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Reducing Global Warming: The Potential of Organic Agriculture

Müller, Adrian and Davis, Joan S. (2009) Reducing Global Warming: The Potential of Organic Agriculture. Policy Brief, no. 31.5.2009.

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PDF - German/Deutsch


For a successful outcome at COP 15 in Copenhagen in December, viable policy paths for effective climate change mitigation need to be provided. In addition, adaptation is unavoidable. One key point is the integration of agriculture (accounting for 10-12% of global emissions, Smith et al. 2007) in a post-2012 agreement. Its main potential lies in its significant capacity to sequester CO2 in soils, and in its synergies between mitigation and adaptation. This potential is best utilized employing sustainable agricultural practices such as organic agriculture (OA). Conservative estimates of the total mitigation potential of OA amount to 4.5-6.5 Gt CO2eq/yr (of ca. 50 Gt CO2eq total global greenhouse gas emissions). Depending on agricultural management practices, much higher amounts seem however possible.
Organic agriculture complements emission reduction efforts with its major sequestration potential, which is based on the intensive humus production (requiring CO2) of the fertile soils. In comparison to conventional agriculture, OA also directly contributes to emission reductions as it emits less N2O from nitrogen application (due to lower nitrogen input), less N2O and CH4 from biomass waste burning (as burning is avoided), and requires less energy, mainly due to zero chemical fertilizer use. Its synergies between mitigation and adaptation also exert a positive influence. This in part due to the increased soil quality, which reduces vulnerability to drought periods, extreme precipitation events and waterlogging. In addition, the high diversity of crops and farming activities in organic agriculture, together with its lower input costs, reduce economic risks. OA has additional benefits beyond its direct relevance for mitigation and adaptation to climate change and climate variability, as it helps to increase food security and water protection.
In the following, key points of organic agriculture are briefly listed, together with references for detailed information. The data refer to the annual potential of a global shift of agriculture to organic practices.

EPrint Type:Working paper
Keywords:Nachhaltigkeit, Klimawandel, Climate Change, Global Warming, Organic Agriculture, Nachhaltigkeitsanalyse sustainability assessment
Subjects:"Organics" in general
Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability > Climate
Switzerland > Zürich University
Deposited By: Muller, Adrian
ID Code:16507
Deposited On:07 Dec 2009 11:57
Last Modified:17 Apr 2015 09:43
Document Language:English
Refereed:Not peer-reviewed

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