What are the biggest challenges related to global warming?

We don’t really have a discussion specifically about global warming yet, but I imagine it’s one of the biggest challenges in farming, and will be one of the biggest challenges going forward.

Some of the questions we’re interested in include:

    How will it affect farmers in developing countries different from farmers in the developed world? How will it affect smallholder farmers differently from big, commercial farmers?
  • How will it affect food production and distribution?

Are there are other questions we should consider?

@AlanReed, @dhanasreej and @Janetlee, you may be able to help us answer some of these questions.

Climate change is indeed crucial and will affect the entire value chain directly and indirectly. What are these direct and indirect influences on the value chain and biodiversity? How do these effects trickle down all the way from the production to consumption?

Thanks for tagging me here.

It’s rather clear that climate change is already having adverse impacts on the agricultural sector, food production, consumption patterns and food security in general. But the effects are not equally distributed across the world. Developing countries with less resources for adaptation and within those countries, small landholders with far less resources are affected more than others. A large proportion of developing countries are agrarian economies and therefore, the effects are more entrenched. And the fact of the matter is that this sector is highly neglected and needs more investments for the farmers to adapt to the vagaries of climate change like floods, drought, soil degradation (salinity) and so on. The reason why small farmers are more vulnerable is because they are unable to tap into the various initiatives that the government or other relevant actors have introduced due to the persisting socio-economic and political hierarchies. They are mostly subsistence farmers who are powerless in the system. There is push for technology driven solutions in the developing countries, but it is rather slow and the trickle down effects are not reaching the most vulnerable communities. For example, climate change-resistant seed varieties are being developed on a large scale now, but only the big farmers end up having access to them. Many areas still lack irrigation facilities.

Similarly, the policies are also lopsided, wherein bigger farmers have access to subsidised water and electricity supply in their farms, which in itself is aggravating environmental degradation. Small farmers also depend a lot on external help like middlemen to sell their products and they have inadequate transport infrastructure, which leaves them more vulnerable.

I think there is much less focus on the impact of climate change on supply chain management. I believe even a small rise in temperatures can have serious implications for storage facilities. Food wastage is a big factor already, but with extreme weather events and other impacts of climate change, this could become worse.

Fundamentally farming is structured around taking advantage of predictable, consistent, moderate (not extreme) weather. It uses free sunlight, free clean water, lots of free land, nutrient rich soils, clean air, cheap labour, and huge distribution networks that span the globe.

All these factors are changing (except the sunlight)


The sun is still shining, however:

  • Clean fresh water certainly is not easy to come by even if its rain.
  • When rain does come it does sometimes it now comes in major storms that wash away the topsoil
  • Soils have been depleted of nutrients and are reliant on chemicals to provide for the plants
  • Land is now a scarce resources and is the major cause of the loss of rainforests
  • Our air is filled with excessive amounts of pollution in some places in the world and is now causing more deaths per year that smoking cigarettes
  • Cheap labour is taken advantage of and is often extremely hard for farmers to operate in high income markets
  • The distribution networks are based on huge fossil fuel consumption which only feeds the problem of the climate changing and making it a negative feedback loop.

The short version, the system is helping to cause global warming which is the thing that is harming it in the first place. All while 1 in 9 people are starving today…

Thank you for sharing your insights, @dhanasreej and @ScotBryson!

Agriculture is one of a small number of human economic activities most affected by changes in temperature and precipitation. Perhaps with fishing, it is the most important for survival of the expected population of the Earth. Malthus projected a disastrous growth of population which would exceed the capacity of agriculture to feed. Of course, the population did growth enormously, but production of food grew even faster.

The “green revolution”, identified as developing countries such as India, Brazil, Indonesia, emerged from colonialism and/or war, in the post-1945 years, produced an amazing flow of food. Hunger was reduced to a tiny fringe of the people in nearly every country. Agricultural products and related economic forces stimulated a great expansion of internal and international trade. Investment flowed from the expanding wealthy European, American and other developed economies to the new opportunities in new independent and ambitious countries.

Now, in the 21st Century, we face the post-maturity stage of the age of abundance. In many agricultural communities, drought has been prolonged, livestock are not able to flourish, growth of production has receded. Little question remains that global warming is gradually inflicting a penalty on agriculture, which produced many of the causes of global warming. Several great changes must be understood and implemented in the technology and practice of cultivation, if our population is to avoid increasing hunger and devastation of agricultural communities.

Agriculture is a great energy consumer. Farm equipment, electricity in large structures from hay barns to pig feeding factories, trucks carrying farm products across the country, production of fertilizer in huge factories, meat processing factories, and many other sources are huge users of electricity. They are growing and demanding new dams, coal-fired generating plants, solar arrays, wind farms.

Some of agriculture’s affects on the atmosphere come from its unavoidable sources. A recognized sizable share of Greenhouse Gases, for instance, comes from flatulence in cows, which is largely Methane, the second most harmful GHG.

Controlled Photosynthesis in waterways is the solution to Global Warming.

CO2, N and P are all inputs for photosynthesis.

