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Young scientists from developing countries learned about climate change mitigation

Everyone must pitch in to mitigate the effects of climate change – including developing countries and emerging economies. The goal is to reduce the amount of CO2 emitted per kg food produced.

[Translate to English:] Unge forskere fra en række ulande mødtes med et hold erfarne forskere for at lære om klimaforandringer. Foto: Janne Hansen

It used to be the case that the richest nations were the ones causing climate change while developing countries were the ones on the receiving end of the effects of global warming. That is no longer the case.


A burgeoning population and increasing wealth globally have led to more and more consumption, especially in rapidly growing emerging economies and developing countries. Some of these countries now lead with regard to emitting greenhouses gases. Mitigating and adapting to climate change must therefore become everyone’s concern – including young scientists from developing countries.


That is why Aarhus University recently organized an international workshop in collaboration with global agricultural research partners, namely the CGIAR research programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), and the University of Copenhagen. The workshop was kick-off for this year’s network grant recipients in the Climate Food and Farming Research (CLIFF) network.


Eight of the nine young recipient scientists from Kenya, Uganda, India, Argentina, Bangladesh and Colombia attended the four-day workshop that included skills training sessions and seminar presentations given by prominent speakers and facilitators from Denmark, Kenya, the United Kingdom, Netherlands and United States.


Solving the problem in developing countries

The focus of the workshop was on mitigating climate change for food production systems in developing countries. It all boils down to the need to secure food and energy for all.


Food and energy security is a complex problem. It is influenced by – and has an influence on – climate change, dwindling water and energy resources, ecological and social disruption, and growth in population, wealth and consumption, said professor Jørgen E. Olesen from Aarhus University at the workshop.


He pointed out that increases in population, wealth and consumption are particularly timely problems in developing countries which is why gaining knowledge about how to mitigate climate change matters extra much for scientists from these areas. Professor Andreas de Neergaard from Copenhagen University emphasised that to solve these challenges we need to learn from our mistakes and that innovative solutions are key. 


Although global productivity of crops such as rice, wheat and maize is still increasing, the rate of increase is diminishing. At the same time demands are increasing due to more people and more prosperity. These two factors present a challenge for agriculture and food security.


Agriculture has been one of the major emitters of greenhouse gases, which are at the root of global warming. The good news is that in temperate zones, which include many of the developed countries, emission of greenhouse gases from land use is decreasing. The bad news is that greenhouse gas emission from land use is on the rise in tropical zones.


Unlimited emissions are a no-go

Many countries have no official obligations to limit emissions because they are classified as developing countries or emerging economies, such as the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China). However, inaction in these countries is not a solution to a problem that will affect us all.


- If we continue to emit CO2 at the present rate the global mean temperature will be 8° C higher in a couple of centuries compared to the present, said Jørgen E. Olesen.


Since the effects of food production on climate change and the effects of climate change on food production is such a complex and interlocked problem it is not possible to rectify it using one tool and as Andreas de Neergaard put it, “there are no silver bullets or quick fix solutions.” Instead, a systems approach is needed.


- When finding solutions it is imperative that we include all greenhouse gases, emission and uptake, and entire flow chains. We also need a better understanding of the many factors involved and need to improve the model we apply to predict the future. We must also improve and spread the use of new technology regarding livestock feeding, crop, soil and manure management, said Jørgen E. Olesen.


However, Dr. Todd Rosenstock from World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in Kenya stated in his presentation that measurements of greenhouse gases from developing countries are not equally credible. Hence there are efforts to standardize measurement methodologies to improve data quality. Without good data it is difficult to target solutions.


Several other issues related to climate change mitigation were addressed at the workshop, such as the options for smallholder farmers with regard to mitigating climate change, the potential role of biochar, developing an understanding of landscapes in smallholder farming areas, and identifying the “hot-spots” and “hot-moments” where and when greenhouse gas emissions are high. Overall, the workshop gave the participants ideas and inspiration to take home. According to one grant recipient, Fredrick M. Wandera from the University of Eldoret in Kenya:


- This workshop inspired my whole thinking and elevated my aspiration of becoming a great research scientist in climate change studies. The CLIFF network grant awarded to me gives me this opportunity to turn my dreams into reality.


For more information please contact Postdoc Ngonidzashe Chirinda, Department of Agroecology, e-mail: ngonidzashe.chirinda@agrsci.dk, telephone: + 45 8715 7869