European Agriculture Responses to Climate Change

The productivity of European agriculture<!–[if supportFields]> XE “agriculture” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> is generally higher than the world average.  In 2003 the European Union decided to change the agricultural policy to link farmer payment to respect for the environment, animal and plant health, and animal welfare standards.  The consequences of climate change are expected to cause increasing water shortages and a varying response in cropping systems.  Bindi and Oleson (2010) expect increasing yields and suitable crop areas in northern Europe<!–[if supportFields]> XE “Europe” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>, but expect disadvantages from water shortage and extreme weather in southern Europe.  The authors discuss positive possibilities for different use of the land that will become incapable of crop production due to climate change.—Whitney Dawson
Bindi, M., Oleson, J., 2010.  The reponse of agriculture<!–[if supportFields]> XE “agriculture” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> in Europe<!–[if supportFields]> XE “Europe” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> to climate change. Springer-Verlag published ahead of print November 16, 2010, doi:10.1007/s10113-010-0173-x.

Bindi and Oleson find that the impact of agriculture<!–[if supportFields]> XE “agriculture” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> on Europe<!–[if supportFields]> XE “Europe” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>’s water resources should be reduced to reach higher surface and ground water standards.  The authors also discuss the changes in climate that are expected to occur using the IPCC<!–[if supportFields]> XE “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> 2007 reports.  Europe is projected to warm at a rate between 0.22 and 0.52 Celsius degrees per decade, and precipitation is expected to change with increases in the north of up to 16% and decrease in the south from –4 to –24%.  Scenarios studied by the authors showed decreases in European cropland by 2080 from 28% to 47%.  Heat waves and droughts are also expected to increase in frequency and intensity, leading to reductions in farm income.  The authors find that climate change may have a positive effect in northern areas with increased productivity and range of species, but negative effects in the south.  Crops that currently grow in more southern areas of Europe will become more suitable in the north, and at higher altitudes in the south.  Earlier infestation will be caused by warmer winters, and plant diseases may lead to a greater demand for pesticide<!–[if supportFields]> XE “pesticide” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> use.  Negative effects are seen in livestock as well, with higher mortality risk in livestock systems and an increased disease rate. 
Bindi and Oleson suggest that adaptation strategies will be necessary to manage the negative impacts that climate change is expected to cause to agriculture<!–[if supportFields]> XE “agriculture” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> in the south.  Agricultural activities are a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigation strategies are needed within the agricultural sector.  Soil Organic Carbon stocks in Europe<!–[if supportFields]> XE “Europe” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> will decrease from the increase in temperatures, speeding up organic matter decomposition<!–[if supportFields]> XE “decomposition” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–>.  The authors suggest an alternative use for the land that will eventually be unsuitable for crops and relevant to our future needs; land use could change to the production of biofuels and biomaterials from biomass, and reduce our current reliance on fossil fuels.  However, future technical development, including new crop varieties and better agriculture practices, could offset climate change effects. 
Strategies to deal with climate change are discussed, differentiating planned and autonomous adaptations.  Autonomous adaptations may be more feasible, as they are at a smaller scale and occur over a shorter time period.  Examples include changes in crop varieties, sowing dates, and fertilizer<!–[if supportFields]> XE “fertilizer” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> and pesticide<!–[if supportFields]> XE “pesticide” <![endif]–><!–[if supportFields]><![endif]–> use. Comparatively, planned adaptations involve major structural changes, on a large-scale level.  A key planned adaptation available is allocating European agricultural land use differently.  The authors also discuss the concept that organic farming may have a higher resilience to climate change because it has more options for change, but higher costs, and subsidies would be necessary.  

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