Knowledge for better food systems

Mitigating Climate Change Through Food and Land Use

Innovations in food production and land use that are ready to be scaled-up today could reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to roughly 25% of global fossil fuel emissions and present the best opportunity to remove greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, according to a new report published in June 2009 by the Worldwatch Institute and Ecoagriculture Partners.
Innovations in food production and land use that are ready to be scaled-up today could reduce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to roughly 25% of global fossil fuel emissions and present the best opportunity to remove greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere, according to a new report published in June 2009 by the Worldwatch Institute and Ecoagriculture Partners. As the price of carbon rises with new caps on emissions and expanding markets for carbon offsets, the contribution of land-based, or terrestrial carbon to climate change mitigation efforts could increase even further.

Carbon capture and sequestration technologies, which remain unproven and will not be ready for implementation for a decade at best, promise only to sequester greenhouse gases that have yet to be released into the atmosphere. Agricultural and other land use management practices, in contrast, are the only innovations available today to sequester greenhouse gases that are already in the atmosphere-pulling in carbon dioxide through photosynthesis to grow and sustain more plants. Mobilising agricultural carbon sequestration is therefore an essential tool in the effort to reduce the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases to the 350 parts-per-million level that many scientists argue we must achieve to avoid catastrophic climate change. A recent assessment published by Worldwatch in State of the World 2009: Into a Warming World found that emissions of carbon dioxide will have to "go negative"-with more being absorbed than emitted-by 2050 to achieve this goal. More than 30 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions are linked to agriculture and land use, rivaling the combined emissions of the transportation and industry sectors. The report outlines five major strategies for reducing and sequestering greenhouse gas emissions through farming and land use:

  • Enriching soil carbon.
  • Farming with perennials.
  • Climate-friendly livestock production.
  • Protecting natural habitat.
  • Restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands.
 

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