Like most things related to people, the food we eat has a carbon cost.Soil cultivation, crop and livestock transportation, manure management and all other aspects Global food production generates greenhouse gas emissions According to a new study published on Monday, more than 17 billion metric tons per year Natural foodAnimal foods accounted for 57% of these emissions, and plant foods accounted for 29%. The researchers hope that the paper’s detailed breakdown of each agricultural practice, animal product, crop, and country’s contribution to carbon emissions will help focus and fine-tune emissions reduction efforts.
Although previous studies estimated emissions from agriculture, the author stated that this work is more detailed and comprehensive. It uses data from 171 crops and 16 animal products from more than 200 countries/regions and computer modeling to calculate the amount of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide contributed by various elements of the global food system (including consumption and production) . Research co-author Atul Jain, a climate scientist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said that if we want to control these emissions, “we need to calculate a good baseline.”
Liqing Peng, a food and agricultural modeler at the non-profit organization World Resources Institute, said these results are consistent with other studies, and the institute published its own research report. 2019 Agricultural Emissions ReportShe said that the new study’s estimate of total emissions is higher than the previous range. This is partly because it includes data on farmland management practices, such as irrigation and planting, and off-farm activities, such as processing and packaging-these numbers are difficult to obtain. “It is important to understand these failures in as much detail as possible” in order to understand where to focus emission reduction research and policies, Peng added.
Among the foods studied and inspected, beef production is the largest source of emissions, accounting for 25% of the total emissions. Among animal products, milk, pork and chicken are next. In the crop category, rice cultivation is the largest contributor, ranking second among all products, accounting for 12% of the total. Rice’s relatively high ranking comes from the methanogenic bacteria that thrive in the anaerobic conditions of flooded rice fields. After rice, the highest emissions associated with plant production come from wheat, sugarcane and corn.
As for the contribution of individual regions, South Asia and Southeast Asia are the regions with the largest total greenhouse gas emissions related to food production, and they are also the only regions where plant-based emissions are higher than animal-based emissions due to rice cultivation. Among the countries, China, India, and Indonesia have the highest emissions from plant-based food production.This again with Rice planting, And the large population’s high demand for food-this has prompted more land to be converted into agricultural production. Due to the large population, per capita production emissions in these areas are relatively low.The highest per capita emissions (and the second highest area Total emissions) is found in South America because of its relatively large meat production, especially beef. North America’s per capita production emissions rank second, followed by Europe.
The study also decomposes emissions caused by various aspects of food production and consumption. Agricultural activities such as cultivating the soil or using other types of equipment and converting land from forests or other natural landscapes to pasture and farmland together account for two-thirds of emissions.
Jain and his colleagues hope to use these results and computer modeling to study how changes in farmland management (such as reducing fertilizer use or adopting no-till soil methods) can reduce emissions. They also want to study how to balance the food needs of the growing global population with the need to stop deforestation. Jain said: “That’s why we put in so much effort” to be so comprehensive in the accounting of the new paper. His co-author, Xu Xiaoming of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, is optimistic about the prospects for reducing food emissions. “I think we can make many choices,” he said. But Peng pointed out that to achieve current and ambitious international emission reduction targets will mean figuring out which methods are not only the most economically meaningful, but also bring the greatest benefits in terms of achieving results. “You want to do everything,” she said, “but you can’t do everything at the same time.”