Where does carbon fit into greenhouse gas control strategies?
May 29, 2009
Cutting down forests for agriculture vents excess carbon dioxide into the air just as industrial activities and the burning of fossil fuels do. But whether policies to stabilize greenhouse gases in the atmosphere should include this terrestrial source of carbon dioxide is under debate. According to a new study this week in Science, failing to include land use changes in such policies could lead to massive deforestation and higher costs for limiting carbon emissions.
Science 29 May 2009:
Vol. 324. no. 5931, pp. 1183 - 1186
Implications of Limiting CO2 Concentrations for Land Use and Energy
Marshall Wise,Katherine Calvin,Allison Thomson,Leon Clarke,Benjamin Bond-Lamberty,
Steven J. Smith,Anthony Janetos,James Edmonds
Limiting atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations to low levels requires strategies to manage anthropogenic carbon emissions from terrestrial systems as well as fossil fuel and industrial sources. We explore the implications of fully integrating terrestrial systems and the energy system into a comprehensive mitigation regime that limits atmospheric CO2 concentrations. We find that this comprehensive approach lowers the cost of meeting environmental goals but also carries with it profound implications for agriculture: Unmanaged ecosystems and forests expand, and food crop and livestock prices rise. Finally, we find that future improvement in food crop productivity directly affects land-use change emissions, making the technology for growing crops potentially important for limiting atmospheric CO2 concentrations.