The conflict of interests between food production and climate protection is now shown by scientists from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in calculations for the years 2005 to 2045. For the first time, the effects of an advancing liberalization of agricultural trade were comprehensively analyzed through computer simulations, focusing both on the economic impacts and on those on land use and nature. This is one of the issues for the UN summit in Durban next week.
“Trade with grains and sugar, with soy and meat has multiplied more than tenfold since 1950,” says Christoph Schmitz, lead author of the study that has recently been published in the scientific journal Global Environmental Change. His team has analysed three different scenarios of future world trade for different regions of the earth, using a coupled economic and biophysical model tool.
“The effects of an expansion of global agricultural trade for the world´s climate could be drastic – at least if no additional new rules are introduced,” says Schmitz. The main reason for this: with more liberalised world trade, production areas move towards tropical regions, which leads to an expansion of agricultural land at the expense of nature there.
Cropland instead of rainforest in the Amazon region: cheap production, expensive emissions
If world trade was freed from all trade barriers by 2045, global agricultural production could become 11 trillion US dollars cheaper altogether than with barriers in a time span of four decades – a cost reduction of roughly a tenth. At the same time, emissions of agricultural greenhouse gases would increase by around 15 percent by 2045 as compared to a scenario without an expansion of trade. A moderate scenario of opening markets still amounts to 6.5 trillion US dollars in cost reductions and almost ten percent more emissions harmful to the climate. Environmental costs are therefore substantial.
As a result of the calculations, Latin America would gain in exports of grains and oilseeds in the case of liberalization – but more than elsewhere by cutting down rainforests and a corresponding extension of cultivated areas, for example in the Amazon region. North America and Europe would export less. China could lead exports of meat. Regarding animal husbandry, calculations show a relatively strong absolute increase of greenhouse gas emissions in comparison to today, but only little alteration between the different trade scenarios.
Forest protection is one of the major topics in Durban – it could be linked to trade issues
“According to our analysis, the reduction of trade barriers cannot simply be condemned,” explains Hermann Lotze-Campen with regard to the current fierce public debate on world trade and short-term fluctuations of agricultural prices. He heads the research project on this matter. “Liberalization can be of sustainable advantage to global food supplies, if rules to contain agricultural impacts on the environment are created on an international level.”
The scientists conclude from their study that rules for world trade and climate protection cannot be treated separately in international negotiations any longer. “This is one thing to be discussed in Durban”, Lotze-Campen says. “Forest protection is decisive to reach ambitious emission targets and is high on the agenda there.” According to the study, several things could be considered. In the future, agreements on trade liberalization could be accompanied by measures to protect forests. Secondly, the cost reduction through cheaper food production would be sufficient to pay for measures of climate protection like reforestation or mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. On the other hand, compensation payments for comprehensive forest protection would be fundable from saved costs for additional emission certificates.
Investing in agricultural innovation
Thirdly, a sustainable increase of agricultural production can only be feasible if considerably more money were to be invested in the development of better cultivation methods soon, the scientists say. “Investments in yield increase have stagnated in the last decades,” emphasizes Lotze-Campen. Especially in developing countries a lot can still be accomplished. “If more can be produced on the same piece of land, this helps both ends: global food security as well as climate protection.”
Article: Schmitz, C., Biewald, A., Lotze-Campen, H., Popp, A., Dietrich, J.P., Bodirsky, B., Krause, M., Weindl, I. (2011): Trading more Food - Implications for Land Use, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, and the Food System. Global Environmental Change, [doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.09.013] (in press)
For further information, please contact:Potsdam-Institut für Klimafolgenforschung, Pressestelle
Jonas Viering | PIK Potsdam
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
Europe’s Demographic Future. Where the Regions Are Heading after a Decade of Crises
10.08.2017 | Berlin-Institut für Bevölkerung und Entwicklung
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy