Submitted to: Council for Agricultural Science and Technology Issue Paper
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/3/2004
Publication Date: 8/15/2004
Citation: Paustian, K., Babcock, B., Kling, C., Hatfield, J.L., Lal, R., Mccarl, B., Mclaughlin, S., Post, W.M., Mosier, A.R., Rice, C., Robertson, G.P., Rosenberg, N.J., Rosenzweig, C., Schlesinger, W.H., Zilberman, D. 2004. Climate change and greenhouse gas mitigation: challenges and opportunities for agriculture. Council for Agricultural Science and Technology. Task Force Report No. 141.
Interpretive Summary: Agriculture is a source of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are gases which act as barriers to the escape of energy from the earth's surface to space and can cause increased warming of the earth. Three common gases, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, are the primary greenhouse gases and are linked to agricultural practices. Around the world there is increased interest in reducing the escape of these greenhouse gases from agricultural systems. A survey of the literature was undertaken to develop a summary of potential practices that producers could adopt to reduce greenhouse gas emission or increase the storage of greenhouse gases in soil or crops. This information is being used by policy-makers and farmers to evaluate potential agricultural management practices as a method of reducing climate change.
Technical Abstract: With the adoption of the U.S. Framework Convention on Climate Change, calling for actions to decrease the buildup of greenhouse gases (GHGs) in the atmosphere, interest has grown about agriculture's role in mitigating GHG increases. Three of the major GHGs -- carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (N2O), and methane (CH4) -- are emitted to and/or removed from the atmosphere in significant amounts through agricultural activity. Thus, the potential for agriculture to mitigate GHG emissions has been the subject of intensive scientific investigation the past several years. The focus is to summarize and synthesize the most recent research on the potential to mitigate GHG emissions through improvements in agricultural and land management practices. The report is designed to inform policy- and decision-makers in government and industry, agricultural producers, environmental and other nongovernmental organizations, and the general public. A major objective of the report has been to bring together biophysical and ecological information with economics and policy analysis, to provide a clearer picture of the potential role of agriculture in GHG mitigation strategies. In addition, a major aim has been to address all three major greenhouse gases and to consider the potential tradeoffs and/or synergisms between practices aimed at carbon sequestration and mitigation of N2O and CH4 emissions, in order to understand the net effect of all three gases (CO2, N2O and CH4), which can be expressed as an aggregate 'global warming potential' (GWP) value. This synthesis will inform the debate on GHG mitigation in ongoing national and international efforts to deal with global climate change.