The urgency for adaptation actions in response to climate risks is rapidly growing -- climate change mitigation efforts alone are insufficient to avoid further and often negative impacts. Although most farmers respond rapidly to changes in their external environment, science needs to play an important role in instigating adaptation actions that go beyond the ongoing, experienced-based individual responses. Effective adaptation action requires 'adaptation science', a holistic way of scientific conduct.
This was Prof Holger Meinke's key message when he accepted the office of Professor of Crop and Weed Ecology at Wageningen University on 14 January.
Climate is one of main risk factors for agriculture. Adaptation science, a problem driven and solution-oriented approach to scientific conduct, aims to solve some of the key challenges faced by agriculture today: rapidly increasing food insecurity in developing countries, competing claims by various sectors for the same sparse resources such as water, land and labour and negative environmental impacts of agricultural activities.
In his inaugural speech to Wageningen University entitled 'Adaptation science for agriculture -- solutions for a changing planet', Prof. Meinke went into detail about the importance of adapting to climate variability and change. He argued that establishing good adaptation policies that support effective adaptation actions could be even more difficult than agreeing on mitigation targets for greenhouse gas emissions. In contrast to mitigation, the objectives for adaptation actions are always multi-faceted and can often be contentious between different stakeholder groups. Coherent adaptation is "unbelievably complex and therefore difficult to achieve. We need to answer questions such as "who adapts to what and what would be the consequences?"
New type of expertise
Prof. Meinke and his colleagues at the Centre for Crop Systems Analysis at Wageningen University (a part of Wageningen UR) are using simulation tools as knowledge generation platforms for adaptation science. Such simulation technologies facilitate the analyses of complex problems (such as how to increase food production sustainably in developing countries).
To solve these problems, scientists need to look beyond the borders of their own disciplines and see things from the perspective of the farmers. Farmers are intuitively good risk managers, but they can benefit from well-targeted scientific knowledge. Science needs to help farmers managing climate variability. In terms of climate risk, Prof. Meinke argues that the slowly increasing tide of climate change will be delivered to the farm gate free of charge by increases in climate variability. For the farmer it does not matter "who destroyed the sandcastle: -- the wave or the tide." Adaptation science was developed to help with such risk management.
After completing his International Agricultural Development studies at the TU Berlin in 1986, Prof. Holger Meinke (born in Heidelberg in 1957) migrated to Australia where he concentrated on innovative pathways for agricultural systems management, particularly in severely water limited environments. Meinke obtained his doctorate at Wageningen University in 1996. He is a member of various working groups and panels under the auspices of the World Meteorological Organisation and is also a scientific reviewer for the IPCC.
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