Department of Agricultural Meteorology, 1Department of Genetics and Plant Breeding
College of Agriculture (COA), CCS Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar-125004, Haryana, India

Climate change is a long-term shift in the statistics of the weather (including its averages). For example, it could show up as a change in climate normal’s (expected average values for temperature and precipitation) for a given place and time of year, from one decade to the next. The Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines climate change broadly as “any change in climate over time whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.”

Agriculture is a major driver of climate change. According to IPCC 5th Assessment Report, Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFLOU) contribute 20–24 percent of anthropogenic GHG emissions. IPCC estimates that agriculture accounts for 13.5 percent of GHG emissions. These measured emissions are largely the results of synthetic fertilizer use, methane from large scale animal operations, and methane release from rice paddies (IPCC 2014). It is projected that climate change will put around 49 million more people at risk of hunger by 2020. About 65 percent of farm-related emissions come from methane caused by cattle belching and soil treated with natural or synthetic nitrogen fertilizers, according to the World Resources Institute. Agriculture and climate change pose complex challenges for scientists trying to improve crop yields on smallholder farms in developing countries. Sustainable intensification based on conservation agriculture principles, including minimal soil disturbance, permanent soil cover, economical and diversified crop rotations, is an important strategy to combat the negative impact of agriculture on the climate and other natural resources while improving the income of smallholder farmers. Agriculture is the second biggest emitter of greenhouse gases after the energy sector (IPCC, 2014).

The IPCC is currently in its sixth Assessment cycle. During this the 43rd Session of the IPCC held in April 2016 agreed that AR 6 Synthesis Report would be finalized in 2022 in time for the first UNFCCC global stock take when countries will review progress towards their goal of global warming to well below 2 °C while pursuing efforts to limit it to 1.5 °C.

Explaining Climate Change

There is a scientific basis that is the Earth’s climate is changing as a consequence of human activity on the planet. The most important aspect of this change is that the average temperature of the earth surface is raising, slowly but steadily, as a consequence of the emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and their increasing concentration in the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases are contribute to global warming, carbon dioxide (CO2) is most significant, although there are other gases that also play this role, notably methane. CO2 is emitted when fossil fuels are burnt in any form, ranging from traditional open coal fires to modern devices or processes like thermal power plants or the heating systems of buildings. A critical factor in the rise in the Earth’s temperature is the quantity of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere. The earth has a carbon cycle, arising from the partial absorption by oceans and other water bodies and by vegetation on land, of the CO2 in the atmosphere.

Last 15 years have been warmest in India due to climate change

Jun 06, 2017; India has witnessed the warmest years in the last one-and-a-half decades due to climate change according to data released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). An analysis which looks at temperature trends in the country, both annual and seasonal, from 1901 till 2017, has found that the country has been getting warmer continuously, consistently and rapidly.

Citing the data, CSE Director-General Sunita Narain expressed concern over US President Donald Trump pulling his country out of the Paris Agreement on climate change. “India is warming and warming rapidly. The implications of this fundamental fact are serious for economic, social and ecological well-being of the country. We are experiencing frequent extreme weather events, and our weather is becoming unpredictable. Losses due to extreme weather events are mounting and it is our poor who are suffering the pains of climate change,” said Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director-General of CSE.

Climate variability

Climate variability refers to variations in the mean state and other statistics (such as standard deviations, statistics of extremes, etc.) of the climate on all temporal and spatial scales beyond that of individual weather events. Variability may be due to natural internal processes within the climate system (internal variability), or to variations in natural or anthropogenic external forcing (external variability).

How do we know that climate change is real?


Predicted effects of climate change on agriculture over the next 50 years

Climatic element

Expected changes by 2050's

Confidence in prediction

Effects on agriculture


Increase from 360 ppm to 450 - 600 ppm (2005 levels now at 379 ppm)

Very high

Good for crops: increased photosynthesis; reduced water use

Sea level rise

Rise by 10 -15 cm Increased in south and offset in north by natural subsistence/rebound

Very high

Loss of land, coastal erosion, flooding, salinisation of groundwater


Rise by 1-2°C. Winters warming more than summers. Increased frequency of heat waves


Faster, shorter, earlier growing seasons, range moving north and to higher altitudes, heat stress risk, increased evapotranspiration


Seasonal changes by ± 10 percent


Impacts on drought risk' soil workability, water logging irrigation supply, transpiration


Increased wind speeds, especially in north. More intense rainfall events.

