2015-09-16Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/25136
Livestock in a changing climate: production system transitions as an adaptation strategy for agriculture
Livestock farming is the world’s largest land use sector and utilizes around 60% of the global biomass harvest. Over the coming decades, climate change will affect the natural resource base of livestock production, especially the productivity of rangeland and feed crops. Based on a comprehensive impact modeling chain, we assess implications of different climate projections for agricultural production costs and land use change and explore the effectiveness of livestock system transitions as an adaptation strategy. Simulated climate impacts on crop yields and rangeland productivity generate adaptation costs amounting to 3% of total agricultural production costs in 2045 (i.e. 145 billion US$). Shifts in livestock production towards mixed crop-livestock systems represent a resource- and cost-efficient adaptation option, reducing agricultural adaptation costs to 0.3% of total production costs and simultaneously abating deforestation by about 76 million ha globally. The relatively positive climate impacts on grass yields compared with crop yields favor grazing systems inter alia in South Asia and North America. Incomplete transitions in production systems already have a strong adaptive and cost reducing effect: a 50% shift to mixed systems lowers agricultural adaptation costs to 0.8%. General responses of production costs to system transitions are robust across different global climate and crop models as well as regarding assumptions on CO2 fertilization, but simulated values show a large variation. In the face of these uncertainties, public policy support for transforming livestock production systems provides an important lever to improve agricultural resource management and lower adaptation costs, possibly even contributing to emission reduction.