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06/08/2009 11:24 AM     print story email story  

Farmers Could Offset 25% of Global Emissions Annually - Report News

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 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.

Mobilizing 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.

"The science and policy communities in Europe and beyond have focused most of their attention to date on improving energy efficiency and scaling up renewables," said Ecoagriculture Partners' Sara Scherr, co-author of Mitigating Climate Change Through Food and Land Use with Sajal Sthapit. "While these initiatives are integral in the transition to a low-carbon economy, any strategy that seeks to mitigate global climate change without reducing emissions from agriculture, forestry, and other land uses is doomed to fail."

More than 30% 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:

  1. Enriching soil carbon. Soil, the third largest carbon pool on Earth's surface, can be managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by minimizing tillage, cutting use of nitrogen fertilizers, and preventing erosion. Soils can store a vast amount of additional carbon by building up organic matter and by burying carbon in the form of biochar (biomass burned in a low-oxygen environment).
  2. Farming with perennials. Two-thirds of all arable land is used to grow annual grains, but there is large potential to substitute these with perennial trees, shrubs, palms, and grasses that produce food, livestock feed, and fuel. These perennials maintain and develop their roots and branches over many years, storing carbon in the vegetation and soil.
  3. Climate-friendly livestock production. Livestock accounts for nearly half of all greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and land use. Innovations such as rotational grazing, manure management, methane capture for biogas production, and improved feeds and feed additives can reduce livestock-related emissions.
  4. Protecting natural habitat. Deforestation, land clearing, and forest and grassland fires are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Incentives are needed to encourage farmers, ranchers, and foresters to maintain natural forest and grassland habitats through product certification, payments for climate services, securing tenure rights, and community fire control.
  5. Restoring degraded watersheds and rangelands. Restoring vegetation on vast areas of degraded land can reduce greenhouse gas emissions while making land productive again, protecting critical watersheds, and alleviating rural poverty.

The report also responds to several key issues that have constrained the use of terrestrial carbon solutions and highlights six principles for tapping the full potential of land use mitigation. These include: incorporating the full range of terrestrial emission options, including cap-and-trade systems, in climate investment and policy; promoting voluntary markets for greenhouse gas emission offsets from agriculture and land use while working out rules for regulated markets; and linking terrestrial climate mitigation with climate adaptation, rural development, and conservation strategies to generate widespread benefits beyond climate-helping to mobilize a worldwide-networked movement for climate-friendly food, forest, and other land-based production.

Although the climate conversation has long focused on developing enduring solutions in the energy sector, Worldwatch President Christopher Flavin says that land use is equally important. "The bottom line is that innovations in agriculture provide the best opportunity to remove carbon from the atmosphere. We cannot reach 350 ppm without changing the way we grow our food and use our land."


Reader Comments (1)


Date Posted:
07/10/12 05:07 PM

As long as huge contributions to our policitians, legislation will continue favoring what makes the 1-3% wealthy families and big corporate executives wealthier. FreedomWorks(Tea Party) the front company for wealthy families like Koch Industries (Oil, Gas, and Chemical Billionairs) are going to see to it that it is business as usual for them in the USA.Top Contributors to Federal Candidates and PartiesInsurance: 2000-2010 Total $214,585,915Oil & Gas: 2000-2010 Total $155,373,800Commercial Banks: 2000-2010 Total $150,549,225Pharmaceuticals/Health Products: 2000-2010 Total $139,237,802Note:Halliburton, the company once headed by former Republican Vice President Dick Cheney contributed $15,500 to federal candidates during June, according to a Center for Responsive Politics review of their political action committee’s most recent campaign finance filing.That amount represents the third largest month of donations by the PAC this election cycle.The giving comes at a time when the Texas-based company is weathering a political storm for its involvement on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that exploded on April 20 and sunk in the Gulf of Mexico, causing a massive amount oil to spill into the surrounding waters. Investigations are currently underway to determine how and why the spill occurred — and who should be held responsible — by Congress and the Department of Justice. Read Full Story: on Note:Tea Party Movement benefits from millions of dollars from conservative foundations that are derived from wealthy U.S. families and their business interests. Money flowing primarily through two conservative groups: Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks. FreedomWorks receives substantial funding from David Koch of Koch Industries, the largest privately-held energy company in the country, which make substantial annual donations to conservative org… sourcewatch.orgNote:Oil & Gas Industry, history of strong influence in Washington. Individuals and political action committees affiliated with oil and gas companies have donated $238.7 MILLION to candidates and parties since the 1990 (Bush Senior term) election cycle, 75% of which has gone to REPUBLICANS Former oilmen George W. Bush and Dick Cheney occupied the White House for 8 yrs, the oil and gas industry could not win support for repealing bans on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. However, Congress voted in 2008 to LIFTED BANS on offshore drilling (just before Bush & Cheney left the White House) Read full story at

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