Agriculture in the low-carbon era: Why we can’t wait until the cows come home
Agriculture had a ‘green revolution’ in the 1960s, resulting in greatly increased production. But it still isn’t green.
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture – and the associated deforestation – contribute a combined 24% to global greenhouse-gas emissions, making it almost equal with power generation, at 25%, and well ahead of transport (14%) as a climate-change culprit[footnote]“Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data,” published by the US Environment Protection Agency on 21 March 2018.[/footnote].
But agriculture is also a climate-change victim. Farmers will have to dramatically improve crop yields to feed the growing world population, with rising global temperatures making that task all the more difficult.
Surprisingly, the prospect that such a fundamental contributor to human existence appears caught up in a negative feedback loop rarely features in climate change debates – at least in investment circles. Perhaps the world is more willing to accept a high carbon dioxide-emitting agriculture sector (as opposed, say, to an oil-driven transport industry) precisely because it is essential to life: after all, we can live without long-haul flights, but not food.