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Climate Change

Climate chaos, climate instability, climate change are the most dramatic expressions of the human impact on planet earth. While the earth’s own climate has gone through various stages of warming and cooling, the present trend towards warming, and the related destabilisation of climate systems and weather patterns is human induced and it is human beings who are already suffering the impact of intensification of drought, floods, cyclones and hurricanes, the melting of snow and ice and the aggravation of the water crisis. Tragically it is those who have contributed the least to green house gas emissions are suffering the most because of climate chaos - communities in the high Himalayas who have lost their water resources as glaciers melt and disappear, peasants in the Ganges basin whose crops have failed because of drought, coastal and island communities who face new threats of sea level rise and intensified cyclones.

 

NRFN'S work on climate change shows that efforts that mitigate climate change not only contribute to adaptation but also contribute to climate and ecological justice. Our Two areas of focus are -

 

Climate Change & Biodiversity

 

Reductionism seems to have become the habit of the contemporary human mind. We are increasingly talking of “the carbon economy” and the context of the carbon economy. We refer to “zero carbon” and “no carbon” as if carbon exists only in fossilized form under the ground. We forget that the cellulose of plants is primarily carbon. Humus in the soil is mostly carbon. Vegetation in the forests is mostly carbon.  Carbon in the soil and in plants is living carbon. It is part of the cycle of life.

 

The problem is not carbon, but our increasing use of fossil carbon as coal, oil and gas – which were formed over millions of years. Today the world burns 400 years worth of this accumulated, biological matter every year, 3 to 4 times more than 1956. While plants are renewable resource, fossil carbon is not. It will take millions of years to renew the earth’s supply of coal and oil.Before the industrial revolution, there was 580 billion tons of carbon in the atmosphere. Today there are 750 billion tones. That accumulation, the result of burning fossil fuels, is causing the climate change crisis. Humanity needs to solve this problem if we are to survive. It is the other carbon economy, the renewable carbon embodied in biodiversity that offers the solution.

 

Our dependence on fossil fuels has broken us out of nature’s renewable carbon cycle. Our dependence on fossil fuels has fossilized our thinking.Biodiversity is the alternative to fossil carbon. Everything that we derive from the petrochemicals industry has an alternative in biodiversity. The synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, the chemical dyes, the sources of mobility and energy, have sustainable alternatives in the plant and animal world. In place of nitrogen fertilizers, we have nitrogen fixing leguminous crops and biomass recycled by earthworms (vermicompost) or microorganisms (compost). In place of synthetic dyes, we have vegetable dyes. In place of the automobile, we have the camel, the horse, the bullock, the donkey, the elephant and the bicycle.

 

The biodiversity economy is the sustainable alternative to the fossil fuel economy. In addition, creating biodiversity economies is necessary for mitigation of and adoption to climate change. The shift from fossil fuel driven to biodiversity-supported systems reduces green house gas emissions by emitting less and absorbing more Co2. But above all, because the impacts of atmospheric pollution will continue even with reduction of emissions, we need to create bio-diverse ecosystems and economies because only they offer the potential to adapt to an unpredictable climate. And only bio-diverse systems provide alternatives that everyone can afford. We need to return to the renewable carbon cycle of biodiversity. We need to create a carbon democracy so that all beings have their just share of useful carbon, and no one is burdened with carrying an unjust share of climate impacts due to carbon pollution.For millennia farmers have innovate and evolved varieties with unique properties. Farmers’ innovation has stressed on breeding for climate resilience and for conservation of biodiversity.Giant corporations which have destroyed biodiversity by promoting monocultures and uniformity are now claiming farmers’ collective, cumulative innovation as their invention through bio-piracy patents. The latest in this bio-piracy is the patenting of climate resilient traits.

 

NRCN have been conserving farmers’ varieties since 2013. We have created community seed banks of climate resilient crops which have distributed seeds after cyclones, the tsunami, and after draught. We have also challenged bio-piracy patents.

