Wednesday, June 3, 2009

"If the Copenhagen climate conference goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in our planet" says Prof. M S. Swaminathan

"Anthropogenically induced changes in climate leading to adverse alterations in temperature, precipitation and sea level pose a mega threat to the lives and livelihoods of people every where in our planet. However, it is only the poor nations and the poor in all nations who will suffer most because they lack adequate coping capacity" says Prof. M S Swaminathan is Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) and Chairman, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation in India.


Most climate predictions warn that South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa will suffer most from the impact of global warming, since these regions also represent hotspots for hunger and poverty. It is doubtful whether they can achieve the UN Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger and poverty by half by 2015. In fact the available evidence indicates that hunger and poverty are increasing in many nations of South Asia and Sub Saharan Africa.


Countries in Asia and Africa are still predominantly rural where agriculture comprising crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and agro-processing, constitutes the predominant source of livelihood. More than sixty percent of the population live in rural areas and are engaged in farming and farm related occupations. Along with my colleague S. K. Sinha, I showed over twenty years ago that even a one degree centigrade rise in mean temperature, will reduce the duration of the wheat crop in North India by nearly a week resulting in a drop in yield of about five hundred kilograms per hectare. Also, the prospect for sea level rise will affect adversely the physical and economic survival of coastal fisher, farming and other communities. Melting of Himalayan glaciers and ice sheets will lead to the occurrence of serious floods in the Indo-Gangetic Plains. Drought will cause hardship not only to human population but also to farm animals. For example, India has a human population of nearly 1.2 billion and a farm animal population of over five hundred million, both of whom require food and water.

Discussions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions at the international political level are important. At the same time, steps have to be taken to promote climate literacy at the local level in order to enhance the adaptation and coping capacity of local populations to the more frequent occurrence of drought, floods, higher mean temperature, and rise in sea level. This is why as early as 1973, I had proposed the development of local level drought and flood codes as well as a code for maximizing the benefits of good weather conditions. Such codes can provide an action plan tailored to local socio-cultural and agro-ecological conditions. For example, in the case of crops, the local codes would help in preparing contingency plans for adjusting land and water use to suit different weather probabilities. In each village, a woman and a man can be trained to serve as Climate Risk Managers . They should be well versed in the art and science of mitigating the impact of climate change on human health, animal welfare, crop husbandry and livelihoods.


The alternative cropping strategies and crop life-saving techniques developed to ensure food security in an era of climate change should be backed up with appropriate input supply arrangements. Just as food grain reserves are important for food security, seed reserves are important for crop security. “Store grain and water everywhere” should be the motto of local level Climate Risk Managers.

While every effort should be made to improve the survival of small holding agriculture, steps should be taken concurrently to enhance opportunities for multiple livelihoods in order to ensure a minimum income. The biovillage model of sustainable human security I had introduced in villages in South India in 1992, could become an effective mechanism for adaptation to climate change. In the biovillages, rural women and men adopt a two pronged strategy involving strengthening ecological security through field gene (i.e. insitu on-farm conservation of land races of crop plants) and seed banks, and food security through grain and water banks. The biovillage communities work for an era of biohappiness through the conservation and sustainable and equitable use of life support systems like land, water, biodiversity and forests. We need to promote a conservation continuum ranging from farmers’ fields to the Global Seed Vault established by Nordic countries and the Government of Norway at Svalbard near the North Pole. The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation has also set up a Resource Centre for Genes for mitigating the impact of climate change. This Resource Centre aims to assemble two sets of genes – naturally occurring and novel genetic combinations created by the recombinant DNA technology. Genes for tolerance to higher temperature, drought, flood and sea level rise are being either assembled or created. For example, genetically modified rice varieties possessing genes for salinity tolerance have been bred by transferring genes from the mangrove species Avicennia marina. Similarly, drought tolerant strains of rice and other crops are being developed by using Prosopis juliflora as the donor of drought tolerance. Genes for salinity and submergence tolerance are being assembled from the Orissa state of India which is a centre of diversity for rice. Examples are : SR 26B for salinity tolerance and FR 13A for flood tolerance.

From the foregoing, it will be obvious that climate awareness as well as conservation action at the Grassroots level can help local communities to manage better the adverse impact of climate change. Local level Climate Risk Managers can spread both climate and genetic literacy and create awareness of the fact that Climate Change Saviour Crops and varieties can help to save lives and livelihoods. While the genetic and knowledge enhancement of the coping capacity at local level is important, there is also need for concerted action at the global level to reduce greenhouse gas emission. This is why the Copenhagen Conference is crucial to human security and survival. If the Copenhagen climate conference goes wrong, nothing else will have a chance to go right in our ecologically troubled but still compassionate planet.

(Source: http://en.cop15.dk/blogs/view+blog?blogid=1412)

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mack said...

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I loved it.thanks for this marvelous article...................

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