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Agriculture causes much of global warming

Reuters / Food production accounts for up to 29 per cent of man-made greenhouse gases, twice previous UN estimates, according to a new study.

The new study looked at emissions across the food system — including forest clearance, fertilizer production and transport — rather than just farming itself.

But agriculture could profit by cutting its greenhouse emissions, said an official with the agriculture research organization CGIAR, which produced the report.

“There are good economic reasons to improve efficiency in agriculture, not just to cut greenhouse gas emissions,” said Bruce Campbell, head of CGIAR’s research program on climate change, agriculture and food security.

China, for instance, could sharply reduce emissions with more efficient manufacture of fertilizers. Britain could cut emissions by consuming lamb transported from more efficient farms in New Zealand rather than raising its own sheep.

Shifting towards vegetarianism from meat would also help, the report says, as growing livestock feed takes up far more land and emits more greenhouse gases than producing crops for human consumption.

In a separate report, CGIAR predicts climate change is likely to reduce yields of maize, wheat and rice in developing nations in coming decades. That could force some farmers to make radical shifts to growing more resilient crops, such as yams, barley, cowpea, millet, lentils, cassava and bananas.

“The world’s agricultural systems face an uphill struggle in feeding a projected nine billion to 10 billion people by 2050,” the report states. “Climate change introduces a significant hurdle in this struggle.”

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