“It’s important to remember that we’re not creating new science but rather assessing the current state of the science on how agriculture, forestry and land use contribute to and can mitigate greenhouse gas emissions,” Rice said. They conducted literature reviews and summarized key points of the science that’s occurred since the last report in 2007.
He acknowledged that the words “climate change” can be controversial among some people, but added, “As far as greenhouse gas emissions and concentrations in the atmosphere, I don’t think there’s any controversy. Those are true measurements. The science is really solid on that. What people might question is, what’s the impact of those greenhouse gases?”
“It is certainly clear by 97 percent of those climate scientists that the increases in greenhouse gases such as CO2, nitrous oxide and methane, have resulted in about a 1.5 degree Fahrenheit increase in global temperatures. That’s an important point, that it’s global,” he said. “There’s a lot of variation around the globe. In time our atmosphere goes through natural cycles and what the scientists are saying is that what we’re doing is enhancing those cycles.”
Rice said that even the cold weather in the United States this past winter might make sense in relation to climate change because the rest of the globe was warmer. Because of that, weather patterns in the Arctic Circle were affected which impacted the U.S.
Key Recommendations for Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
Soil carbon sequestration – One of the recommendations coming out of this and previous reports is that carbon be sequestered through land management changes, Rice said of practices that hold carbon in the soil. Through reduced tillage in farming – no-till being the prime example – and systems using cover crops and residue, those are major ways agriculture can reduce the emission of greenhouse gases because carbon dioxide is being taken up by the plant materials and stored in the soil.
“It turns out that (carbon sequestration) has multiple benefits. If you increase the carbon content, you improve the quality of the soil. It makes it more productive, less prone to erosion and the organic matter helps hold water so it provides some adaptation to the droughts and heat we have in Kansas,” Rice said.
Although the practice of not tilling the soil (no-till) started in the United States, two other countries, Brazil and Argentina, are the world leaders in no-till, said Rice, adding that 80 percent or more of agricultural land in Brazil and Argentina are farmed using no-till systems.