The Regional Impacts of Climate Change

Other reports in this collection Adaptation Options

Most studies show that if climate variability remains the same as at present, adaptive strategies (change in sowing dates, genotypes, crop rotation) will continue to offset expected production losses, as long as such strategies are not counteracted by government or other policies in place. The outcome could be different if climate conditions become more variable; averaging across years then would be less appropriate.

In economic terms, most model studies suggest that on average Europe would benefit from climate change because of an overall increase in crop yields, potentially leading to lower consumer prices in a free market. Such studies have considered adaptation to climate change, in which adjustments at the farm level-including shifts in planting dates, changes in water use in irrigated areas, and changes in crop cultivars-are considered. Scenarios without such adaptations also have been undertaken; the results of the model investigations clearly point to the beneficial effects of early adaptation to climatic change.

Other adaptation options include technological advances and socioeconomic options, such as land-use planning, watershed management, improved distribution infrastructure, information dissemination (including improved climate and weather forecasts), adequate trade policy, and national agricultural programs.

The ultimate impacts of climate on the agricultural sector may be determined by nonclimate factors that control the system. In Europe, a major concern-and the main driving force behind agricultural policy-are laws derived from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) for the countries in the EU. These laws also affect other countries in Europe. A common aim in all countries is to reduce land degradation and environmental problems. In countries with water limitations, the growing competition for water, which leads to water-saving programs, is an additional concern. In Spain, for example, one of the main objectives of the future law on water use (Ley del Plan Hidrologico Nacional, MOPT, 1993) is to increase water-use efficiency to increase water availability; the specific water savings are reflected mainly in improvement of the irrigation systems and an efficient adjustment between crop water demand and supply.

Little concern has been devoted to the large percentage of the population working in agriculture in southern Europe. The consequences of climatic variations in agronomic systems that are highly regulated, such as the systems in the countries of the EU, are difficult to predict because crops are highly subsidized and therefore crop prices are artificially high. For example, although agricultural production in Spain decreased in 1994 (-4.3%) as a result of the drought conditions, the Spanish agrarian rent increased (+14%, the largest increase in the EU) (MAPA, 1995) because of the increase in Spanish commodity prices and direct subsidies to Spanish farmers. From the Spanish perspective, it is clear that agricultural regulations and the devaluation of the national currency (peseta) had an initial positive effect on agricultural prices and on farmers' subsidies (Matea, 1995).

Fisheries adaptation options could provide large benefits irrespective of climate change:

Genetic engineering has the potential to increase the production and efficiency of fish farming (Fischetti, 1991). However, resource managers are very concerned about accidental or intentional release of altered and introduced species that might harm natural stocks and gene pools. Around Fennoscandia, escapees and nonindigenous reproduction may have reached or exceeded the recruitment of salmon wild stocks (Ackefors et al., 1991). Introduction of pathogenic organisms and antibiotic-resistant pathogens also is of concern; this problem needs to be addressed in any long-term planning.

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