Many waterways have an ‘excess’ of nutrients and CO2 in atmosphere and oceans is increasing. So using all these to grow more phytoplankton in waterways is the simple solution.

Which Phytoplankton is the best to grow ?
Unfortunately there is not enough discussion about this.

We have identified Diatom Algae as the best phytoplankton, since in nature Diatoms account for about 50% of all photosynthesis in water, both fresh water and oceans.
Diatoms are the natural food for Zooplankton and Fish and Whales.

So growing Diatoms is the best solution to consume CO2, N and P and thus solve the problem of Climate Change, Ocean Acidification, decline in fish, hypoxia, restoration of corals, etc.

@meskanda, @nasirrajput81, @NPSAHU, what do you think are the biggest climate-change related challenges in food systems and farming?

@Climatechange and @jali, you may have insight on this topic as well. Please don’t hesitate to share your ideas with the community!

From “The Impact of Climate Change On Water Resource”:

… Paul Dickinson, stated that,

“Much of the impact of climate change will be felt through changing patterns of water availability, with shrinking glaciers and changing patterns of precipitation increasing the likelihood of drought and flood. If climate change is the shark, then water is its teeth and it is an issue on which businesses need far greater levels of awareness and understanding.” [emphasis added]

Well worth a gander.

Chennai, India’s sixth-largest city, with a population of nearly 10 million, has almost run out of water.

Recently Cape Town almost ran out, and the shortlist of cities that could run out of water includes Sao Paulo, Bangalore, Beijing, Cairo, Jakarta, Moscow, Istanbul, Mexico City, London, Tokyo, and Miami. That’s over 150 million people facing a potential water crisis.

In 2015 the Syrian water crisis forced nearly half of the population to relocate, 6 million internally, and 5 million left the country altogether.

The implications here are mind-boggling. Imagine the impact of 75 million people relocating, with half of them seeking refuge in other countries.

Unless we can develop weather control with the power to turn rainfall on and off, we will have to implement as many water conservation measures as we can. And not just in agriculture. A leaky toilet can waste more water than a family-sized hydroponic garden requires.

Hydroponic systems can conserve 95% of the water. Using these to grow food in cities, on rooftops, in open spaces, in the suburbs and surrounding areas will reduce pressure on available water supplies. It will also reduce dependence on distant food supplies.

However, hydroponics needs a giant leap forward to simplify it, to lower costs and generally make it usable by average people around the world.

Remember the One Laptop Per Child initiative? The advent of iPads eclipsed the OLPC project, and hydroponics would benefit from a similar forward thrust. Regardless of the final form the technology takes, it needs to be available to just about everyone: children, teachers, amateurs, and professionals, to use as they will.

A lot of things need to be done to get out ahead of water problems brought on by global warming. Helping individuals and communities become more independent is one of the best things we can do.

@SteveK8 what are your thoughts on desalination as one mechanism to address water availability issues? current technologies have a lot of drawbacks but there have been some incremental gains and improvements, and some major cities/countries have implemented systems of reasonable scale. where might we need a major breakthrough on this front?


Desalination for humans is one thing, but it won’t replace rivers and streams, and groundwater, and lakes, and springs, and snowpack and glaciers that melt slowly. Desal isn’t going to water crops around the world that rely on clement weather. The link below goes to the heart of the matter.

Desalination isn't the magic bullet, Water Authority warns Israelis | The Times of Israel

I wouldn’t dissuade coastal cities in arid regions from considering desalination, but I wonder what can inland cities like Mexico City do?

@SteveK8 i see your point. water as a resource for humans, whether it is for drinking or irrigation, is a separate question from water as a natural resource. the human engineering required to tackle for example how clement weather delivers moisture and rainfall is beyond the scope of human possibility, possibly forever.

we might solve the challenges you imply for inland cities to tackle water availability via desalination, but will never address the above.

@timsilman I’m heartened by tree planting efforts around the world.

Recently in Ethiopia, a record-breaking 350 million trees were planted in 12 hours. Australia and China each are planting a billion trees. And Pakistan is out to plant 10 billion trees. The Great Green Wall of trees across Africa will be 10 miles wide and 4,350 miles long.

We will affect some degree of climate control by working in harmony with the natural forces of our planet, by doing things like planting tens of billions of trees, shifting to renewable energy, adopting permaculture, conservation efforts, and so much more.

I appreciate desal plants and aqueducts and irrigation. And Elon Musk’s Boring Company could bore a few tunnels under Oregon to bring some Columbia River water to California. Or some Missouri River water to the Western States. And hopefully, we’d manage it well, and justly.

As we pursue hard tech solutions, we need to continue to ramp up efforts to cultivate a symbiotic relationship with the planet. Parochial interests and partisan politics must eventually yield to broader understandings and transparent motives. If we could work together for the common good, there’s no telling what we could accomplish.

@SteveK8 hear hear! couldn’t agree more. the symbiotic bit is critical, both in terms of our harmony with nature but also taking a holistic approach to solutions, requiring the natural and the technological.