The latest assessment of global climate change is out and scientists from around the world have recommended changes including some in agriculture, forestry and other land use designed to mitigate their effects on climate change.
As a lead author of a chapter in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change assessment report released this month, Kansas State University Distinguished Professor and soil microbiologist Chuck Rice gave a presentation at the World Bank on April 16. Rice was part of a group of 18 authors from around the world who wrote the chapter pertaining to agriculture, forestry, and other land use. In an interview, he discussed some of the recommendations made by the authors.
Most greenhouse gases come from burning fossil fuels to produce energy, although deforestation, industrial processes, and some agricultural practices also emit gases into the atmosphere, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Greenhouse gases act like a blanket around the Earth, trapping energy in the atmosphere and causing it to warm. This is called the greenhouse effect and is natural and necessary to support life on Earth. However, a buildup of greenhouse gases can change Earth's climate.
“Agriculture globally contributes about 10 to 12 percent to greenhouse gas emissions,” Rice said. “If you add in forestry it moves it up to around 25 percent. Agriculture is significant but not the major contributor and has declined slightly, percentage-wise, since the last report in 2007, not so much because agriculture has changed that much but because the energy sector is contributing more.”
IPCC Assessment Reports Background
“The IPCC was started in the late 1980s when the first President Bush signed with other countries that climate change was an issue for the planet,” said Rice, who added that this latest report is one of a series that has come out every seven years. “Our chapter addresses agriculture’s role in the future of the emission of greenhouse gases.”
This is the fifth assessment report, said Rice, who also served on the fourth report which received the Nobel Peace Prize. Overall, the panel includes three working groups -- one studying the science involved in climate change, one studying the adaptation to climate change and one studying the mitigation of climate change which is the group Rice’s team is part of. About 240 scientists, including specialists in forestry, land use, social science, economics and others, contributed to the third group report’s 16 chapters.