Irvine, California, Jan 27, 2021 – One of President Joe Biden’s first acts after his inauguration was to reorganize the United States with the Paris climate agreement, but a new study led by researchers at the University of California, Irvine shows that the rise will result in emissions from human land use compromising targets The agreement risked without fundamental changes in agricultural practices.
In a paper published today on natureThe team provided the most comprehensive inventory to date of land use contributions to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases (including nitrous oxide and methane) from 1961 to 2017, taking into account emissions from agricultural production activities and alterations to landscapes.
“We estimated and attributed global land use emissions among 229 countries and regions and 169 agricultural products,” said lead author Chaopeng Hong, UCI’s postdoctoral researcher in Earth System Sciences. “We have looked at the processes responsible for higher or lower emissions and paid particular attention to trends in net carbon dioxide emitted from changes in land use, such as the conversion of forest lands to agricultural areas.”
Researchers learned that the poorest countries in Latin America, Southeast Asia and sub-Saharan Africa experienced the largest increases in “land use change” emissions.
East Asia, South Asia and the Middle East produced less greenhouse gases as a result of changing land use, according to the study, but agricultural emissions in the region have been growing strongly as production accelerates to keep pace with population expansion. Richer North America, Europe and Oceania showed negative variable emissions of land use, but nonetheless significant pollution from farm production.
“While the situation in low-income countries is critical, the opportunities for mitigation in these places are large and clear,” said senior author Steve Davis, associate professor of Earth System Science at UCI. “Improving yields on already cultivated land could avoid more carbon-intensive forests to grow soybeans, rice, corn and palm oil, and thus significantly reduce land use emissions in these countries.”
The authors suggest that countries in emerging and developed markets can also reduce the intensity of agricultural emissions by adopting more efficient methods of plowing and harvesting, improving soil and livestock waste management, and reducing food waste.
In addition, dietary changes can help, according to the study, which says that while red meat provides only about 1 percent of the calories produced globally, it is responsible for up to a quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
Researchers note that Europe has the lowest land use emissions, at an average of 0.5 tons per capita per year, but the number is significantly higher almost everywhere else, and as the planet’s population continues to grow, farmers and policymakers will need to meet and exceed the current. best practices.
The paper highlights some promising technological solutions, such as new methods of growing rice that create less methane and nutritional supplements for livestock that reduce their harmful emissions by up to 95 percent.
“Feeding the planet may always lead to significant emissions of greenhouse gases,” said Davis, an executive board member of the UCI “Scale Solutions” initiative that seeks to find solutions to the planet’s most pressing climate and environmental problems. “ Even if we reduce emissions to European levels around the world, with projected population growth, we can still consider over 5 gigatonnes of land use emissions per year in 2100, an amount that conflicts with ambitious international climate goals unless negative emissions are offset. “.
The project – funded by the National Science Foundation, the German Research Foundation, and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation – also included researchers from the University of California, San Diego. Colorado State University; Stanford University; And the German Max Planck Institute for Meteorology.
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