The rural poor who depend on agriculture are especially at risk. It is expected that rural poverty will increase because of climate change, because they may lose their livelihood due principally to water scarcity, facing chronic poverty, hunger and economic dislocation. 80% of drought impacts are felt by the rural poor, so it is important they have accessible technology capable of informing them of weather patterns, allowing them then to adapt and shift production alongside climatic variability.
Climate change will impact the agriculture industry’s water management in a magnitude of ways, which are described in Table 6.1 of the report.
Agricultural water demand comes largely from irrigation, which is responsible for 69% of water withdrawals on this planet. The demand for irrigated land is a direct result of the expansion and intensification of crop production. Unfortunately, the effectiveness of global irrigation applications are around 50% when set against water withdrawals of 2,769 km3/yr, meaning irrigation is not as effective as it can and certainly should be. Many believe increased irrigation will result in reduced water withdrawal, but this assumption is ill-founded. Groundwater, on the other hand, is underestimated as a source of water for agriculture and rural development. Shallow and deep groundwater extraction can be beneficial for smaller scale agricultural production during dry-seasons and periods of drought. Outside of irrigation and groundwater, the report also examines global meat consumption, fish production, and biofuel production as components for the agriculture sector that impact and are affected by climate change.
Adaptation and Mitigation
Agricultural water management must adapt its modes of production to cope with water scarcity and water excess. The report highly recommends a set of ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture’ (CSA) approaches to land and water management, such as soil conversion to anticipate climatic variability and carbon sequestration to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture that depends on rain can optimize soil by adapting to climate change, but will ultimately depend on the presence of rainfall.
CSA also stresses the importance of climate-informed measures to inform water resource management and agricultural development. Examples of climate-informed measures include seasonal climate forecasts for months and years, near-real-time weather information, in-situ soil moisture technology, integrating basin-level hydrology and recharge regimes to CSA, and increased investment and planning in agriculture water management.
The agriculture industry also needs to mitigate climate change by decarbonizing and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. The agriculture, forestry, and other land use sectors produce roughly 23% of the anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions from 2007 to 2016. Although the agriculture sector's share of total greenhouse gas emissions is decreasing, its net emissions are expected to increase. The sector’s greenhouse gas emissions are largely driven by turning ecosystems such as forests and wetlands into land for agriculture production. To reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the report recommends improving drainage management in natural wetlands and wetland forests, reducing deforestation and forest degradation, and reforesting for carbon sequestration.
The report concludes its chapter on agriculture by restating the importance of scaling adaptation and mitigation measures for the community, sector, or country’s needs, which can be seen in the image below.