Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability

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11.4.2. Future Needs

The early signs of climate change already observed in some parts of Asia and elsewhere may become more prominent over the period of 1 or 2 decades. If this time is not used appropriately, it may be too late to avoid upheavals and significant human impacts for some nations. Climate change could lead either to cooperation or to conflict over the world's major resources. Integrated planning may be the greatest global challenge, now motivated by the potential for environmental and social transformation caused by climate change.

In the 21st century, Asian countries will have to produce more food and other agricultural commodities under conditions of diminishing per capita arable land and irrigation water resources and expanding biotic as well as abiotic stresses, including climatic constraints. The dual demands for food and ecological security would have to be based on appropriate use of biotechnology, information technology, and ecotechnology. Practical achievements in bringing about the desired paradigm shift in sustainable agriculture will depend on public policy support and political action. Critical areas for intervention would be:

  • Improving the availability of seed/planting material of high-yielding varieties
  • Developing and promoting the use of hybrids, especially for rainfed agro-ecosystems
  • Expanding areas under different crops and commodities, through diversification of agriculture
  • Improving the productivity of crops, existing plantations, and livestock
  • Developing infrastructure for post-harvest management, marketing, and agribusiness
  • Small farm mechanisms
  • Transfer of technological inputs through assessments and refinements at regular time intervals in consonance with our understanding of climate variability and climate change.

Ensuring food security may remain an unaccomplished dream for many Asian countries unless appropriate strategies are put in place to ensure environmental and ecological protection and conservation of natural resources.

The food security issue is highly dependent on equitable guaranteed access to foods. Equitable access is highly differentiated across populations in the agrarian nations of Asia. This situation is further aggravated by natural disasters such as floods and droughts, which are known to have caused great famines in south Asian countries. Poverty in many south Asian countries seems to be the cause of not only hunger but even lack of shelter, access to clean drinking water, illiteracy, ill health, and other forms of human deprivation. Opportunities for assured and remunerative marketing at microenterprise levels should promote equitable use of available food resources.

In view of present uncertainties over the pace and magnitude of climate change, the most promising policy options are those for which benefits accrue even if no climate change takes place. Such policy actions include the following:

  • Breeding of new crop varieties and species (heat- and salt-tolerant crops, low-water-use crops)
  • Maintenance of seed banks, liberalization of trade of agricultural commodities, flexibility of commodity support programs, agricultural drought management
  • Promotion of efficiency of irrigation and water use and dissemination of conservation management practices
  • Trans-national cooperation to promote sustainable water resources management and flood risk management
  • Rehabilitation of degraded forests and watersheds (such strategies can enhance biodiversity conservation and provide source of livelihood for many poor forest and upland watershed dwellers)
  • Strengthening of biophysical and socioeconomic resources and resource use-related databases for natural and social systems and focused research to further our understanding of the climate-ecosystem-social system interaction. Data and information generated through these activities will be useful not only for designing appropriate mitigation and adaptation measures but also for management planning and decisionmaking.

The climate change issue has presented decisionmakers in Asian countries with a set of formidable complications: a considerable number of uncertainties (which are inherent in the complexity of the problem), the potential for irreversible damages to ecosystems, a very long planning horizon, long time lags between GHG emissions and effects, wide regional variation in causes and effects, the global scope of the problem, and the need to consider multiple GHGs and aerosols. The value of better information about climate change processes and impacts and responses to arrest these risks is likely to be great. A prudent strategy to deal with climate change would be to collectively reduce emission levels of GHGs through a portfolio of actions aimed at mitigation and adaptation measures. The agriculture and forestry sectors in several countries of Asia have a large GHG mitigation potential that should make a significant contribution to this strategy.

The principle of sustainable development must guide all future development strategies in developing and developed countries of Asia. Serious efforts toward promoting innovative research on efficient technology options and creative environmental literacy are needed while Asian countries adapt to new environmental policies and programs. The challenge lies in identifying opportunities that would facilitate sustainable development by making use of existing technologies and developing policies that make climate-sensitive sectors resilient to climate variability. This strategy will require developing countries in Asia to have more access to appropriate technologies, information, and adequate financing. In addition, adaptation will require anticipation and planning; failure to prepare systems for projected change in climate means, variability, and extremes could lead to capital-intensive development of infrastructures or technologies that are ill-suited to future conditions, as well as missed opportunities to lower the cost of adaptation.

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