climate and weather conditions have been reflected in people's lives since ancient times. Meetings usually begin with a discussion of the weather, what it is today and what it will be in the future, and the media often makes references to weather and climate conditions many times a day. Weather reports haunt us constantly. In addition to these common social interests, the climate has also been important for the scientific community for centuries. Scientists have long proved not only that the climate is the basis of human civilisation but also that it affects its quality of life, success, and failures (Glacken 1967; Fleming 1998).

Climate change and its changes concern humans. Recurrent droughts and floods pose a serious threat to the survival of billions of people, especially those who depend on the results of the activity of the agricultural sector. Due to extreme events such as droughts and floods, heatwaves and cold spells, forest fires, and others, the chemical composition of the atmosphere also changes.

Global warming not only causes a change in average temperature and rainfall but also increases the intensity of floods, droughts, heatwaves and typhoons, and hurricanes. The impact of climate change is also seen in various other forms throughout the world, including sea-level rise, shrinking

Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts


of glaciers, movements of plant habitats northward, geographical changes in animal habitats, rising ocean temperatures, shortened winter, and early spring.

Since global warming affects not only ecological systems but also human life, it has become an important issue both nationally and internationally. Solutions to global warming are broadly divided into mitigation measures, focusing on reducing and absorbing greenhouse gases, reducing causal factors, and mitigating the effects of adaptation to climate change. Until now, the issue of global warming has focused on reducing greenhouse gases, based on international environmental conventions, for example, IPCC and Kyoto Protocol. However, in terms of agriculture, the main focus was placed on the adaptation to the effects of climate change, taking into account the assessment of the impacts and vulnerability of climate change. The IPCC stresses the importance for the agricultural sector to adapt to climate change. The reason for this is that even if the greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, global warming will continue for several decades due to the emitted greenhouse gases in the past.

Agriculture is the branch of the economy in which the land is used to obtain (grow) food, to produce food resources, and to work and process them. This branch of the economy is most dependent on climate and weather conditions and is therefore very sensitive to climate change. At the same time, sustainable farming systems can reduce agriculture-related greenhouse gas emissions and serve as a key tool to stabilise and change the trajectory of climate change, while continuing to provide food, feed, fibre, and energy.

The relationship between agriculture and climate is complex. While most greenhouse gases can be related to the use of fossil fuels for energy, e.g. burning coal and other fossil fuels for electricity and burning gasoline, diesel fuel in cars, agriculture also play an important role. For example, agriculture has always contributed to the direct emissions such as methane from animals and carbon dioxide from the soil; however, because of how the animals are fed, reared, and how much of land is used, it contributes to the increased amount of greenhouse gas emissions. A relatively new greenhouse gas threat is nitrogen oxide, which occurs naturally; however, in this period, due to the growing use of synthetic fertilizers, it has significantly increased in quantities. It is estimated that direct agricultural emissions amount for 13.5% of total GHG emissions.

Agriculture is our main source of food and is therefore very important for human survival; however, its importance and impact on the environment and climate have been studied little. Land used for farming, including the area of crop and pasture, covers almost 38% of the world area (Figure 5.11); agriculture consumes about 70% of water (irrigated agriculture accounts for 20% of total arable land and this area produces almost 40% of the world's total food production) and employs about 40% of the world's population. It shows that any changes in agriculture, whether caused by people or climate, resonate throughout the world and the economy.


Climate Change and Sustainable Development


Agricultural land (% of the total land area).


Globally, climate variability and change may have a small overall impact on overall food production; however, regional impacts can be significant and variable, as some regions benefit from climate change and from other regions affected by climate change. In general, food production may decline in many regions of utmost importance (such as subtropical and tropical areas), and due to climate change, the agriculture in developed countries may be more productive than before depending on which countries use adaptation measures and technologies.

The diagram below (see Figure 5.12) shows agriculture value added per worker (measured in USD in 2010). The agriculture value added per worker shall be calculated as the total agriculture value added divided by the number of people employed in agriculture.

Agricultural production is obtained by the use and selection of crops suitable for the climate of very specific regions and by the application of suitable farming methods. Therefore, agriculture is like an independent biological industry with distinctive regional characteristics. Regional characteristics refer to the characteristics of the ecosystem, which are determined by the climate of that region. Climate change disrupts the ecosystem of the agriculture, resulting in changes in agricultural climate elements, e.g., temperature, precipitation, and sunlight, which further affect the quality of arable land, livestock, and hydrology sectors.

The impact of climate change on the agricultural sector is illustrated in Figure 5.13. In particular, the effects of climate change on arable land quality and the livestock sector are known due to biological changes, including changes in flowering and harvesting seasons, changes in soil quality, and the relocation of arable land to more favourable areas. Climate change affects the

Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts


■ Indonesia ■ World ■ China ■ India


Agriculture value added per worker, USD.


agricultural ecosystem in such a way that pests of agricultural production can move more freely from place to place and biodiversity itself is changing. In the livestock sector, climate change is causing biological changes in areas such as fertilization and livestock breeding, as well as growing pasture area (pasture areas may be declining and this will no longer be enough to maintain the grazing area necessary for livestock farming).

