Every year, the World Economic Forum (WEF) takes place in the small town of Davos–Klosters and throughout the five-day summit, it becomes crystal clear that certain issues garner more attention than others. Last week, more than 2,800 international delegates from the world of business, politics, academia and journalism, with the odd rock star thrown in, met to discuss the most pressing issues that face the world we live in today.
Economic concerns and recovery from austerity are always subjects that dominate the conference, whilst climate and agriculture issues tend to fall somewhat under the net. However, this year, the Global Risks Report created by the WEF showed that an economic issue was not the number one risk in terms of impact: Number one in the top 10 was water crises. Coming in at number 5 was failure of climate change adaption and number 10 was biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
At a conference entitled What’s Next: A Climate for Action, Al Gore outlined the emerging and growing risks of climate change: drought, displacement, extreme weather conditions, food shortages, death. The facts Mr. Gore outlined were startling and, after listening to the concrete scientific evidence, it is evident that society can no longer rest on its laurels. The last thing we want to do is make this blog post into a geography or science lesson but some simple facts remain. As CO2 levels in the atmosphere rise, so do average global temperatures. Worldwide weather reports have seen average temperatures rise steadily across the globe and extreme local temperature events are 100 times more likely than they were a few decades ago. 2014 was the hottest year ever recorded. In turn, crops and vegetation that can’t adapt fast enough die out, as do some people’s sources of food and livelihoods.
The potential impact is frightening. The Guardian wrote an interesting piece late last year entitled ‘Eight foods you are going to lose to climate change’, which included beans, which feed the majority of people in South America and Africa. It also reported that farm yields could decrease by up to 25% due to higher temperatures and flooding. According to David Lobell, deputy director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, a global rise in temperatures of just 1◦C would slow the rate of growth of maize crops by up to 7%.
It is very easy for us in Europe to imagine that we are not affected by these extreme weather conditions and crop failures. Lest we forget, in 2010, Russia recorded their hottest summer yet and due to rise in temperature, widely attributed to climate change, fires raged throughout the country, killing 55,000 people. Four months later, world food prices reached record highs after Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan halted their grain exports because of poor harvests. Over on our US blog, Beyond the Rows, we reblogged a piece by the Corriere della Sera, which highlighted Europe’s need to wake up and smell the drought-wilted roses and realise the catastrophic effects of climate change.
It isn’t all doom and gloom, we promise. The world does know what it needs to do to combat climate change: reduce CO2, use renewable energy sources and utilise new technologies available to save water, especially in agriculture, which consumes more fresh water than any other human activity. Adding to this, the WEF has published the report Realizing a New Vision for Agriculture: A roadmap for stakeholders, which recognises that agriculture needs to become more sustainable and that advances in technology and innovative farming techniques will help farmers produce more with less, something we at Monsanto have been championing for years. The report also states that we need to increase food production to eliminate hunger and undernourishment, educate farmers and collaborate with all stakeholders to move agriculture forward, together.
Check out some ways in which Monsanto is doing its part, together with partners, to reduce the amount of water needed for agriculture and successful harvests: