Is the IPCC Right on Climate Change? Just Ask the World’s Farmers
Observations by farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America confirm reports of rising temperatures and extreme weather
By John Vidal
European development groups have reported that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's latest scientific assessment of the phenomenon matches the observations and experiences of farming and other groups they partner in Africa, Asia and Latin America.
Photo by Neil Palmer/CIAT
The IPCC scientists, who acknowledge they often have only sketchy rainfall and temperature data for many areas in developing countries, say global temperatures have risen, extreme weather is more frequent and rainfall less predictable. If emissions are not cut dramatically, they say, the world can expect steady sea-level and temperature rises, more extreme weather and less certain rainfall.
"Climate change is a reality here. We can see the impacts everywhere. There are new insects on our crops because of higher temperatures here. We can't produce now without spraying the crops," said a Bolivian farmer, Alivio Aruquipa, who lives in La Granja, near La Paz and works with Christian Aid partner group Agua Sustentable (Care).
"We are the ones who feel the impact of climate change. We have suffered a lot with the lack of water. People feel that they have to leave the country, or leave their homes to look for work and find a way of feeding their families. There are conflicts over water between the different communities because we all need water and there isn't enough for everyone," he said.
"The people we work with are living with the effects of climate change right now. In Niger, farmers are being forced to find new sources of income as climatic changes make rearing livestock impossible. In Peru, highland communities, who have relied on regular water supplies from Andean glaciers for centuries, are having to cope with shifting water availability which is affecting their ability to grow food to feed their families and make a living," said Care's climate change officer, Sven Harmeling.
Nkhuleme Ntambalika, who lives in the Balaka district in Malawi and has been helped by the Centre for Environmental Policy and Advocacy, said rainfall patterns had become increasingly erratic, something they attributed to climate change. "We used to have very stable rainfall that was adequate and non-erosive. These days no one knows when to plant crops. When rains come, they are either too little for planting or too heavy, such that fields get waterlogged or eroded. A prolonged dry spell follows and scorches the germinated crops. The seed is lost."
"The latest climate science affirms what small-scale farmers around the world are telling us, that seasons are changing, weather is increasingly extreme and unpredictable making it tougher to feed their families," said Oxfam in a new briefing paper. "It is important to recognize that climate change is happening at the same time as vulnerabilities are changing drastically. Of the 3 billion people who live in rural areas in developing countries, 2.5 billion are involved in agriculture, and 1.5 billion live in small farmer households. Many are perilously exposed to changes in the climate, meaning that too much rain, or too little, can be the difference between having enough food or living in hunger."
Camilla Toulmin, director of the International Institute for Environment and Development, said the report confirmed that human activities were responsible for increased climate instability. "But there is also value in what the IPCC report does not say, such as how the climate will change from place to place. Climate models are not yet robust enough to predict impacts at local and regional scales, but it is clear from the experience of the many people with whom we work, who have faced loss and damage this year alone, that everybody is vulnerable in some way. This uncertainty about local impacts, coupled with the certainty that impacts will come, is a stark warning that everyone needs to get ready. Citizens and business leaders worldwide need to press governments to act, both at home and on the international stage."