If India protects its food security from climate change impacts, it could negotiate with greater confidence at international climate talks, says eminent scientist M.S. Swaminathan, who is on the parliamentary delegation to the U.N. summit here.

“China strengthened its food security ... and now they are negotiating from a position of strength,” Dr. Swaminathan told The Hindu on Thursday.

Food security and agriculture were the primary casualties of climate change. He pointed out that India produced less than half of China’s 500 million tonnes of foodgrains per year, leaving New Delhi more vulnerable than Beijing in the global negotiations.

“We have to rely on others, on the U.S., to buy wheat,” he said. “It is the same with sub-Saharan Africa, south Asia and the island states ... They are vulnerable at home.”

Small rise, big loss

Dr. Swaminathan pointed out that just a one-degree rise in global average temperatures would mean an annual loss of six million to seven million tonnes, or 10 per cent, of India’s wheat production.

“Charity begins at home,” he said, calling on the Indian government to put its energies into adapting to the impacts of climate change on agriculture — droughts and floods, sea-level rise and soil salinity — even as it negotiates on the international stage.

“We must prepare to strengthen the climate resilience of our agriculture,” said Dr. Swaminathan, adding all the knowledge and technology was already available in India.

Virtual centres

Steps that need to be taken included setting up virtual centres for climate research and risk management for each of the 127 distinct agro-climatic zones, which could cost about Rs. 100 crore.

Seed banks should be set up to encourage diversification to climate-resilient bajra, jowar and tuber crops.

Training needed to be given in reviving and maintaining bioshields and in starting farming below sea level, said Dr. Swaminathan.

More In: National | News