Climate Change Threatens Bali Farmers: Study

Rice farmers in Bali must invest in hardier crops and better water storage methods if they hope to maintain harvests in the face of manmade climate change and weather systems such as El Nino, according to a new study.

The warm El Nino weather system has already been shown to wreak havoc with the region’s rice production by delaying monsoon rains, disrupting the planting of the main rice crop and prolonging the “hungry season” before the main rice harvest.

And global warming could further complicate the situation, US climatologists said in a paper released this week.

The researchers predicted that that some of Indonesia’s most important rice-growing areas, including Java, will experience a month-long delay in the onset of monsoon rains by 2050, and that late summer rainfall could drop by as much as 25 percent on average.

The predictions are based on extensive computer climate modeling using the latest international projections of greenhouse gas emissions.

“Most models predict that the rains will come later in Indonesia it will rain a little harder once the monsoon begins and then it will really dry up during the summer months,” said Rosamond Naylor, director of the Program on Food Security and the Environment at Stanford University, and one of the authors of the paper.

“So Indonesia could be looking at a much shorter rainy season, with an almost rainless dry season in some areas, squeezing rice farmers on both ends.”

The study suggests that the “extraordinarily dry conditions” in July, August and September could make it impossible to plant rice and all other crops without irrigation during these months by 2050.

The researchers suggest that the farmers at greatest risk should consider investing in crop diversification, drought-tolerant rice varieties and water storage and irrigation infrastructure so that they can ride out seasonal fluctuations in rainfall.

The study appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and was conducted by researchers at Stanford, the University of Washington and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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