What Things Cause Climate Change – Credit: Amanda Montanez; Source: “Global greenhouse gas emissions from animal foods are double those from plant foods,” Xiaoming Xu et al.
Like most things related to humans, the food we eat comes with a carbon cost. Farming, crop and livestock transportation, manure management and all other aspects of global food production contribute to more than 17 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions per year, according to a new study released Monday.
- 1 What Things Cause Climate Change
- 2 Humans Affect Climate
- 3 Greenhouse Gases’ Effect On Climate
- 4 Engineers: You Can Disrupt Climate Change
What Things Cause Climate Change
. 57 percent of this waste is animal feed, and 29 percent is plant feed. The researchers hope that the paper’s detailed description of how much each agricultural practice, livestock product, crop and country contributes to carbon emissions can help focus and streamline efforts to reduce it.
Humans Affect Climate
While previous studies have estimated agricultural waste, the authors say this work is more detailed and comprehensive. It uses data on 171 crops and 16 animal products from more than 200 countries, as well as computer modeling to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide produced by individual elements of the global food system, including consumption and production. If we want to manage these emissions, “we need to calculate a good baseline,” said study co-author Atul Jain, a climatologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
The results are consistent with other studies, says Liqin Peng, a food and agriculture modeler at the nonprofit World Resources Institute, which released its 2019 report on agricultural waste. The new study on total emissions is on the higher side of the emissions range. says before. This is partly because it includes agricultural land management practices such as irrigation and planting, as well as off-farm activities such as processing and packaging – numbers that are hard to come by. “It’s really important to learn as much as possible about these distributions” to know where to focus research and policies to reduce emissions, adds Peng.
Of the food products examined in the study, beef production was by far the largest contributor, accounting for 25 percent of total emissions. Among livestock products, cow’s milk, pork and chicken are in the same order. In the category of products, rice was the main share holder and it was second among all products, accounting for 12 percent of all products. Rice’s relatively high ranking is methane-producing bacteria that thrive under anaerobic conditions in underwater ponds. After rice, the most crop production-related waste came from wheat, sugarcane and maize.
In terms of contributions from individual regions, Southeast Asia was the largest greenhouse gas emitter associated with food production and the only region with more plant emissions than animals due to rice cultivation. Among countries, China, India and Indonesia have the highest emissions from plant-based food production. This is again due to the cultivation of rice as well as the large population, which creates a high demand for food, which leads to the conversion of more land to agricultural production. Due to the large population, these regions recorded relatively low industrial emissions per capita. The highest emissions per capita (and the second highest regional emissions overall) are observed in South America due to the relatively high production of meat, especially beef. North America has the second highest per capita manufacturing emissions, and Europe the third.
What Is Climate Change ?
The study also broke down the waste generated from different aspects of food production and consumption. Agricultural activities, such as plowing the soil or using other types of machinery, together with the conversion of forest lands or other natural landscapes to pastures and fields, together account for two-thirds of the waste.
Jain and his colleagues want to use these results, along with computer modeling, to understand how changing agricultural land management (such as reducing fertilizer use or using tillage techniques) can reduce emissions. They also want to learn how to balance the food needs of a growing world population with the need to stop deforestation. “That’s why we’ve gone to great lengths to be so comprehensive in our new paper accounting,” Jain said. Its co-author, Xiaoming Xu, also of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is optimistic about the prospects for reducing food waste. “I think we have a lot of options,” he says. But Peng notes that meeting current and ambitious international emissions reduction targets will mean determining which approaches not only make the most economic sense, but also deliver the biggest impact in terms of results. “You want to do everything,” he says, “but you can’t do everything at once.”
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As heat waves, wildfires, hurricanes and other extreme weather events hit the headlines, the effects of climate change became undeniable and inevitable. Who or what is to blame for this?
Greenhouse Gases’ Effect On Climate
This seems like a simple enough question, but like many things about climate change, it gets more complicated the more you look at it. It turns out that there are several ways to apportion blame.
To illustrate this point, I’ve taken some charts from a recent research note by investment firm Morgan Stanley (with permission). They help identify who has emitted more than whom in the past, who has emitted more and less over time, and which fuels and activities are driving the changes.
None of this information is real—it’s all public—but putting these diagrams together can help us frame questions about responsibility for climate change in different ways.
If the question is which country or region emits the most greenhouse gases, the answer is … still China, but “the rest of Asia” is fast approaching (even as Europe declines).
Causes And Effects Of Climate Change
If the question arises, which country emits the most greenhouse gases per capita, the answer will be given by a wide margin, Americans. (Canada and Australia also have high emissions per capita, and several Middle Eastern countries are not on the chart.)
If the question is which region or country is responsible for most of the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, for a long time the answer was Europe…
… and even today (including Russia and the rest of Eastern Europe), according to our global data, North America and Asia are second.
When asked which individual country is responsible for the most emissions, it’s the United States, with China the closest competitor.
What Is Global Warming? Definitions, Causes, And Effects
Animation: Countries with the most CO2 emissions since 1750, ranking as of early 2019: 1) USA – 397GtCO2 2) CN – 214Gt 3) fmr USSR – 180 4) DE – 90 5) UK – 77 – 8 6) JP 5 ) IN – 51 8) FR – 37 9) CA – 32 10) PL – 27 pic.twitter.com/cKRNKO4O0b — Carbon Brief (@CarbonBrief) April 23, 2019
If the question is which country or region is moving faster in the right direction, the answer is Europe. (Look at China – is it a peak or a pause?)
If the question is which fuel contributes the most to climate change, in the 21st century the answer is coal, followed by oil and natural gas.
If the question is which sector of the economy produces the most greenhouse gases, the answer is electricity and heating.
Engineers: You Can Disrupt Climate Change
This chart on our world makes it even clearer that the world’s increasing demand for electricity and heat is the main driver of emissions, and traffic is increasing by more than a second.
(Note that the situation is slightly different in the US – transport emissions are increasing, while electricity sector emissions are decreasing. The lines have recently been cut.)
The story behind these charts is familiar to people who have been watching climate change for some time. As mining development came to the European Union, then North America, and continued in China, the world realized that, unfortunately, this development was destabilizing the atmosphere and potentially destroying the biosphere. Moreover, the amount of greenhouse gases already in the atmosphere means that humanity’s remaining carbon budget is very small. A proven development model has turned out to be extremely dangerous if it continues as it is.
This is a raw deal for China, as well as India, Vietnam and other countries trying to bring their citizens up to Western levels of wealth and comfort. At the same time, it is mainly developing economies that face the greatest risks from climate change, so they must change course at their own peril.
Waste And Its Contribution To Climate Change
In this mixed situation, the answer to the question of responsibility for climate change is always yes and. Yes, North America and the EU must recognize their historical responsibility for emissions.
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