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‘Use science to address climate change’

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna, Philippines – A former Agriculture secretary who now heads an international research center stressed here the urgency of harnessing “the power of science” to address the problems spawned by climate change.

Scientific interventions can be used in such areas as “adaptation to progressive climate change, adaptation through managing climate risk, pro-poor climate change mitigation, and integration for decision-making,” said Dr. William Dar, now the director general of the India-based International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

In the coming decades, Dar projected that climate change could create real yield reductions of up to 30 percent in Central and South Asia and up to 50 percent in many African countries.

“Tremendous pressure is upon agriculture to produce more food by as much as 70 percent by 2050,” Dar warned at the just-concluded “International Conference on Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation for Food and Environmental Security” held here.

Attended by 110 scientists, government policymakers and planners, academics, and professionals from across the world, the forum was organized by the Philippine government-hosted Los Baños-based Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) and University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB).

The conference was supported by the Asia-Pacific Adaptation Network (APAN), German Academic Exchange Service, University of Mohenheim-Food Security Center in German, German Agency for International Cooperation-Philippines through the Climate Change Commission (CCC) under the Office of the President, Asia-Pacific Network for Global Change Research, and Economy and Environmental Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA).

APAN is a partnership of institutions that include the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies under the auspices of the Japan Ministry of Environment, United Nations Environment Program, and Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Other participants represented ICRISAT, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), University of Tokyo, Nanyang Technological University-Rajaratnam School of International Studies-Center for Non-traditional Security Studies in Singapore, and Philippine Climate Change Adaptation Project.

In his PowerPoint-supported presentation, Dar said the impact of climate change will be most disastrous in the semi-arid tropics, home to two billion people and most of the world’s poor.

“Models indicate that there will be a 10 percent increase of dry land areas of the world with climate change,” he said.

He further said that the confluence of such factors as warming temperatures, drought, floods, increasing land degradation and desertification, loss of biodiversity, rising food prices, zooming energy demand, and population — if unabated — will lead to a “perfect storm.”

Hence, Dar said the “power of science” should be harnessed to help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

For instance, he said, in the face of diminishing water supply for agriculture, rains should be harvested and aquifers recharged for food production purposes.

SEARCA director Gil Saguiguit Jr. concurred that the agriculture sector is most vulnerable to climate change owing to its heavy reliance on climate and weather.

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