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21 Aug 2020, 14:14
Edgar Meza

German farmers should think about growing figs and olives - Munich Re

Tagesspiegel Background

German farmers should consider switching to more heat resistant crops, Ernst Rauch, chief climate scientist at reinsurance group Munich Re, told Heike Jahberg in an interview with Tagesspiegel Background. “Anything that can withstand drought and heat is good,” Rauch said, commenting on the increasing temperatures that are having dramatic effects on German forests and agriculture. Whether chickpeas, figs or olives, Rauch said fruits that thrive in drought areas in southern Europe and Africa will likely find their way to northern and eastern Germany. “Brandenburg's farmers are well advised to consider such alternatives as well,” he added, referring to the northeastern German state that surrounds Berlin. “Farmers will adapt. They need more resistant varieties and better irrigation options,” he said. However he warned the situation for farmers in these regions may worsen: “Someone has to pay the sometimes enormous costs of weather-related crop failures."

"The better solution is to adapt and avoid crop failures as far as possible by using suitable varieties,” he said. Rauch also cautioned about reforestation efforts. “We have enormous forest damage in our country due to drought, which makes it more difficult to achieve the Paris climate targets.” While reforestation is a good idea from many points of view, it will not lead to permanent cuts in CO2 emissions by itself, he added. “As soon as the trees rot or burn, the carbon is released again.” Dead trees need to be removed from the CO2 cycle by burying them airtight or finding other ways to bind the carbon permanently, he added. “More forest alone is therefore not a sustainable solution for the climate.”

On renewable energy sources, Rauch pointed out that increasing temperatures also lowered the efficiency of PV systems and often accompanied high pressure weather conditions with low wind speeds that limit the performance of wind turbines. “We need to achieve zero net emissions by 2050. This is only possible with new, climate-friendly technologies. We have to move away from carbon as far as possible in the raw materials, cement and steel sectors, for example. This is often technically possible, but leads to higher costs.”

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