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New Agriculturist: Book reviews - Climate change mitigation and agriculture
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Climate change mitigation and agriculture

Cliamte change mitigation and agriculture

Edited by: Eva Wollenberg, Alison Nihart, Marja-Liisa Tapio-Bistrom and Maryanne Greig-Gran
Published by Routledge
Website: www.routledge.com
2012, 419pp, ISBN 978 1 84971 393 1 (Pb), £29.99

Mitigating climate change - making its effects less serious - is a priority for all sectors of society but particularly for agriculture, which is already feeling the adverse effects of changed rainfall patterns and yield reduction in cereals due to raised temperature at pollination. But agriculture is simultaneously victim and villain: "Raising crops and livestock directly contributes an estimated 10-12% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions globally, or about one-third of emissions if indirect impacts of land-use change and land degradation are considered," write the editors in the opening sentence of this timely and comprehensive book. Timely, since emissions are expected to increase in the next 30 years as population, income, agricultural intensification and diet preferences for meat and dairy products increase, particularly in low-and middle income countries. To let consequences take their course without attempting mitigation could be suicidal.

Climate change mitigation and agriculture brings together over 100 authors, the four editors among them, many of them leading actors in all aspects of agricultural climate change. "This book reviews the state of agricultural climate change mitigation globally," write the editors, "with a focus on identifying the feasibility, opportunities and challenges for achieving mitigation among smallholder farmers." A shocking 74 per cent of agricultural emissions occur in low-and middle income countries where smallholders predominate; yet even modest shifts in agricultural practices could reduce emissions if three challenges are met. First, how can institutions and incentives best support smallholder farmers to participate in and benefit from agricultural mitigation? Second, what kinds of low-cost, rapid measurement and accounting approaches are needed to assess how smallholders' practices affect greenhouse gas emissions? Third, what are the inputs and trade-offs of mitigation on smallholders' livelihoods and food security?

All three major greenhouse gases - carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane - play a major role in agricultural emissions but the potential beneficial impact of carbon sequestration is almost ten times greater than the potential of reducing both nitrous oxide and methane emissions (IPCC figures). Similarly, an even larger, more immediate mitigation is possible by preventing carbon-rich forests and grasslands being replaced by agriculture, i.e. reducing or eliminating land clearance and deforestation.

Examples are drawn from Africa, Asia, Latin America and from Australia and Canada, where lessons are applicable to smallholders in developing nations. The wealth of detail and clear presentation makes this volume a rich source of guidance for policymakers and in-field advisors and practitioners. In helping fund production of Climate change mitigation and agriculture, CTA deserves to see the implementation of its guiding principles and the realisation of the editors' stated aim: "To accelerate efforts towards mitigating land-based climate change."

Date published: April 2012


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