A bill under debate in Congress would pave the way to verifying and paying for farms’ carbon savings. Stanford scientists explore this and other opportunities for growing climate change solutions on U.S. farms.
A major bill with bipartisan support in Congress would reward farmers for an unusual harvest. The Growing Climate Solutions Act promises billions of dollars for climate-smart agriculture practices, such as planting cover crops to reduce erosion and sequester carbon. The bill highlights farming’s potential as a climate change solution, as well as the challenge of controlling the sector’s growing greenhouse gas emissions. Below, Stanford Earth scientists Inês Azevedo, David Lobell, and Rob Jackson discuss the surprising amount of greenhouse gases emitted by farming, how farmland conservation programs can help reverse the trend, and what the federal government can do to promote more climate-friendly agriculture, among other issues.
Azevedo is an associate professor in the Department of Energy Resources Engineering at Stanford’s School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences (Stanford Earth). Her research examines the role of food systems in reaching de-carbonized economies. Lobell is the Gloria and Richard Kushel Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment. He uses unique datasets to study rural areas; his research has shown how reduced soil tillage can increase yields while nurturing healthier soils and lowering production costs. Jackson is the Michelle and Kevin Douglas Provostial Professor of Energy and Environment in Stanford Earth. His work has shown that global emissions of increased by 30 percent over the past four decades due mostly to large-scale farming with synthetic fertilizers and cattle ranching, and that well-managed soil’s ability to trap carbon dioxide is potentially much greater than previously estimated.
What might the average person be surprised to learn about greenhouse gas emissions from America’s agricultural lands?
Lobell: First, I think people are surprised that the food system actually uses a very small share of fossil fuels, even when you include all the fertilizer production. Second, people are surprised by how many things they think are good, like eating organic or local foods, have very little effect on emissions and can even be worse than conventional alternatives.
Jackson: Many people are aware that fossil fuel use drives most carbon dioxide emissions, but they might not know that more than half of methane and nitrous oxide emissions attributable to human activities come from agriculture.
Azevedo: I think the average person would be surprised to learn agriculture – including… Brinkwire News Summary.