Climate change also affects hydrology, including groundwater levels, water temperature, river flows, lake, and wetland water quality. Precipitation, evaporation, and soil moisture are affected. In particular, with increased rainfall due to climate change, water runoff increases, and the temperature rise increases water evaporation, which reduces water runoff. To understand the quantitative impact of climate change on water resources, a deterministic hydrology model based on the general circulation model is used.

As mentioned above, climate change has a significant impact on the rural economy, including agricultural productivity, household income, and property value, and also affects agricultural infrastructure as agricultural resources change. To date, quantitative analysis of the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector has been experimental, focused more on "cross-sectional" study. Experimental analyses are carried out on the basis of agroeconomic modelling methods, which are similar to controlled experiments in which regulated variables are similar as they are related to greenhouse gases, e.g., temperature levels and carbon dioxide emission levels. These experiments can also assess the impact of climate change on agricultural production.

The analysis of the agroecological zone is carried out using the method of crop modelling, which is often referred to as the short crop model and


Climate Change and Sustainable Development


The impact of climate change on the agricultural sector.

Source: Created by authors.

which tracks changes in agricultural production and agroecological zones resulting from climate change. Plant growth is determined by the main three elements:

  • • the degree of crop production in the intended geographical area,
  • • cultivation technologies, and
  • • environment (climate, soil, and others).

Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts


The short crop model is realised using a computer programme that can estimate the growth of the crop and its quantity when these three elements are introduced. Using a crop model, it is possible to calculate and analyse agricultural production based on climate change. Estimated plant production by the model of Crop Estimation through the Resource and Environment Synthesis (CERES) model developed in the United States, the integration of the crop model, and the resource environment can be useful in adapting to climate change. The model is also useful in predicting expected situations in agriculture.

In the analysis of how and to what extent the change in temperature and precipitation after global warming affects the agricultural sector, various experiments and modelling are carried out and various research methods are used, both in laboratories and in nature. As the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector varies according to the interlinked variables, it is difficult to generalise certain analytical results. Therefore, attempts are being made to classify the effects of climate change into positive and negative ones, based on the results of studies that have been collected in the relevant areas to date (see Figure 5.14).

Global warming positive effects of agriculture include the increase in crop productivity due to fertilisation effects caused by the increase in carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere, the possibility of the cultivation of new varieties of plants and animals, and heating cost reductions in the northern regions by growing agricultural production in heated spaces.

The negative impact of global warming on agriculture manifests by a decrease in agricultural production due to temperature rise, spread of pests, increase in soil erosion, etc.

In addition, different climatic and environmental conditions are necessary to grow each crop. Thus, if the climate changes, for example, the temperature rises, the suitable areas for growing certain plants will shift northward. Thus, this will be a challenge for southern regions (their crop area will decrease), though at the same time, northern regions will get a new opportunity (their crop areas will increase dramatically). In this respect, the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector is ambiguous, with a negative impact on some regions and a positive impact on others. Therefore, it is important to formulate adaptation strategies that can maximise opportunities and reduce costs, which will lead to the sustainable development of agriculture.

It is known that climate change started due to the disorder of the global climate system energy balance caused by the increase in greenhouse gas and aerosol in the atmosphere and the changes in land cover and solar radiation. According to scientists, global warming is directly related to human activity, i.e. it is of anthropogenic origin (IPCC 2007).

The measures that the agricultural sector can take regarding risks and challenges of climate change are classified into

• climate change mitigation techniques that reduce the effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and


Climate Change and Sustainable Development

Deterioration of the quality of agricultural production due to the temperature rise

Increase in weeds and pests

Increase in disasters in the agricultural sector (droughts, floods, and others)

Increase in soil erosion



The potential impact of global warming on the agricultural sector.

Source: Kim 2009.

Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts

  • 205
  • • climate change adaptation techniques when, in principle, the inevitability of global warming is recognised, the effects of climate change are assessed, and the damage that climate change can cause is mitigated (see Figure 5.15).

In the event of climate change, environmental system components (e.g., atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, biosphere, lithosphere, and others) try to adapt to changed conditions. However, if the impact of climate change is considerable, the environmental system cannot cope with the impact by selfadaptation, and additional measures are necessary. Climate change mitigation and adaptation are closely interrelated. In the long term, climate change mitigation can be seen as an adaptation tool. Adaptation to climate change is, therefore, a mandatory measure to combat climate change.

The concept of ecological (green) economic growth has been developed in order to increase policy measures in terms of sustainable development, the concept of which is an abstract and broad concept covering the


Approaches to measures against climate change.

Source: Created by authors.


Climate Change and Sustainable Development

three dimensions of economic justification, environmental protection, and social justice. The ecological (green) economic growth means qualitative growth that improves the quality of life, ensuring ecological and economic reliability.

