Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Growing world trade makes food production cheaper – at the expense of the environment

22.11.2011
Further opening of the markets for agricultural products leads to lower production costs for food. This will happen at the expense of the environment though, if for example forests are turned into cropland.

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
Telefon: +49 (0)331 288 2507
E-Mail: presse@pik-potsdam.de

Jonas Viering | PIK Potsdam
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Study relating to materials testing Detecting damages in non-magnetic steel through magnetism
23.07.2018 | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern

nachricht Innovative genetic tests for children with developmental disorders and epilepsy
11.07.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: It’s All in the Mix: Jülich Researchers are Developing Fast-Charging Solid-State Batteries

There are currently great hopes for solid-state batteries. They contain no liquid parts that could leak or catch fire. For this reason, they do not require cooling and are considered to be much safer, more reliable, and longer lasting than traditional lithium-ion batteries. Jülich scientists have now introduced a new concept that allows currents up to ten times greater during charging and discharging than previously described in the literature. The improvement was achieved by a “clever” choice of materials with a focus on consistently good compatibility. All components were made from phosphate compounds, which are well matched both chemically and mechanically.

The low current is considered one of the biggest hurdles in the development of solid-state batteries. It is the reason why the batteries take a relatively long...

Im Focus: Color effects from transparent 3D-printed nanostructures

New design tool automatically creates nanostructure 3D-print templates for user-given colors
Scientists present work at prestigious SIGGRAPH conference

Most of the objects we see are colored by pigments, but using pigments has disadvantages: such colors can fade, industrial pigments are often toxic, and...

Im Focus: Unraveling the nature of 'whistlers' from space in the lab

A new study sheds light on how ultralow frequency radio waves and plasmas interact

Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles present new research on a curious cosmic phenomenon known as "whistlers" -- very low frequency packets...

Im Focus: New interactive machine learning tool makes car designs more aerodynamic

Scientists develop first tool to use machine learning methods to compute flow around interactively designable 3D objects. Tool will be presented at this year’s prestigious SIGGRAPH conference.

When engineers or designers want to test the aerodynamic properties of the newly designed shape of a car, airplane, or other object, they would normally model...

Im Focus: Robots as 'pump attendants': TU Graz develops robot-controlled rapid charging system for e-vehicles

Researchers from TU Graz and their industry partners have unveiled a world first: the prototype of a robot-controlled, high-speed combined charging system (CCS) for electric vehicles that enables series charging of cars in various parking positions.

Global demand for electric vehicles is forecast to rise sharply: by 2025, the number of new vehicle registrations is expected to reach 25 million per year....

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

LaserForum 2018 deals with 3D production of components

17.08.2018 | Event News

Within reach of the Universe

08.08.2018 | Event News

A journey through the history of microscopy – new exhibition opens at the MDC

27.07.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Quantum bugs, meet your new swatter

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

A novel synthetic antibody enables conditional “protein knockdown” in vertebrates

20.08.2018 | Life Sciences

Metamolds: Molding a mold

20.08.2018 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>