IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group III: Mitigation of Climate Change

12.3.3 Agriculture sector

Table 12.4 also summarizes the impact of different mitigation activities in agriculture sector on the constituents and determinants of sustainable development (see also Section 8.4.5 and Table 8.8). The table provides a description and tentative direction of impact but the exact magnitude of impact would depend upon the scale and intensity of the activities in the context where they are undertaken.

Several mitigation activities are explored in Chapter 8, ranging from crop, tillage/residue, nutrient, rice, water, manure/biosolid, grazing lands, organic soils, livestock and manure management practice, to land cover change, agro-forestry, land restoration, bioenergy, enhanced energy efficiency and increased carbon storage in agricultural products. It is shown that appropriate adoption of these mitigation measures is likely to help achieve social, economic and environmental goals, although sometimes trade-offs may also occur. Interesting enough, these trade-offs, when and if they occur, seem to be most visible in the short term, as in the long-term synergy amongst the aspects of sustainable development seems to be dominant.

An appropriate and optimal mix of rice cultivation with livestock known as integrated annual crop-animal system and traditionally found in West Africa, India and Indonesia and Vietnam would enhance the net income, improve the condition of cultivated ecosystems and over all human well being (MA, 2005). Such combinations of livestock and crop farming especially for rice would prove effective in income generation even in semi arid and arid areas of the world.

Ground water quality may be enhanced and the loss of biodiversity slowed by greater use of farmyard manure and more targeted pesticides. The impact on social and economic aspects of this mitigation measure remains uncertain. Better nutrient management can improve environmental sustainability.

Controlling overgrazing through pasture improvement has a favourable impact on livestock productivity (greater income from the same number of livestock) and slows/halts desertification (environmental aspect). It also provides social security to the poorest people during extreme events such as drought and other crisis (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa). One effective strategy to control overgrazing is the prohibition of free grazing, as was done in China (Rao, 1994).

This critical sector of the world economy is the biggest, user of the water. In low-income countries, agriculture uses almost 90% of the total extracted water (World Bank, 2000). Policies on free or very cheap energy (electricity, petroleum) as present is some areas for political reasons, contribute to misuse of water as the true economic cost inclusive of environmental and social costs are not reflected in the pricing and other incentive structures. Rationalization of electricity tariffs would aid in improving water allocation across users and over time. Through proper institutions and effective functioning of markets, water management can be operationalized with favourable impact on environmental and economic goals. In the short term, social cohesiveness might come under stress due to a clash of divergent interests.

Land cover and tillage management could encourage favourable impacts on environmental goals. A mix of horticulture with optimal crop rotations would promote carbon sequestration and could also improve agro-ecosystem function. Societal well-being would also be enhanced through provisioning of water and enhanced productivity. Whilst the environmental benefits of tillage/residue management are clear, other impacts are less certain. Land restoration will have positive environmental impacts, but conversion of floodplains and wetlands to agriculture could hamper ecological function (reduced water recharge, bioremediation, and nutrient cycling) and therefore, could have an adverse impact on sustainable development goals (Kumar, 2001).

Livestock management and manure management mitigation measures are context and location specific in there influence on sustainable development. Appropriate adoption of mitigation measures is likely to help achieve environmental goals, but farmers may incur additional costs, reducing their returns and income.