Very low

Lodging, soil erosion, reduced infiltration of rainfall


Increases across most climatic variables. Predictions uncertain

Very low

Changing risk of damaging events (heat waves, frost, droughts floods) which effect crops and timing of farm operations

(Mahato A. 2014)

Mitigation and adaptation in crop production

Adaptation strategies are short and long-term changes to human activities that respond to the changes in climate conditions. In agriculture, adaptation required cost-effective investments in water infrastructure, emergency preparation for response to extreme weather events, development of resilient crop varieties that tolerate temperature and precipitation stresses and new or improved land use and management practices. The direct effects of climate change on grain crops, viz. reduction in duration, embryo abortion, spikelet sterility, effects on grain number and grain size, anthesis interval etc. The strategy involved here is the efficient use of conventional breeding and molecular and mutation breeding by the use of biotechnological tools including marker assisted selection, whole genome expression analysis and its subsequent elucidation and gene finding by bioinformatics. The indirect effects, viz. decline in water resources, increased pests and disease incidence, loss of soil organic carbon should be tackled by conservation and efficient use of water, integrated pest management and conservation farming.

Among different adaptation measures some important are listed below

  1. Assist farmers in coping with current climatic risks by providing value-added weather services to farmers. Farmers can adapt to climate changes to some degree by shifting planting dates, choosing varieties with different growth duration, or changing crop rotations.
  2. An early warning system should be put in place to monitor changes in pest and disease outbreaks. The overall pest control strategy should be based on integrated pest management because it takes care of multiple pests in a given climatic scenario.
  3. Participatory and formal plant breeding to develop climate-resilient crop varieties that can tolerate higher temperatures, drought and salinity.
  4. Developing short-duration crop varieties that can mature before the peak heat phase set in.
  5. Selecting genotype in crops that have a higher per day yield potential to counter yield loss from heat-induced reduction in growing periods.
  6. Preventive measures for drought that include on-farm reservoirs in medium lands, growing of pulses and oilseeds instead of rice in uplands, ridges and furrow system in cotton crops, growing of intercrops in place of pure crops in uplands, land grading and leveling, stabilization of field bunds by stone and grasses, graded line bunds, contour trenching for runoff collection, conservation furrows, mulching and more application of Farm yard manure (FYM).
  7. Efficient fertilizer use such as optimum fertilizer dose, split application of nitrogenous and potassium fertilizers, deep placement, use of neem, karanja products and other such nitrification inhibitors, liming of acid soils, use of micronutrients such as zinc and boron, use of sulphur in oilseed crops, integrated nutrient management.
  8. Seasonal weather forecasts could be used as a supportive measure to optimize planting and irrigation patterns.
  9. Provide greater coverage of weather linked agriculture-insurance.
  10. Intensify the food production system by improving the technology and input delivery system.
  11. Adopt resource conservation technologies such as no-tillage, laser land leveling, direct seeding of rice and crop diversification which will help in reducing in the global warming potential. Crop diversification can be done by growing non-paddy crops in rain fed uplands to perform better under prolonged soil moisture stress in Kharif.
  12. Develop a long-term land use plan for ensuring food security and climatic resilience.
  13. National grid grain storages at the household and community level to the district level must be established to ensure local food security and stabilize prices.
  14. Provide incentives to farmers for resource conservation and efficiency by providing credit to the farmers for transition to adaptation technologies.
  15. Provide technical, institutional and financial support for establishment of community banks of food, forage and seed. Provide more funds to strengthen research for enhancing adaptation and mitigation capacity of agriculture.
Crop breeding for development of new climate tolerant crop varieties is a key tool for adapting agriculture to a changing climate. History and current breeding experience indicate that natural biodiversity within crops has allowed for plant adaptation to different conditions, providing clear evidence that plant breeding has great potential to aide in the adaptation of crops to climate change.


1. IPCC, (2014). Report on Asia, Working Group II, Cambridge University Press, 1327-1370.
2. Mahato A. (2014). Climate Change and its Impact on Agriculture. International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, Volume 4, Issue 4, April 2014 1 ISSN 2250-3153.

About Author / Additional Info:
I am research scholar at CCS HAU, Hisar.