Agriculture is the basis of all societies. It provides food products for humans and animals, and resources for many other manufacturing sectors. Climate change is a huge challenge for agriculture. Few other economic sectors are so directly influenced by environmental and climatic conditions as agriculture.
Agricultural production and food supply
A changing climate will put agricultural production and food supply under pressure. With changing and much more unpredictable environmental conditions, the pressure on agriculture in terms of production, resources, technology, efficiency, sustainable management, knowledge, access, economy, livelihood, food security and responsible behaviour will strongly increase in most parts of the world and the situation in agriculture are going to be exacerbated.
Even though agriculture has a great potential to capture carbon through photosynthesis, it also makes a large contribution to climate change. Worldwide due to agricultural activities about 6.6 GtCO2e are emitted annually. This is about 13.5% of the global Greenhouse gases (GHG) emission.
Most of the emitted GHGs are in the form of methane and nitrous oxide. UK agriculture accounts for about 7.4% of the UK’s total GHG emissions which are 48.4 MtCO2e.
The CO2 emissions from the agricultural sector are less than 1% of UK’s total CO2 emission, while methane with 38% and nitrous oxide with 76% of UK’s total methane and nitrous oxide emissions are major sources of GHGs.
Current research projects focus on adaptation-mitigation strategies and scenario generation of supply chains of agricultural products in the UK.
Using Life Cycle Analysis, suites of pathways are developed that examine how the UK’s agriculture related activities can be enhanced in a sustained and responsible way in relation to emissions and cost while supplying a sustainable and sufficient amount of agricultural products. With consumer-based approaches behaviour, perceptions and awareness of consumers is analysed to understand demands and preferences with the aim to develop possible mitigation-adaptation pathways from a consumer perspective.
For the future UK agriculture has to manage the competing challenges of reducing emissions and its climate change impacts significantly, especially its nitrous oxide and methane emissions while providing products to supply a growing and changing food demand, an increasing biofuel production and industries relying on agricultural inputs under harshening and unpredictable environmental conditions.