Adaptation and Applications

Agrometeorological adaptation strategies to increasing climate variability and climate change have been in focus already for a long time (Salinger et al., 2000). Adaptation should be viewed as a broad concept involving choices at national and international levels as well as locally. Adaptation involves more than measures; it is also a matter for national agricultural and development policies. Under the UN Framework Convention very little attention has been given to technical adaptation. The debate has centered on the need for technology transfer but adaptation technology has not been emphasized in the rush to promote technology transfer for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Burton and Lim (2005) note that national agricultural policy is developed in the context of local risks, needs, and capacities, as well as international markets, tariffs, subsidies and trade agreements. Stakeholder participation in policy development is frequently recommended as a measure that can help to reduce the distance between national policy processes and the farm and community level.

Agriculture can be described as highly adaptable and resilient, or as resistant to change, and is related to the diffusion and success of technical innovations at the farm level. Successful adaptation over decades and centuries at this level goes a long way toward explaining the confidence now being expressed in the ability of agriculture to cope with the potential impacts of climate change. On the other hand there are concerns that the modernization of agriculture is having serious environmental and social consequences.

Prospects at the global level are good, but severe local and regional disruptions and inequalities are possible, even likely. This diagnosis suggests the need to pay more attention to national policy and global negotiations in order to alleviate inequalities between and within nations. From the perspective of climate change and development the place where local and global converge is at the level of national policy.

Some new approaches to national policy for climate change adaptation are now being developed and applied. These include the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) agreed at the Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 7). The Adaptation Policy Framework (APF) now being elaborated builds upon past work and experience and is being developed by UNDP at a generic level. The World Health Organization is developing a set of guidelines for the assessment of adaptation to climate change in the health sector. Similar activities with partners would be timely.

One new technology allowing for adaptation measures is that of seasonal to interannual climate prediction. Harrison (2005) noted that this uses knowledge of sea surface temperature anomalies on which to base a forecast of temperature and rainfall conditions in teleconnected parts of the globe. There are two types of models used in long-range prediction where the objective is to produce a prediction of the average climatic conditions throughout a season across a region measuring several hundred kilometers along each side. Rainfall is a major concern for agrom-eteorology but it is variable in both space and time and many applications are more sensitive to the timing and amounts of rainfall through a season than they are to the total amount. Downscaling does not improve the accuracy of the forecast and Harrison (2005) recommends that more research is needed on improving methods for forecast validation, verification, and interpretation, and that optimal strategies be devised through more pilot projects.

According to Meinke and Stone (2005) seasonal climate forecasting can increase preparedness and lead to better social, economic and environmental outcomes for agrometeorology. However, climate forecasting is one of many risk management tools that sometimes play an important role. To apply these effectively, a participatory, cross-disciplinary research approach, that brings together institutions (partnerships), disciplines (i.e., climate science, agricultural systems science and rural sociology) and people (scientist, policy makers and direct beneficiaries) as equal partners to reap the benefits from climate forecasting, was suggested. Climate science can provide insights into climatic processes, agricultural systems science can translate these insights into technically possible solutions (management options) and rural sociology can help to determine the options that are most feasible or desirable from a socioeconomic perspective. Any future scientific breakthroughs in climate forecasting capabilities are much more likely to have an immediate and positive impact when conducted within such a framework. Seasonal to interannual climate forecasts are best applied with a good understanding of variability, both temporally and spatially, and a probabilistic approach to outcome dissemination should be considered. In practice there are serious absorption difficulties (Lemos et al., 2002).

For temperate regions, adaptation strategies for agriculture to cope with climate variability and climate change include changes in crop varieties and agronomic practices, improvements in moisture conserving tillage methods, proper irrigation management, and changes in land allocation.

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