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Climate change and global warming are the biggest threats and challenges that the mankind faces today. These factors will cause unparalleled ecological, economic and social impacts on agriculture, human health, biodiversity and water resources. The UNDP Human Development Report, (2007-08) reveals that developing nations near the equator will be the most vulnerable. China, India, Bangladesh, Vietnam and Indonesia will be the worst affected because of the concentration of major population centers at low elevations. Preliminary assessment of expected regional impacts based on Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published during the year 2007 states that :

  • In parts of Asia, crop yield will decrease between 2.5 to 10% by the year 2020’s and 5 to 30% in 2050’s.
  • 120 million to 1200 million people will experience increased water stress by 2020’s and 185 million to 981 million people by 2050’s.
  • Predicted significant sea level rise will result in greater risk of flooding and sea water intrusion."

Changes in ocean circulation patterns caused by the climate changes seriously affect the fish populations, both pelagic & demersal and the aquatic food web, as each species will seek conditions suitable for their lifecycle. Adaptive strategies will become essential for the fishes for inducing robustness and flexibility to absorb the changes in resource abundance, to avoid negative, social and economic impacts. Climate change has direct effects on livestock productivity and indirectly through changes on the availability of fodder and pastures. New animal breeds will become necessary that can sustain rural communities in various climatic zones.

The developing world is already constrained by chronic food problems. It is estimated that in developing countries, 11 percent of arable land could be affected by climate change, including a reduction of cereal production and agricultural GDP in over 65 countries, to around 16 percent. The estimate for changes in plant and animal diversity is predicted worse, as for example in Africa, over 25-42 percent of species habitats could be lost, affecting both food and non-food crops. This will lead to erosion of indigenous foods and plant-based medicines. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides that all Parties must formulate and implement National or Regional programmes containing measures to facilitate adequate adaptation to climate change (Art. 4.1.b). It lists specific domains in particular need for adaptation, viz., water resources, agriculture etc. in coastal zones and other areas affected by drought and floods.

It has also been suggested to promote and facilitate at the National and Regional levels, as appropriate , and within their respective capacities for the development of:

  • Educational and public awareness programs on climate change and its effects on coastal farming systems
  • Exchange of educational and public awareness material on climate change and its effects
  • Establishing institutions to cooperate and promote activities on above at national and international levels.

Kerala , has a long coastline of 590 km has a fragile and closed coastal eco-system. The climate induced sea level rise, even to a few millimeters will affect the livelihood of millions of people in these coastal regions . Coastal erosion, inundation, persistent storm events, and shifts in wetlands , incursion of saline water into fresh water aquifers in coastal environs of the state are expected to rise.

The possible effects of climate change on food production are most disastrous in food-insecure states like Kerala where people depend heavily on neighboring regions for food. Emergence of pests & vectors and new transmission modes of plant diseases might trigger many diseases unknown to us. Increased intensity and frequency of storms, drought and flooding and altered hydrological cycles precipitation variance have serious implications for future food availability. It is most essential to develop adaptation farming and climate resilient farming technologies that support local communities especially farmers in dealing with these impacts.