JANUARY 2008: Agriculture is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions and urgent changes need to be made if it is to be changed from a key contributor to climate change to a carbon sink, according to a new report published by Greenpeace.
‘Cool Farming: Climate impacts of agriculture and mitigation potential’, written for Greenpeace by Professor Pete Smith from University of Aberdeen, a lead author on the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, is the first report to detail both the direct and indirect effects farming has on climate change. “As a key contributor to climate change, the environmental impact of industrial farming has reached critical levels,” said Jan van Aken, Greenpeace International Sustainable Agriculture Campaigner. “Governments must support a farming future that works with nature, not against it.”The report describes how energy- and chemical-intensive farming has led to increased levels of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily as a result of the overuse of fertilisers, land clearance, soil degradation, and intensive animal farming. The total global contribution of agriculture to climate change, including deforestation for farmland and other land use changes, is estimated to be equivalent to between 8.5 -16.5 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide or between 17- 32% of all human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.Fertiliser overuse is responsible for the highest single share of agriculture’s direct greenhouse gas emissions, currently equal to some 2.1 billion tonnes of CO2 annually. Excess fertiliser results in the emission of nitrous oxide (N2O), which is some 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide in changing the climate.”The saturation bombing of farmland with fertilisers can and must be stopped. Farmers need to be encouraged to use less fertiliser with more precision, and given assistance to convert to modern, ecological farming systems,” stressed Jan van Aken. “Governments must stop subsidising environmentally destructive practices in agriculture.”Cool Farming details a variety of practical solutions which can reduce climate change and that are easy to implement, including reducing overuse of fertilisers, protecting the soil, improving rice production and cutting demand for meat, especially in developed countries, says the report