Knowledge for Development

Feature articles

How realistic is the prospect of low-carbon rice production? Lessons from China

In this feature article, Sheng Zhou and Xiangfu summarize some realistic methods for reducing methane emissions in rice production. They present some case studies of efforts to mitigate methane emissions, such as irrigation management, the use of suitable rice cultivars (e.g. water-saving and drought-resistant rice, WDR) and combinations of different fertilizers. The production, oxidation and transport of methane in rice fields are influenced by many factors, including the rice cultivars, the cultivation system, water regimes practiced, and types of fertilizer. Simultaneously, soil carbon sequestration in rice fields is a key potential approach for turning rice fields from being a source of greenhouse gas emissions to being a carbon sink.The  authors describe how and how much methane is produced from rice paddies, and give examples of mitigation measures. Promising techniques include water management, organic amendments during the growing season, fertilization regimes and the use of appropriate rice cultivars, with the first two having the greatest impact. Mid-season drainage, intermittent irrigation or pre-harvest field drying may also reduce methane fluxes. The first case study details mitigation by water management and choice of rice cultivar, while the second explains the potential of different combinations of fertilizers. The authors conclude that low-carbon rice production requires combining available mitigation options into comprehensive packages. Knowledge of the soil microbe communities associated with the leading rice cultivars is essential for recommending appropriate mitigation strategies.


Understanding past, present and future climate changes from East to West Africa

(Keynote paper, finals of the ‘Young Professionals in Science’ competition)Climate change affects all sectors of society at local, regional and continental scales, but available evidence is not sufficient to guide policies. Unravelling past climatic events is essential if we are to understand the present and to derive reliable scenarios of future climate change. Thus interdisciplinary and international collaborations are needed to extend research frontiers and to develop regional and sub-regional climate models at a scale relevant for decision-makers. Tree rings and stable isotopes in tree rings provide evidence of past climate variability. Given the short instrumental climate records that exist in Africa, dendrochronology adds an essential longer-term perspective on climate change and variability and on the adaptation of agroforestry landscapes and forest ecosystems. Tree-ring analyses were conducted as part of three independently established international research collaborations with different partner institutes in Germany and Africa. Stable carbon and oxygen isotopes in tree rings of Sclerocarya birrea from the Sahel region (Burkina Faso) showed strong climatic signals. Tree-ring chronologies spanning more than 100 years are under development for Burkina Faso and Tanzania. The ongoing project in Munessa Forest, Ethiopia may result in chronologies of more than 350 years. Finally, the tree-ring series developed in the three projects will be combined to establish large-scale correlation patterns between tree growth and sea-surface temperatures in order to explore continent-wide climate teleconnections. In order to have representative data sets and draw continent-wide recommendations, however, there is a need to extend the study to other parts of Africa.Article taken from the 2011 CTA/FARA publication ‘Agricultural Innovations for Sustainable Development’ Volume 3, Issue 2.


Rethinking agriculture to anticipate the local impacts of climate change

Given ongoing climate change, it has become essential to focus on the role of agriculture in human societies. On the one hand, current agricultural production systems, particularly in developing areas, could be overwhelmed by the scale and brutality of the expected changes; on the other hand, agriculture must now be better integrated with dealing with the global problems that arise. Success in agriculture is, at the same time, providing food, adapting and mitigating in response to climate change and providing a real way to develop countries in need. These are the challenges human societies are already facing. Climate change requires a rethinking of current practices. This paper provides answers capable of driving a real productive paradigm shift and a profound change in the role that agriculture plays in society.


Climate change research and the future agricultural policy agenda

Half of the population of developing countries live in rural areas, but with the current rate of urbanisation, a dramatic shift towards urban settlements is expected by 2025 (United Nations, 2008). Whether this will result in the urbanisation of poverty or increase the incidence of rural poverty still remains unclear. Similarly, the distinction between countries is fading as the world is becoming better connected and integrated, and differences in development between groups and regions are increasing.Poverty and hunger are strongly linked and despite considerable improvements in the food system, food security still remains a problem. The first millennium development goal (MDG) aims at halving poverty and hunger by 2015 (United Nations, 2000), and is increasingly unlikely to be met in the timeframe. Although keeping food production up to speed with current population growth is an important issue, improving food distribution and entitlement to food remain the major obstacles for poor communities to achieve food security (Evans, 1998; Smil, 2005).


