Changes in agriculture can reduce greenhouse gas emissions
Agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions account for approximately 10–12 per cent of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions — resulting from human activities such as burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, land use changes, livestock production, fertilisation, waste management and industrial processes. These greenhouses gases play an important role in achieving the 1.5°C climate stabilisation target set out under the Paris Agreement to avoid catastrophic climate change. A research team from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) carried out the first detailed analysis of agricultural non-CO2 mitigation and found that emissions can be reduced by up to 50 per cent by 2050.
The beef and dairy industries are highly greenhouse gas-intensive. The analysis found that across all models and carbon price scenarios, these industries had the potential to contribute to more than two thirds of the total mitigation potential in agriculture.
The researchers used a combination of four different global economic models to assess the potential of reduction of non-CO2 greenhouse gas emissions. Eight carbon price trajectories ranging from US$20/t CO2e emitted, to US$950/t CO2e by 2050 were used to estimate the economic emission reduction potential from the agricultural sector. This highest figure is thought to be the price needed to meet the 1.5°C climate stabilisation target across all sectors of the economy. The researchers found that mitigation efforts in the agricultural sector alone could reduce up to 1 per cent of agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions by 2050, which is a total of 0.8-1.4 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year (GtCO2e/y), at an already low cost of US$20/t CO2e. Changes in diet in over-consuming countries can also contribute to an additional reduction of 0.6 Gt CO2e/y, a total emissions reduction of 23 per cent. At the highest carbon prices of US$950/t CO2e, mitigation efforts in agriculture could achieve emissions reductions of 3.9 Gt CO2e/y by 2050, which is 50 per cent lower than a situation without climate change mitigation efforts.
The beef and dairy industries are highly greenhouse gas-intensive. The analysis found that across all models and carbon price scenarios, these industries had the potential to contribute to more than two thirds of the total mitigation potential in agriculture. The results also showed that as carbon prices rise, technical and structural mitigation options become exhausted. Emission reductions can then be achieved through reduction in production and consumption of greenhouse gas-intensive products such as meat and dairy.
The insights provided in this study could aid policy makers to identify regional mitigation efforts for various sectors with a better understanding of the role of agriculture in mitigation efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Source: Nature Climate Change
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