Sunday, November 22, 2009

Agriculture and Global Warming: Making it Better, Making it Worse

Did you know that agriculture contributes about 20% of America's emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other heat-trapping gases that cause global warming?  For the entire planet, agriculture contributes about 12% of these emissions.

How are the impacts of our food, fiber and biofuel production systems so severe, and what are some ways that we can revolutionize our agricultural practices to turn them from a source of carbon emissions to a sink?

Treehugger explores these questions:

If we consider some of the embodied energy required for industrial ag, it gets worse. According to Will Allen, green farmer extraordinaire, including all the "manufacture and use of pesticides and fertilizers, fuel and oil for tractors, equipment, trucking and shipping, electricity for lighting, cooling, and heating, and emissions of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and other green house gases" bumps the impact up to between 25 and 30 percent of the U.S.'s collective carbon footprint. That's a big jump.

(However), Organic agriculture can remove from the air and sequester 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per acre per year. The Rodale Institute study that found that staggering number also found that, when properly executed, organic agriculture does not compromise yield. As a matter of fact, in drought years, it increases yield, since the additional carbon stored in soil helps it to hold more water. In wet years, the additional organic matter in the soil wicks water away from plant roots, limiting erosion and keeping plants in place. Both of those attributes will also benefit organic ag's ability to adapt to the higher highs (and lower lows) of climate change.

Obviously, there are some very powerful economic interests -- the multinational corporations who make all the fertilizers, pesticides and even crop types -- who are going to try to fight these types of positive changes tooth and nail.

That's why it's up to people like you and me to vote with our everyday choices (the more of us choose organic, the more land will need to be farmed organic to meet our demand), and contact our state and federal decision-makers and demand change -- for the earth and for ourselves.  You can reach your Congressional representatives at 202-224-3121.

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