Uncertain horizons: Preparing Africa for a changing climate. Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) program 2008-09 Annual Report

The CCAA research and capacity development program aims to improve the capacity of African countries to adapt to climate change in ways that benefit the most vulnerable. Building on existing initiatives and past experience, the CCAA program works to establish a self-sustained skilled body of expertise in Africa to enhance the ability of African countries to adapt. The CCAA is a joint program of the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Canada, and the Department for International Development (DFID), U.K. In this report, the activities from the 3rd year of the programme are reported.Author: IDRC, CCAA annual report, December 2009


CGIAR challenge program on climate change, agriculture and food security

This report provides an overview of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, including goals and objectives. The themes of the research agenda are introduced and include: Theme 1: Diagnosing vulnerability and analysing opportunities; Theme 2: Unlocking the potential of macro-level policies; Theme 3: Enhancing engagement and communication for decision-making; Theme 4: Adaptation pathways based on managing current climate risk; Theme 5: Adaptation pathways under progressive climate change; and Theme 6: Poverty alleviation through climate change mitigation.Author: CGIAR, CCAFS report no. 1, 2009


Report of the indigenous peoples’ global summit on climate change

This report contains the proceedings of an Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change - hosted by the Inuit Circumpolar Council in collaboration with the UN University - Institute of Advanced Studies Traditional Knowledge Initiative (UNU-IAS TKI) and other partners. The Indigenous Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change was held in Anchorage, Alaska, from 20 – 24 April 2009. The Summit enabled indigenous peoples from all regions of the globe to exchange their knowledge and experience in adapting to the impacts of climate change, and to develop key messages and recommendations to assist Indigenous Peoples in their global negotiations on climate change.Authors: UNU-IAS, Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change, December 2009


Climate change and hunger: Responding to the challenge

This report reviews current knowledge of the effects of climate change on hunger. It summarizes knowledge from global studies completed and provides an overview of actions that can be taken to address the challenge. The authors believe that unless climate change is mitigated by substantial reductions of greenhouse gases it will greatly increase hunger, especially in the poorest parts of the world. The scale of risk from climate change varies with assumptions about future development, especially future levels of poverty, but it is likely to affect tens to hundreds of millions of people. It is expected that Africa will be most affected, especially the semi-arid regions north and south of the equator. This is mainly because of projected increases in aridity resulting from climate change and because of high vulnerability consequent on low levels of income. The poorest parts of southern and south-eastern Asia are likely to be substantially affected, with strong negative impacts on agricultural production. Food production in other regions, for example Central America, may also be impacted.Authors: Parry, M.. Evans, A., Rosegrant, M. and Wheeler, T. WFP


Climate change implications for fisheries and aquaculture

An overview of the current scientific knowledge available on climate change implications for fisheries and aquaculture is provided in this publication through three technical papers that were presented and discussed during the expert workshop on Climate Change Implications for Fisheries and Aquaculture. A summary of the workshop outcomes as well as key messages on impacts of climate change on aquatic ecosystems and on fisheries- and aquaculture-based livelihoods are provided in the introduction of this technical paper. The first paper reviews the physical and ecological impacts of climate change relevant to marine and inland capture fisheries and aquaculture, the second paper tackles the consequences of climate change impacts on fisheries and their dependent communities and the third paper addresses the impacts of climate change on aquaculture.Editors: Chochrane, K., De Young, C., Soto, D., Bahri, T. FAO, 2009


Realising REDD+: National strategy and policy options

Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and enhancing forest carbon stocks in developing countries (REDD+) started as a global initiative. Much of the initial debate has focussed on the global REDD+ architecture and how REDD+ can be included in a post-2012 climate agreement. But the debates and the focus of actions have now increasingly moved to national and local levels. More than 40 countries are developing national REDD+ strategies and policies, and hundreds of REDD+ projects have been initiated across the tropics. This book wants to inform these national and local processes, by asking some basic questions: How are participating countries going to reduce emissions and increase carbon stocks that they hope to be paid for through global mechanisms? What new institutions, processes, policies, and projects are needed? What are the options in these areas, and how do they compare?Editors: Angelsen, A., Brockhaus, M., Kanninen, M., Sills, E., Sunderlin, W.D., Wertz-Kanounnikoff, S., Abdel Nour, H.O. CIFOR, 2009.


