The Foundation for Agrarian Studies (FAS), in collaboration with Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung South Asia, organised a lecture on May 11, 2023 as part of the FAS’s lecture series. The lecture was given by Prof T Jayaraman, Senior Fellow – Climate Change at M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) and chaired by Dr Vinod Kumar Singh, Director, ICAR Hyderabad. The lecture highlighted the changes in the relationship between agriculture and global warming in the past decade.
Dr Sandipan Baksi, Director of FAS, introduced the speaker and provided a brief summary of Professor Jayaraman’s 2014 paper: Climate Change and Agriculture: Current and Future Trends, and Implications for India, published in the Review of Agrarian Studies.
Prof Jayaraman emphasised that climate change would impact the lives and livelihoods of small farmers, who were often sidelined by policy. While large farmers also suffer losses, they eventually recover, but climate variability pushes small and marginal farmers into all-round deprivation. He highlighted how policy often overlooked the concept of state-support to farmers in such crisis situations.
He observed that technological advancements in agriculture have helped mitigate the negative effects of global warming on agriculture. Explaining that some efforts labeled as ‘adaptations’ primarily address fundamental shortcomings in agricultural systems such as inadequate inputs, lack of knowledge, limited water availability, etc., he noted that these actions simply address development deficits, rather than the challenges posed by global warming.
Prof Jayaraman also explained how agricultural emissions are often conflated with ‘system emissions’. While there is methane emission from nitrogenous fertilisers, livestock and decay of vegetative matter, agriculture has no discernable CO2 emissions.
Overall, agricultural productivity is increasing in all low-income countries, but not in a sustainable manner. While increased productivity is necessary for the growing population, he cautioned against equating productivity solely to yield, and argued factors such as optimum input, supply of new varieties, etc., must be accounted as well. Regulation based on socio-economic factors is important to address problems, like the high use of synthetic fertilisers, etc.