Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Agriculture in a changing environment

IRIN: Agriculture has been seen either as a cause or victim of global warming at the UN climate change talks over the past few years - something that has thwarted efforts to attract the investment it needs, say scientists.

Some at the talks see a more dominant role for agriculture - an emitter of major greenhouses gases such as nitrous oxide and methane - in reducing global warming. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates agricultural emissions account for 13.5 percent of all man-made greenhouse gas emissions.

At the same time, poor countries want more money and better technology to help farmers adapt to the impact of climate change such as frequent droughts, flooding and increased salinity. “It is really a bad split for agriculture,” said John Beddington, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, and one of the authors of a paper calling for a more integrated approach, combining mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The paper, published in the current edition of Science with contributions from several scientists, calls for a better understanding of agricultural practices with the aim of delivering multiple benefits - reducing emissions, helping agriculture to adapt, and using limited resources (like water) efficiently.

One model to emulate could be Denmark, where one of the world’s strictest agriculture control systems is in place - including, for example, the use of environmentally friendly practices such as substituting pig slurry (pig waste and water) for artificial fertilizers. The country has managed not only to reduce emissions from agriculture by 28 percent but also increase productivity. This kind of win-win agriculture would attract more funding from a wider range of sources, said Beddington....

A 1948 photo of a Danish farm

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