How should we prepare for future climate disruptions of agriculture and agricultural water resources over the coming two decades? A team of French senior experts from the Ministry of Agriculture has prepared a report evaluating the different possibilities. The authors looked for answers based on scenarios founded on six case studies in France. In their findings, the worst of the scenarios envisaged would be the status quo.
Agriculture is not possible without water. Droughts and heat waves affect the biological lives of soils, biodiversity and all related functions. Climate change affects the cycle of water and agriculture. The big risks associated with this are related to water, agriculture and to means of subsistence, and the risk is important on global, regional, national and local levels. Food security will be affected under four separate aspects (access, stability, availability and quality) over the coming decades.
The mission of this report was to consider the problem under the angle of sustainable development, meaning through the development of a systemic and prospective analysis integrating the question of needs to satisfy externalities (both positive and negative impacts). This synthesized international and national documents and statistics for six territories that are representative of French agricultural and territorial diversity to explore several different future scenarios.
The study notably concluded that the scenario with the worst results over the coming decade would be maintaining the status quo. The study concluded that the economic, social and climate justice impacts would be very negative. In the economic arena, the authors concluded that major losses would be reported in agricultural production, in both quantity and quality, and that revenues and agricultural competitiveness would decrease.
The overall economic impact would be heavy: loss of agricultural competitiveness, trade balance deficits, the cost of calamities and agricultural insurance as well as measures to help farmers affected by climate disruptions, effects on tourism as well as sectors of the economy in poorer rural zones. The study also predicts a loss of jobs and an increase in climate injustice (the poorest regions being hardest hit), as well as a decrease in terrestrial biodiversity, heightened risk for fires and floods, an increase in CO2 emissions and a loss of aquatic biodiversity.
In order to avoid this disastrous scenario, it is necessary to take action. The report highlighted several recommendations to do this. Developing water as a usable resource is a condition of the utmost importance. This includes storing a part of the excess water in winter to be used in times of need, pumping from rivers, underground reserves or other abundant sources to transfer to areas in need, and reusing treated water. Additionally, the report highlighted the need to improve the efficiency of irrigation and adapting cultivation systems to new climate conditions.