Climate Change: Could Sustainable Agriculture Be the Silver Bullet We Are Looking For?

Agriculture has become one of the greatest threats to the future of our planet, writes Magdy Martínez-Solimán from UNDP.

Author: Magdy Martinez-Soliman | Published: October 5, 2017

As world leaders convened at the UN’s annual General Assembly last week, amidst the backdrop of New York’s Climate Week, the message was clear: we must act now and we must act together to tackle climate change.

It’s inspiring rhetoric but what exactly does this mean in practice?

When we, the global community, are confronted with mounting and seemingly overwhelming challenges in the face of climate change, it’s often difficult to know what to tackle first.

Where should we focus our efforts? Protecting the forests, the lungs of our Earth? What about the increasing scarcity of fresh water, waning food security, air pollution, reducing poverty, disaster preparedness in the face of more ferocious storms? The list goes on.

However, there is a more holistic way to tackle these issues and it starts with agriculture.

Many of these challenges can be considered symptoms of a broader, and frankly unsustainable, global agriculture economy which, until recently, we have been reluctant to collectively confront.

Agriculture in the 21st century is fundamental; it’s essential to our very existence. Today, the commercial production of agricultural commodities is a dominant economic force in many national and developing rural economies. Worldwide, the livelihoods of 2.5 billion people depend on agriculture.

Yet, ironically, agriculture has also become one of the greatest threats to the future of our planet. Considered to be the biggest driver of tropical deforestation today, the consequences of unsustainable agriculture include losses to habitats and biodiversity, rising carbon dioxide levels as well as the degradation of essential ecosystem services such as clean water and fresh air which we depend on for our very survival.