Climate, agriculture and food security: A strategy for change

The report was written by Anne Moorhead of Green Ink, based on inputs provided by Contact Points at the CGIAR centres and Challenge Programs. There is no time to lose in transforming knowledge into action. But the knowledge of today is not enough. Science must advance quickly toward new frontiers, in search of greater understanding and more powerful solutions. This report has as its goal to inform and stimulate discussions in Copenhagen during COP-15 and beyond. The CGIAR centres, their partners, and the international science community will continue to provide the solid basis of scientific understanding to assist policy makers as well as the public and private sectors in developing strategies for sustainable development and food security under climate change. Agriculture in its widest sense will be affected by a changing climate, but is also part of the solution.Author: A. Moorhead, CGIAR, December 2009


Are soil and water conservation technologies a buffer against production risk in the face of climate change?

This brief is based on a study that investigates the risk implications of various soil and water conservation technologies for crop production in Ethiopia’s Nile River Basin. The analysis identifies technologies that increase and decrease crop production risk—with risk defined as the degree of yield variability—for the purpose of isolating which technologies are best suited to particular regions and agroecological zones. These results could be used to improve the geographical targeting of soil conservation techniques as part of efforts to promote farm-level adaptation to climate change.Authors: K. Edward, C. Ringler, M. Yesuf & E. Bryan, IFPRI brief & Ethiopia Development Research Institute, 2009


The most inconvenient truth of all: climate change and indigenous people

Indigenous people are on the frontline of climate change. Living in parts of the world where its impacts are greatest and depending largely, or exclusively, on the natural environment for their livelihoods, culture and lives, they are more vulnerable to climate change than anyone else on earth. According to reports, the impact of climate change on indigenous people is already being felt around the world: from the Arctic to the Andes to the Amazon, from the islands of the Pacific Ocean to Canada’s Pacific Rim. Equally important, but barely recognized, is the impact that measures to stop climate change are having, or may have, on indigenous people. These “mitigation measures” violate their rights and make it easier for governments, companies and others to lay claim to, exploit and, in some cases, destroy their land – like climate change itself. This report is an exposé of these mitigation measures. They include: biofuels; hydroelectric power; forest conservation; and carbon offsetting. This report is published ahead of critical climate change talks to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.By: Survival International, 2009


Antarctic climate change and the environment

This volume provides a comprehensive, up-to-date account of how the physical and biological environment of the Antarctic continent and Southern Ocean has changed from Deep Time until the present day. It also considers how the Antarctic environment may change over the next century in a world where greenhouse gas concentrations are much higher than occurred over the last few centuries. The Antarctic is a highly coupled system with non-linear interactions between the atmosphere, ocean, ice and biota, along with complex links to the rest of the Earth system. In preparing this volume our approach has been highly cross-disciplinary, with the goal of reflecting the importance of the continent in global issues, such as sea level rise, the separation of natural climate variability from anthropogenic influences, food stocks, biodiversity and carbon uptake by the ocean. One hundred experts in Antarctic science have contributed and drafts of the manuscript were reviewed by over 200 scientists.Authors: J. Turner et. al. (eds.), Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, November 2009


