Reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions will require “transformative technical and policy options,” according to an article published in Global Change Biology.
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More than 100 countries have pledged to reduce their agricultural greenhouse gas emissions to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement. However in the article, the international team of scientists argues that current strategies to limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the year 2100, the goal of the Paris climate agreement, are insufficient, and will deliver only 21 to 40 percent of needed mitigation.
“Reducing emissions in agriculture without compromising food security is something we know how to do. A lot can already be done with existing best management practices in agriculture,” say Professor Pete Smith at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, and a co-author of the article. “The tough part is how to reduce emissions by a further two to five times and support large numbers of farmers to change their practices in the next 10 to 20 years.”
Speakers at a conference at the Water for Food Institute at the University of Nebraska in April looked at the issues associated with mitigating the effects of climate change on water, food security, and public health. Lewis H. Ziska, PhD, a plant physiologist at the USDA-Agricultural Research Service and a speaker at the session, says that many of the world’s primary rivers are drying up, affecting agriculture worldwide.
“There is a lot of recognition at the farm level for pragmatic strategies to cope with climate change vulnerability. How we mitigate and adapt to climate change while ensuring that food quality and quantity continue as a whole will be a major challenge for agricultural science,” he says.
Dr. Ziska stressed that future sustainability will require increased diversity in either time or space. “Increasing diversity strengthens production resilience for when the climate changes,” he says.
The article in Global Change Biology calls for a greater use of technology and new policies to deal with a changing climate and to reduce agricultural greenhouse emissions, including cell phone apps with weather updates and data, new drainage and reservoir systems, and methane inhibitors to reduce dairy cow emissions.
“This is an issue where we need more input from stakeholders in the private sector,” Dr. Ziska says. “How we adapt to the changing climate while simultaneously maintaining economic viability is everyone’s concern.”