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As climate change will only increase the intensity and frequency of these events, agriculture must be integrated into national adaptation policies and plans and investments to protect livelihoods, maintain ecosystems and feed growing populations.

UNDERSTANDING THE IMPACTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE National climate planning can only work when countries have the capabilities to forecast climate-linked changes and trigger alerts in agriculture, assess vulnerabilities and understand and support communities’ ability to adapt. To make this possible, FAO provides methods and tools for assessing climate impacts, providing early warning, monitoring natural resources, and tracking GHG emissions. These tools help the shift to sustainable food and agriculture – which can both help adapt to new climate regimes and minimize climate change itself. Many adaptation measures have mitigation co-benefits, while some of the tools can be used to look at mitigation opportunities, such as identifying degraded lands that can be rehabilitated and so become carbon sinks.

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World hunger is on the rise: the estimated number of undernourished people increased from 804 million in 2016 to 821 million in 2017. Much of the increase in hunger can be traced to a rise in conflicts, often exacerbated by climate-related shocks.  According to a recent IPCC report, if temperatures rise by 1.5 °C this century above pre-industrial levels, 122 million additional people could experience extreme poverty by 2030, mainly due to higher food prices and declining health. Between 2006 and 2016, 26 percent of the total damage and loss caused by climate-related disasters in developing countries was in the agriculture sector.

Between 2006 and 2016, 30 percent of the agricultural losses caused by disasters were due to drought, costing over USD 29 billion. In developing countries, up to 83 percent of all damage and loss caused by drought, which climate change is expected to intensify, is absorbed by agriculture. The IPCC warns that declining crop yields may already be a fact, and that decreases of 10–25 percent may be widespread by 2050. Increasing soil organic carbon by improved land management techniques can raise food production by 17.6 megatonnes per year and help maintain productivity in drier conditions. While the degradation of the world’s soils has released roughly 78 gigatonnes of carbon into the atmosphere, the rehabilitation of agricultural and degraded soils can remove up to 51 gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere.

Climate change is expected to bring additional burdens on water systems already stressed. This will intensify competition for water, affecting regional water, energy, fisheries and food security. Livestock supply chains account for 14.5 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Cattle (beef, milk) are responsible for about two-thirds of that figure. FAO estimates that the potential to reduce emissions from livestock production, in particular methane, is about 30 percent of baseline emissions.

By 2055, species redistribution prompted by rising ocean temperatures may reduce potential catches of many fish in the tropics by 40–60 percent, and in high latitudes by 30–70 percent. Tropical deforestation and forest degradation through agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, destructive logging, forest fires, and other causes accounts for 11 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Since 1990 over 20 countries have demonstrated that it is possible to improve food security while maintaining or increasing forest cover. The world’s forests store an estimated 296 gigatonnes of carbon in both above- and below-ground biomass ➨ Fisheries and aquaculture make a minor contribution to global emissions but offer significant opportunities to reduce fuel consumption and emissions. 

Currently, one-third of the food we produce is lost or wasted. This costs up to USD 2.6 trillion per year, including USD 700 billion in environmental costs and USD 900 billion in social costs.

Helping to maintain carbon in the soil Soil organic carbon represents the largest terrestrial carbon reservoir. Through photosynthesis, plants take up carbon from the atmosphere and store it. When soil organic carbon is decomposed, it is released from soils as greenhouse gases. Maintaining and, wherever possible, increasing soil organic carbon stocks is thus a measure to mitigate climate change. Also, the sustainable management of soils helps adapt to a changing climate due to the multiple benefits that soil organic carbon provides to ensure productivity through effective nutrient cycling, water retention and improved soil structure. FAO and the Global Soil Partnership are working closely with countries to support their efforts in sustainably managing their soils through a range of activities that include producing a Global Soil Organic Carbon Map (GSOCmap) launched in 2017. Facts and figures  FAO manages the Secretariat of the Global Soil Partnership, a broad constituency with 194 countries actively participating in all meetings. 

The Global Soil Information System, established by the Partnership, monitors and forecasts the condition of the Earth’s soil resources.  The first-ever Global Soil Carbon Map identifies degraded areas, sets restoration targets and explores sequestration potential as a way to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Global Soil Laboratory Network has 187 soil laboratories in more than 100 countries. Nine regional soil partnerships are well established and have consolidated implementation plans. They work in close collaboration with FAO regional and national offices in establishing an interactive consultative process with national soil entities. Impacts FAO and the Global Soil Partnership are also supporting countries in the Implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines of Sustainable Soil Management to increase the resilience of soils and natural resource systems to the effects of climate change, while simultaneously reducing GHG emissions from soils. The International Network of Black Soils was launched in 2017 to foster the technical cooperation between countries with black soils to monitor, protect and sustainably manage this very rich source of soil organic carbon.