Archive | November 2019

Climate Change and Agriculture

by Chand Prasad, Ph.D.

Agriculture accounts for close to 25% of global greenhouse gas emissions and 70 percent of all freshwater use. Agricultural related greenhouse gas emissions stem from the production of crops and animal products, as well as the conversion of forests, savannas, and peatlands to crop and pasture lands. The amount of land used for total agricultural production has grown at a rate of more than 10 million hectares per year since the 1960s. Agriculture employs roughly 2 billion of the planet’s people and uses about one-half of vegetated land i.e., land that is not covered by ice, water, or desert [1]. Pastureland alone occupies 25% of the planet’s land mass, excluding Antarctica [2]. Croplands and pasture lands have expanded at the expense of tropical forests.  The environmental impacts of agriculture will intensify—in the coming decades, billions of people will join the global middle class and adopt meat-centered diets, exacerbating land degradation, water shortages, and adverse effects from climate change [1].

The impacts of global warming are already apparent.  Greenland lost about 2 billion tons of ice in one day (June 13th, 2019).  Ice losses of this magnitude are part of a recent pattern. This extreme melting did not occur prior to the late 1990s.  Since then, however, Greenland experienced a a sequence of large melt seasons—2007, 2010, and 2012—that would have been unprecedented earlier in the record. Barring any offsetting factors, if these periodic extreme melts become a regular occurrence, then this new normal would significantly contribute to rising global sea levels [3].

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