What causes agricultural emissions

Climate and energy

Agriculture, forestry and the entire food system are significant sources of greenhouse gas: 23% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions were attributable to this sector in 2007–2016 - 44% of methane emissions and 82% of nitrous oxide emissions. If you add the emissions upstream and downstream of food production in the global food system, the sector causes 21-37% of all greenhouse gas emissions.

In 2017, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere reached new records. The CO2 concentration was 405.5 parts per million particles (ppm), compared to 400 ppm in 2015. Methane concentrations climbed to a record high of 1,859 parts per billion (ppb) - about 60% comes from human activities such as livestock, rice cultivation and Landfills. The concentration of nitrous oxide rose to 329.9 ppb, mainly due to the burning of biomass and the use of fertilizers.

The five largest dairy and meat companies (JBS, Cargill, Tyson, Dairy Farmers of America and the Fonterra Group) together emitted 578 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents (MtCO2e) in 2016. That is more than all emissions from Great Britain (507 MtCO2e in 2015) or France (464 MtCO2e) and exceeds oil giants like Exxon (577 MtCO2e in 2015) or Shell (508 MtCO2e). The 20 largest meat and dairy companies caused more emissions than Germany with 932 MtCO2e in 2016

The EU greenhouse gas emissions (excluding land use, land use change and forestry) totaled 4,333 million tonnes of CO in 20172-Equivalents (MtCO2e). Agriculture accounted for 10% of total emissions, or 440 MtCO2e responsible. Of this, 38% were methane emissions from the digestion of cattle and 31% were direct nitrous oxide emissions from agricultural soils. Germany and France caused 32% of agricultural emissions.

In Germany, a total of 868.7 million tons of greenhouse gases were released in 2018 - 4.2% less than in 2017 and thus the first clear reduction after four years of stagnation. The energy sector accounted for 727.6 million tons (83.7%) and industry for 64.7 million tons (7.4%). German agriculture emitted 66.7 million tons of CO2- equivalents (7.7%). Their emissions increased by 0.7% in 2018, due to an increase in animal populations. Agriculture was responsible for 61% of all methane and 80% of nitrous oxide emissions.

In 2016, global greenhouse gas emissions amounted to 51.9 gigatons of CO2-Equivalents. If the world continues as before, it would be 58.9 Gt CO2e by 2030. In order to keep global warming below 2 ° C, the value would have to fall to 41.8 Gt CO2e by 2030, in order to limit it to 1.5 ° C to 36.5 Gt CO2e. The agricultural sector could contribute 3 Gt CO2e to closing the gap with better land and cultivation management and save a further 3.7 Gt CO2e by avoiding peat fires and peatland degradation, different dietary patterns and less food waste.

If no more ambitious measures are taken, global greenhouse gas emissions will increase by 50% by 2050, according to projections by the OECD, mainly as a result of an increase in energy-related CO2-Emissions by 70%, but also from emissions from agriculture.

The agricultural use of moors in Germany represents 20.26 million tons of CO2Equivalently represents the largest single agricultural emission source per year, although the peat soils only make up 4% of the total arable land.

Agriculture has enormous potential to mitigate climate change: Together with forestry, it could reduce overall emissions by 18%, primarily through carbon sequestration in the soil (89%) and a reduction in methane production from rice fields (9%).

Agriculture is a major contributor to human-made climate change, at 17-32%. Agricultural methane and nitrous oxide emissions increased by 17% between 1990 and 2005. According to projections, methane and nitrous oxide emissions are expected to increase by a further 35 - 60% by 2030.

In Germany's forests, around 1.2 billion tons of carbon are bound in the aboveground and underground biomass. If the increase is greater than the wood uses, the stocks rise and the forest acts as CO2-Sink. The sink performance took from approx. 80 million tons of CO2 At the beginning of the 1990s, it steadily decreased, currently 20 million tons of CO2 additionally stored in the forest.

In crop production, it is primarily the use of mineral fertilizers and pesticides as well as the drainage of wetlands that determine the extent of the “climate costs”.

According to a study by the Thünen Institute, 12 million tons of food in Germany end up in the garbage every year. 52% of food waste (6.14 million t) was generated in private households in 2015 - each individual threw away around 75 kg. Out-of-home catering accounted for 14% (1.69 million t), trade 4% (0.49 million t), processing 12% (1.36 million t) and agriculture 18% ( 2.17 million t). The WWF criticizes that the data basis for waste in retail is incomplete.

A meta-analysis has shown that organically farmed soils emit less nitrous oxide in terms of area than those under conventional cultivation. The emissions from organic land per hectare and year were an average of 492 kg of CO2 equivalents below those of conventional fields. In addition, bio-areas show a slightly increased uptake of atmospheric methane.