how agriculture contributes to climate change

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Introduction

  • Agriculture is the growing of plants (crops) and animals (livestock) for food and other purposes. In 2007, lands used for crop growing and animal grazing took up 40–50% of Earth’s land surface, a 10% increase since 1961. Agriculture contributes to global climate change by releasing carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O), the t…

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Historical Background and Scientific Foundations

  • For most of the human race’s existence, it did not practice agriculture. For many hundreds of thousands of years, humans and their near-human ancestors practiced various forms of hunting and gathering, finding edible plants and animals in the environment rather than raising them. The first known tools, made about 2.5 million years ago, were food processors, chipped stones devis…

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Impacts and Issues

  • Is Meat the Number One Cause of Global Warming?
    In 2007, vegan and animal-rights organizations ran ads in the U.S. media stating that emissions from meat-raising contribute more to global warmingthan cars do. For example, an ad by the group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) read: “Too Chicken to Go Vegetarian? …
  • Mitigation of Agricultural Emissions
    Altered agricultural practices can reduce agriculture’s contribution to global warming. More efficient delivery of nitrogen to crops would reduce N2O emissions and other ecological harms; livestock management for more efficient digestion of feeds would save money and reduce CH4…

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Primary Source Connection

  • Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are major greenhouse gases. Agriculture is a common, and often overlooked, contributor of methane and nitrous oxide. Both methane and nitrous oxide are produced naturally by livestock and soil management. Some human-controlled agricultural management techniques, however, increase methane and nitrous oxide production. This article …

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Bibliography

  • Books
    Parry, M. L., et al, eds. Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability: Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. New York: Cambridge UniversityPress, 2007.
  • Periodicals
    Asner, Gregory P. “Grazing Systems, Ecosystem Responses, and Global Change.” Annual Review of Environment and Resources29 (2004): 261–299. Deutsch, Claudia H. “Trying to Connect the Dinner Plate to Climate Change.” The New York Times(August 29, 2007). Izaurralde, R. César, et …

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