Since there is no unambiguous definition of green growth, it can be understood as a complex and open economic growth concept, which accepts new challenges and changes in all three sustainable development dimensions: economic, environmental protection, and social perspective. In this context, ecological (green) economic growth can be seen as a concept that directly depends on the outcome of the debate about the foreseeable future.

The principle of action of green growth policy is to turn the vicious circle of the environment and economic growth into a rapidly changing cycle, thereby developing a new economic growth model and a completely new economic structure. According to the new paradigm of qualitative growth, new ideas, transformative innovations, and the latest technologies are essential factors of production. Economic growth based on these driving factors is expected to generate strong and high-quality growth, quite different from current quantitative growth.

Green economic growth constantly increases the production (including agricultural production) productivity, as "green components" (eco-technologies and knowledge) are included in the manufacturing process, thereby reducing pollution and expanding the natural capital (energy and environmental resources). For this reason, green growth leads to changes in production, technology, and consumption patterns and eco-efficiency, taking into account environmental capacity and economic and environmental aspects of production and consumption.

Green economic growth involves political decisions and assessment of the created social value, since such economic growth is achieved by the society generating low carbon emissions and green industrialisation. The realisation of green growth requires considerable costs and efforts, and most importantly, we need to change our lifestyle, moving from the nowadays consumerism to an eco-friendly and sustainable way of life. Thus, in order to realise the concept of green growth, economic incentives, development and allocation of green technologies, and understanding and cooperation of relevant state institutions are very important.

The concept of green agricultural sector development goes beyond the concept of sustainable agriculture, as it means the growth that ensures environmentally friendly and economically viable growth, which takes into account the environmental capacity of the agricultural ecosystem. The green development of the agricultural sector is achieved by moving to agricultural activities that consider the capacity of each region's environment and water system, low-carbon agriculture by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing absorption capacity, and energy efficiency and savings. Green economic growth can be achieved by moving to a sustainable agricultural system, including green, low-carbon agriculture.

Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts


The transition from the traditional agricultural growth model to the low-carbon green growth model requires a very clear vision and specific goals. The appropriate vision should align agriculture with the environment, mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the agricultural ecosystem status, which contributes to the negative global warming impact reduction and improvement of quality of life for current and future generations.

In developing the green growth model, the main direction of development should be based on the 3Rs cycle reduce <-» reuse «-> recycle. The next step is the transition from the current maximisation of agricultural production to its optimisation. In other words, the goal of agricultural production should be shifted from increasing production to optimising production, taking into account the local agricultural environment and the conditions for greenhouse gas emissions and their absorption.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of life, a combination of support, regulation, and compensation policies should be developed, including the consolidation and coordination of environmental policies. To minimise the inconvenience and economic costs associated with green growth, green technologies should be actively developed and disseminated. Finally, it is equally important that the relevant institutions have a common understanding of the activities carried out by sharing information, education, and promotion.

The largest areas of ecologically managed agricultural land (the 2017 data) are in Oceania (35.9 million ha or 51% of global organic agricultural land), Europe (14.6 million ha or 21% of global organic agricultural land), and Latin America (8.0 million ha or 11% of global organic agricultural land) (see Figure 5.16).


Largest areas of ecologically managed agricultural land, % of global organic agricultural land.



Climate Change and Sustainable Development

European Union

Countries with the largest areas of organic agricultural land are Australia (35.7 million ha), Argentina (3.4 million ha), and China (3.0 million ha). Top ten countries with the largest organic agricultural land area are shown in Figure 5.17.

In 2017, the Global Organic Food Market, according to market research company "Ecovia Intelligence" reached 97 billion US dollars (about EUR 90 billion). The United States is the leading market with EUR 40 billion, followed by Germany (EUR 10 billion), France (EUR 7.9 billion), and China (7.6 EUR billion). Top ten countries with the largest markets for organic food are shown in Figure 5.18. Compared with 2016, most major markets in 2017 grew twice.

The market for organic food in Europe continues to grow. In 2017, compared with the 2016 market, the market grew almost 11% and reached EUR

37.3 billion (European Union - EUR 34.3 million). Almost all major markets have doubled in size, and the agricultural area has increased by almost 8%. The largest ecological market in Europe is in Germany (EUR 10 billion), followed by France (EUR 7.9 billion), Italy (EUR 3.1 billion), and Switzerland (EUR 2.4 billion) (2017 data). In the world, Germany is the second-largest market after the United States (in 2017 - EUR 40 billion).

Change in organic farming area worldwide since 2000 until 2017 (million hectares) is provided in Figure 5.19.

As seen in Figure 5.19, organic farming is very popular in the world, and every year, the land area for such farming is increasing.


Countries with the largest area of organic agricultural land, million ha.


Adaptation to Climate Change Impacts


Spain M










0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45


The largest markets for organic food in 2017, million, EUR.



  • 0
  • 2000 2004 2005 2006 2007 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017


Organic farming area worldwide since 2000 until 2017 (million ha).


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