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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.

dry field in KenyaPhoto by Neil Palmer/CIATA livestock carcass in Marsabit, in Northern Kenya, which has suffered prolonged drought in 2011.

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."

 

The Guardian
The Guardian UK, one of Britain's top daily newspapers, provides coverage of international environmental issues. Earth Island Journal is a member of the Guardian's Environment News Network.

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Comments

The focus of this artical, as with the evident intentions of the IPCC is, in my humble opinion, all wrong. Climate change cannot be ‘prevented’, it is by definition a natural occurance and has been throughout the eons time. We should not be so egotistic to think we can change climate change, but we can direct our attentions to adapting to changing conditions. Planning ahead to mitigate crop failures etc. To do this a deeper understanding of agriculture is required, one that does not look for short term benefits but a long term nourishment for all (man and soil). From this artical I percieve that the main dilemma surrounds water, too much or too little. Now I wander if this is due to an issue in deforestation, drying out the land and thus leading to extremes of weather. Not the production of CO2 which we are so often told is ‘our’ fault, a new form of original sin if you like. Take the blame away from yourself and focus on the dynamics of nature, not the superficial nature of large profiteering industry (the true sinners).
No-one will stop climate change, we are not Gods and the climate is only acting as it always has done, we are the ones who need to change with it.

By custard on Sat, September 28, 2013 at 3:09 am

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