Greenhouse gasses (GHG) constitute a number of gasses (CO2 being the most prevalent) that are released from the earth’s surface and trap heat in the atmosphere. They have become of primary interest to many environmentalists because of their impacts on agriculture, human health, ecology, and other environmental systems. Countries across the world have committed to reducing GHG emissions due to general increased recognition of their detrimental effects. One such country, Brazil, aims for a 37% reduction of their 2005 emission values by 2025. As the second-largest producer of beef in the world, Brazil has acknowledged the notable fraction of GHG emissions derived from livestock production (18% of Brazil’s annual GHG) and the particular relation between the effects of cattle ranching and beef production on national emissions. Continue reading →
An emerging trend in agriculture, vertical farming, has been developing across the United States. Vertical farms, a new form of green urban architecture, are controlled, indoor environments that regulate lighting, nutrients and weather. These farms are typically set up in hydroponic towers that often inhabit urban buildings (Frazier, 2017). Many are optimistic about the benefits of this practice: fast production, minimization of land use, water conservation, minimization of fertilizer/agricultural run-off, and most significantly – the drastic reduction of transport emissions. Although the concept of vertical farming is increasing in popularity, some are skeptical about the drawbacks of this method due to the fact that retro-fitting buildings for indoor plant cultivation is capital-intensive and energy costs run high. Continue reading →
Because the Earth’s atmosphere intermixes globally, all areas of the globe are equally exposed to greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). However, some countries are more vulnerable to the effects of these emissions, while some countries release more GHGs into the atmosphere than others. Althor et al. (2016) compare each country’s vulnerability to climate change to its creation of GHGs for the years 2010 and 2030. They found that the countries least vulnerable to climate change were higher GHG emitters, and the most vulnerable countries were least responsible for GHG emissions. By 2030 the inequity will have worsened. The authors call for climate change policies that place more responsibility for mitigating climate change on the high-emitters. Continue reading →
In concert with the effects of climate change, some agricultural practices are having an unanticipated combined effect on ecosystems and biodiversity. Brodie (2016) showed that agricultural expansion coupled with climate change will have a more intense effect on the mammals in the extremely biodiverse region of Southeast Asia than either cause alone. Rising temperatures allow farmers to expand the growing region for cold-sensitive crops like the non-native oil-palm trees. While rising temperatures themselves do not disrupt the region’s mammalian species, the destruction of native forests in place of new agricultural areas would reduce mammal ranges by 47-67% by 2070. This is 3-4 times the reduction predicted considering direct effects from conversion of natural forest to plantations alone. In this study Brodie calls for a greater investigation of the combined effects of climate change and agriculture on biodiversity. Continue reading →
The movie Interstellar introduces the idea of food scarcity due to climate change as a valid fear. A modern dust bowl prevents farmers from cultivating essential, staple crops. Famine has become more common around the world in recent years, but areas with advanced infrastructure are more adept at handling tough conditions. In Sub-Saharan Africa, one of the least developed areas of the world, changes in aggregate production will put residents in danger. A recent paper by Wolfram Schlenker (2010) looked to see if the current state of African agriculture is as deprived as predicted. The researchers discovered that the environment in Sub-Saharan Africa is becoming worse every year. Without the proper care, it will become harder to produce copious crops, if any.
Concerns about climate change are high on peoples’ minds around the globe, but not many consider the changes it is already beginning to cause in food production. Dan Charles of NPR discusses bean production in his article, “Meet the Cool Beans Designed To Beat Climate Change.” It is estimated that approximately 400 million people globally rely on beans for nourishment. This is problematic because most beans, including the common ones–pinto, black and kidney–cannot survive in temperatures that remain above 66 degrees throughout the night. A Colombian scientist, Alvaro Mejia-Jimenez was intrigued by a bean indigenous to communities in the American Southwest, the tepary bean. Continue reading →
Subsistence agriculture is a difficult practice in a world of uncertainty in temperatures and rainfall, and food security in some areas is a primary concern. A study by Bee (2014) looks at potential effects of the changing climate on the lives of women in rural Mexico, and gains insight into the choices they make given their “socio-political, economic and environmental contexts”. Eighty-eight percent of the female interviewees claimed to be engaged in “unpaid domestic work”, which includes the provision of daily food for the household through crop farming, namely maize and beans. Bearing the burden of household food security against unfavorable climates, these women act as teachers and decision-makers. They have learned to adapt to the weather, gaining knowledge about food sources and cultivation and passing that knowledge on to their children. Continue reading →