 

Climate Change & Agriculture:

 

Organic agricultural a synonymous for biological agriculture, seems to be the feasible solution to the most debated topic “Climate change”. The climate of our world is undergoing a dramatic change. Global warming is increasing rapidly and there is widespread consensus that the current trend is caused by increased emissions of various greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, hydroflurocarbons, perfluorocarbons, sulphur hexafluoride, methane and nitrous oxide. Greenhouse gases allow short-wave solar radiation to pass into the earth’s atmosphere. They absorb some of the long wave thermal radiation that is otherwise emitted back out to space, which results warming effect on our atmosphere. The emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere comes with industrialization, through deforestation, shifting cultivation and the expansion of intensive agriculture.

 

The present day agriculture is no more sustainable in most parts of the country, cannot forbid relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides for the sake of susceptibility as defined by the west. The powerful message that distills from all thoughts and dialogues is the move towards Fukuoka’s natural farming and Vinoba Bhave’s Sarvodaya method of ‘Rishi Kheti’. The logic to these naturalists is aimed at reduced dependency on non-renewable resources, purchased inputs and population control to achieve higher efficiency of inputs and economic maximization of yield along with environmental safety.Biological agriculture can be defined as a system that attempt to provide a balanced environment, in which the maintenance of soil fertility and the control of pests and diseases are achieved by the enhancement of natural processes and cycles, with moderate inputs of energy resources, while maintaining an optimum productivity. The chemical agricultural (conventional agriculture) techniques have resulted in great increase in productivity; however, it has greater negative impacts that include soil erosion or degradation, effects of pesticides, detention of soil health and environment, environmental pollution etc.

 

We have conducted a large number of experiments under four different agro-ecosystems (arid, semi-arid, sub-humid, and humid) in Nepal to find out how much extent organic agriculture can help to mitigate climate change especially under soil environment. Studies have been conducted in four agro-ecosytems covering three states. The following selected areas were studied:The concentration of CO2 and other green house gasses (GHGs) in the atmosphere is increasing as a result of land-use change beside fossil-fuel combustion and cement production. The increase in GHGs in the atmosphere is leading to climate change and global warming. There is a need to reducing GHGs emissions and to increasing carbon sinks. Currently, the biosphere is considered to be a carbon sink absorbing about 2.8 gigatonnes of C a year, which represents 30 pre cents of fossil-fuel emissions.

 

The process of soil carbon stock or flux of C into the soil forms part of the global carbon balance. Many of the factors affecting the flow of C into and out of the soil are affected by land management practices.

The soils of Nepal under different Ecozones have lost a significant amount of C and, therefore, offer a great potential for rehabilitating these areas. Our result clearly showed that improvements in farming systems and use of organic material/compost could add C to soils. Results also clearly demonstrated that organic management of land definitely increase carbon stock and concurrently enhance plant productivity and prevent erosion and desertification especially under arid and semi-arid eco systems.Enhancing carbon stock in different areas could have direct environmental, economic and soil benefits for local people. It could increase benefits for farmers as well as mitigate global warming, at least in the coming decades until alternative energy sources are developed.

 

Plant residues provide a renewable resource for incorporation into soil organic matter. Production of plant residues in ecosystems at steady-state will be balanced by the return of dead plant material to the soil. In agricultural systems, it was estimated only about 20% of production will an average be accumulated into the soil organic fraction. Furthermore, in some farming systems, all above ground production may be harvested, leaving only the root biomass. The actual quantities of residue returned to the soil will depend on the crop, the growing conditions and the agricultural practices. For example, for a soybean-wheat system in our sub-humid areas, the annual contribution of C from above ground biomass was about 22% for soybean and 32% for wheat. This resulted in 18% of the annual gross carbon input being incorporated into the soil organic carbon. The positive influence on microbial biomass, microbial and enzyme activities, carbon sequestration, water holding capacity, carbon stock and build up under organic farming than conventional agriculture would definitely boost to migate climate change under different ecozones of India. The following tables show some of the advantages of organic agriculture over chemical agriculture: