Edited by Joseph A. McMahon and Michael N. Cardwell
Chapter 8: The Common Agricultural Policy in 2020: Responding to climate change
It is now widely accepted that the world’s climate is changing and that we are in a period of global warming. There have been various phases of warming and cooling even within the span of human history, and there is disagreement about the extent to which the current warming phase is due to anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs). The concentration of these gases (primarily water vapour, carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O)) has increased substantially since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in Europe in the eighteenth century. Agriculture is unusual in its ability to contribute to increasing or decreasing the concentration of atmospheric GHGs. It generates GHG emissions through crop and animal production, but it can also recycle or remove carbon from the atmosphere for significant periods of time through sequestration in the soil or in vegetative material. Agricultural production is a major source of global GHG emissions, directly accounting for an estimated 10 to 12 per cent of the total. This may be compared to the sector’s estimated share of world gross domestic product (GDP) of around 6 per cent.3 Figures vary, but CH4 generated by animals, rice production and land management practices probably accounts for 50 to 60 per cent of agriculture’s global GHG emissions (CO2 equivalent), with the remainder primarily made up of N2O generated by soil and land management practices and by manure.
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