Findings to inform strategies for adaptation to climate change and food security

BANGKOK – A team of scientists today released the results from a study on climate change in the Lower Mekong Basin. A major finding in the study  forecasts changes in temperature and rainfall altering the suitability for some important industrial and food crops in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Thailand, and Vietnam.

"Our study is producing very surprising results," said Dr. Jeremy Carew-Reid of the International Centre for Environmental Management, lead author of the study Climate Change Adaptation and Impact for the Lower Mekong sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). "We've found that this region is going to experience climate extremes in temperature and rainfall beyond anything that we expected."

The Mekong Adaptation and Resilience to Climate Change Project (Mekong ARCC) conducted the study, the first of its kind in the Mekong region, for USAID’s Regional Development Mission for Asia (RDMA).  The scientific team looked at how changes in temperature and precipitation will affect growing conditions and yields for major crops like rice, maize, rubber, cassava, soya and coffee, as well as fisheries and livestock productivity. The study points to a number of “hotspots” around the region where climate change may have the strongest impact.

“As the climate changes, decision makers will need to consider how they prepare for the future,” said USAID Regional Mission Director Michael Yates.” “USAID’s Mekong ARCC project will help promote planning for food security and economic development by using science to minimize the risks to communities and countries and enable them to withstand the impact of climate change on agricultural production.”

The region is highly dependent upon natural resources, with 70 percent of the basin's 60 million people living as farmers and fishers, and highly vulnerable to changes in the climate and its impact on their livelihoods. The study represents the first step in the Mekong ARCC project’s effort to integrate science with local knowledge and help communities in the four countries prepare detailed local climate change adaptation assessments and plans for action. The study results will assist decision making and planning by government and business leaders in the four countries of the Lower Mekong Basin, which are exporters of crops like rubber, cassava and coffee.

Climate scientists generally agree that an average annual temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius is a critical threshold—beyond this, climate change will severely disrupt natural systems and people's lives.  But according to the study, some areas in the basin could see increases in temperatures that are double that by the year 2050. While impacts will not be the same everywhere in the basin, all of the Lower Mekong countries will likely see dramatic changes—some positive and some negative—in land suitability for some industrial and subsistence crops. An understanding of these will be important to a range of regional actors.

U.S. Government assistance for climate change in the region includes two U.S. Presidential Initiatives: The Global Climate Change Initiative, which supports integration of climate change considerations into relevant foreign assistance and Feed the Future, an initiative to improve global food security, nutrition and agricultural growth.

Source: The Mekong ARCC Project/NEWS

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