Can agricultural practices help mitigate climate change and reduce food insecurity?
While agriculture is a relatively small contributor to the overall greenhouse gas emissions each year, approximately 9 percent of all emissions (Newton, 2019), there is still room for improvement. “Global demand for livestock products is expected to double by 2050” (Rojas-Downing et al., 2017) putting pressure on farmers and land stewards to find ways to increase production of crops and livestock, without increasing GHG emissions. “Agriculture can contribute to efforts to reduce GHG emissions through increased carbon sequestration, reduced methane and nitrous oxide emissions, and increased renewable energy production” (Horowitz and Gottlieb, 2015).
In 2016, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agricultural activities worldwide accounted for approximately 5.3 GtCO2e (gigatons of equivalent carbon dioxide) or 11.5% of all emissions (Climate Watch, 2019), with enteric fermentation from livestock contributing 2.1 gigatons of CO2 equivalent. The second largest contributor, manure left on pastures, contributed 850 megatons CO2 equivalent (ibid). China, Brazil, and United States are the largest emitters of greenhouse gasses from the agricultural industry (ibid).
Practicable and Efficient Emerging Methods to Curb GHG
Practices in environmentally friendly agriculture include mitigation of GHG emissions through better livestock and manure management, increased carbon sequestration through soil conservation, and reduction of waste through the entire food system.