Identifying vulnerable regions and socioeconomic groups

Analysis of impacts of climate change on agriculture fails to capture the complexity of the potential impact on food security by ignoring the political economy aspects of agricultural resource use and allocation (Bohle et al., 1994). In seeking to understand processes of adaptation in their wider context, analysis is required which explicitly highlight the winners and losers from impacts in agriculture. Dreze and Sen (1989), for example, show that food insecurity is exacerbated by underlying social conditions of vulnerability as well as by external factors such as civil strife or population movements. Famine and food shortage are short-run unexpected phenomena, while food insecurity and climate change are long-term trends. Thus, although overall projected changes in local crop and agricultural production are uncertain but may not represent a global shortage of food, regions and particular social groups are likely to be continually vulnerable to food insecurity.

The capacity to adapt to climate change is not evenly distributed across or within nations. Yohe and Tol (2002) identify a number of factors that account for differences in national adaptive capacity including institutional, technological and equity factors. However, adaptive capacity is also highly differentiated within countries, where multiple processes of change interact to influence vulnerability and shape outcomes from climate change. In India, for example, both climate change and trade liberalisation are changing the context for agricultural production. Some farmers are able to adapt to these changing conditions, including the discrete events such as drought and rapid changes in commodity prices. Other farmers may experience predominantly negative outcomes from these simultaneous processes. Identifying the areas where both processes are likely to have negative outcomes provides a first step in identifying options and constraints in adapting to changing conditions.

Mapping vulnerability of the agricultural sector to both climate change and trade liberalisation at the district level in India, O'Brien et al. (2004) considered adaptive capacity as a key factor that influences outcomes. Vulnerability analysis for Europe shows similar interaction between socioeconomic driving forces of change and the changing climate. Audsley et al. (2006), for example, show how scenarios of climate change and technologies and prevalent prices in agriculture could affect land-use in Europe over the next half century. They find that a few specific regions, such as Finland, are likely to increase their agricultural area in either intensive or extensive agriculture, while others in the so-called "agriculturally marginal" areas of Europe could be faced with reduction in land area under agriculture or extensification. These estimated results are based on scenarios of climate impacts including water availability, technological change and socio-economic changes in demand and supply of agricultural outputs (described in detail in Abildtrup et al., 2006). Some parameters exhibit positive change over the incoming decades. Crop suitability is projected to increase in northern regions of Europe and some yield increases are significant for some crops and grassland. Crop yield declines in southern Europe are greater for spring-sown crops such as maize (Audsley et al., 2006). The model used for these projections assumes irrigation is available and does not impose any limit on water use, which may represent unsustainable levels of water extraction in some regions, notably Spain and Portugal.

These estimates could be interpreted as positive impacts of climate change if taken in isolation. However, the estimates involve only changing the climate and do not incorporate changes in the socio-economic scenarios that actually drive the climate change. In other words, farmers in 2050 will experience a changed climate but also will face different demand and supply for inputs as well as outputs, use different technologies and have different policy regimes. Across all scenarios, demand for agricultural outputs rises, with particular demand for "luxury" products, such as wine, while labour and effective price of water all rise, and farm size also rises over time. But different scenarios deviate in how the price of energy changes and on how policy reform changes subsidies and quotas (Abildtrup et al., 2006). Hence, these other changes can potentially swamp the impacts of climate change.

Indeed, Audsley et al. (2006) show negative consequences for farming in southern areas of Europe in terms of production in the northward march of arable farming and in the viability of grassland farming in these northern regions. Significant differences in production exist because of the variation in what are known as the socio-economic "storylines". For a brief description of the socio-economic scenarios used in the IPCC, see Box 3.3; for more detailed discussions on the exact nature of these storylines for this analysis, see Abildtrup et al. (2006) and, in general, Berkhout et al. (2002) and Nakicenovic et al. (2000). Finland, depending on the range of socioeconomic drivers, significantly increases its intensively farmed area (from 2.1 million hectares [mha] presently, to 19 mha in 2050), at the expense of forest area, as it estimates that intensive farming will always be more profitable than commercial forestry. However, this particular scenario analysis cannot handle in detail demand for conservation and policy decisions to protect conservation land or forests from agricultural development.

Box 3.3. Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES) description

SRES emissions scenarios storylines

• A1: Rapid economic growth, low population growth, rapid introduction of new and more efficient technologies. Major underlying themes are convergence among regions, capacity building, and increased cultural and social interactions, with a substantial reduction in regional differences in per capita income. The A1 scenario family develops into four groups that describe alternative directions of technological change in the energy system.

• A2: Heterogeneous world. Underlying theme is self-reliance and preservation of local identities. Fertility patterns across regions converge very slowly, which results in high population growth. Economic development is primarily regionally oriented and per capita economic growth and technological change are more fragmented and slower than in other storylines.

• B1: Convergent world with the same low population growth as in the A1 storyline, but with rapid changes in economic structures towards a service and information economy, with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies. The emphasis is on global solutions to economic, social, and environmental sustainability, including improved equity, but without additional climate initiatives.

• B2: World in which the emphasis is on local solutions to economic, social and environmental sustainability. It is a world with moderate population growth, intermediate levels of economic development, and less rapid and more diverse technological change than in the B1 and A1 storylines. While the scenario is also oriented towards environmental protection and social equity, it focuses on local and regional levels.

Source: Nakicenovic et al. (2000).

Clearly there are likely to be significant policy conflicts over changing availability of land suitable for agriculture and demands for conservation measures on-farm and in protected areas over the coming decades in Europe and elsewhere. Berry et al. (2006) show that increased vulnerability of farming regions to major changes in crops and the viability of farming has spillover consequences into the status of vulnerable and threatened species, such as grassland bird species and others. Potential changes in agriculture in Europe can impact both directly and indirectly on the vulnerability of species. Benefits for conservation could be realised through extensification or land abandonment, facilitating habitat re-creation or movement of the range of plant and animal species. But under many scenarios examined by Berry et al. (2006) species are affected negatively through intensification of arable land and management practices resulting in loss or reduced quality and fragmentation of habitats. These impacts on vulnerability of both natural and social elements of agricultural land-use can, of course, be ameliorated by policy action. Policy frameworks for adaptation of the agricultural sector in the face of climate change will need to account for both ecological and economic changes - there are significant opportunities for planned adaptation through support for extensification of land-use practices in marginal areas in Europe and these will become ever more amplified given projected changes in both climate and in changing socio-economic circumstances.

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