Friday, July 31, 2009

Agriculture and Carbon Emmisions

The climate change debate seems to be loosing sight of some very important factors. It is well accepted that industrialsed countries are the worst offenders when it comes to greenhouse gas emmisions, but to address this issue of emmisions holistically, we need to also pay attention to the many developing countries where slash and burn agriculture is very widespread.

The current practice of land preparation for agriculture in many developing countries where large tracts of vegetation are completely cleared, debris or biomass burnt and land made bare (without any vegetation) before planting has serious implications for the environment in terms of release of carbon into the atmosphere. Usually there is so much focus on the amount of Carbon dioxide released by big industries whilst the world gradually looses sight of the volumes of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases being released through slash and burn practices all over the world. For instance, few people realize that Indonesia is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet, after the United States and China; and 85 percent of Indonesia’s emissions are related to land use: the clearing of land for agriculture and infrastructure, and the burning of forests and peatlands.

Carbon dioxide (77%), nitrous oxide (8%), and methane (14%) are the three main greenhouse gases that trap infrared radiation and contribute to climate change and all these gases can be released through improper land management and agricultural practices. If we are serious about really mitigating climate change then our debate should not only focus on big industries. The earth is what we have and we must do all we can to secure it for the future.