Climate change and food security in the Pacific

This brief has been prepared for the UNCCC meeting in Copenhagen, December 2009, to raise awareness of the imminent impacts of climate change on food security in Pacific island countries and territories and to urge participants to consider the importance of mainstreaming food security in climate-related policies, strategies and programmes. By providing a snapshot of the imminent impacts of climate change on food security in Pacific Island Countries and Territories (PICTs), this report illustrates the need to mainstream food security within climate change policies, strategies and programmes and the need to combat climate-related vulnerability through the effective implementation of National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs). It also advocates “climate proofing” existing food security initiatives and broadening the NAPA process to include all PICTs as further steps to improve food security and combat the impacts of climate change in the region.Authors: W. Morrell & N. E.-H. Scialabba, FAO/SPREP/SPC/USP Policy Brief, November 2009


World energy outlook: executive summary

Since the last report of the IEA, the economic turndown has led to a drop in energy use, CO2 emissions and energy investment. Is this an opportunity to arrest climate change or a threat that any economic upturn might be stifled at birth? What package of commitments and measures should the climate negotiators at the UNCCC in Copenhagen put together if they really want to stop global temperatures rising? How much would it cost? And how much might the developed world have to pay to finance action elsewhere? How big is the gas resource base and what is the typical pattern of production from a gas field? What does the unconventional gas boom in the US mean for the rest of the world? Are we headed for a global gas glut? What role will gas play in the future energy mix? And how might the way gas is priced change? All these questions and many others are answered in this report. The data are extensive, the projections more detailed than ever and the analyses compelling.By the International Energy Agency, November 2009


Climate change connections - A resource kit on climate, population and gender

UNFPA and WEDO have developed a comprehensive resource kit on gender, population and climate change. Learn how gender equality can reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts and how women are uniquely positioned to help curb the harmful consequences of a changing climate. Climate change is already impacting populations and ecosystems around the globe. Exacerbating poverty and leading to infrastructural breakdown, it threatens to set back development efforts by decades, profoundly affecting all of us. But the impact won’t be felt equally. Those with the fewest resources will be most susceptible to its negative effects – particularly women, the majority of the world’s poor. At the same time, women’s vulnerability can obscure the fact that they are an untapped resource in efforts to cope with the effects of climate change and reduce the emissions that cause it. As innovators, organizers, leaders, educators and caregivers, women are uniquely positioned to help curb the harmful consequences of a changing climate. Incorporating a gender perspective into climate change policies, projects and funds is crucial in ensuring that women contribute to and benefit from equitable climate solutions.By UNFPA & WEDO, October 2009


Assessing vulnerability and adaptive capacity to climate risks: Methods for investigation at local and national levels

Effective planning for climate change adaptation programming in developing countries requires a fine-grained assessment of local vulnerabilities, practices, and adaptation options and preferences. While global models can project climate impacts and estimate costs of expected investments, developing country decision-makers also require national assessments that take a bottom-up, pro-poor perspective, integrate across sectors, and reflect local stakeholders’ experiences and values, in order to determine appropriate climate responses. This paper outlines the methodological approach of the social component of the World Bank’s Economics of Adaptation to Climate Change study. The social component features both village-level investigations of vulnerability and adaptive capacity, and innovative, participatory scenario-development approaches that lead diverse groups at local and national levels through structured discussions using GIS-based visualization tools to examine trade-offs and preferences among adaptation activities and implementation mechanisms. This dynamic, multisectoral approach allows for real-time analysis, institutional learning and capacity development. The paper presents the research and learning approach of the study and offers emerging findings on policy and institutional questions surrounding adaptation arenas in Bangladesh, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Ghana and Mozambique.Authors: A. Kuriakose, L. Bizikova & C. Bachofen, the WB, May 2009


State of world population 2009 - Facing a changing world: women, population and climate

How do population dynamics affect greenhouse gases and climate change? Will urbanization and an ageing population help or hinder efforts to adapt to a warming world? And could better reproductive health care and improved relations between women and men make a difference in the fight against climate change? Find the answers in the State of World Population 2009. The whole world has been talking about carbon credits, carbon trading and emissions targets. But not enough has been said about the people whose activities contribute to those emissions or about those who will be most affected by climate change, especially women. The climate-change debate needs to be reframed, putting people at the centre. Unless climate policies take people into account, they will fail to mitigate climate change or to shield vulnerable populations from the potentially disastrous impacts.By UNFPA, November 2009