THE REAL STORY ON AGRICULTURE EMISSIONS
Updated: Sep 11, 2022
At Sustainable Circular Economy we see lots of statistics thrown around, mostly to attempt to convince the people that one point of view or another is valid. And this is no truer when addressing the global warming impact of the agriculture sector.
In total, the agriculture sector contributes 27% to Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions. And that is mostly what people are told. But, if a government edict is addressing fertilizer use, should the statistics not be adjusted to include only the GHG from fertilizer? At Sustainable Circular Economy we support the use of a circular economy model and correct data, which will allow forming the best actions that consider people, the planet and profitability.
Agriculture by the Numbers
The following begins the breakdown of the numbers, showing the GHG % by sector. We suggest, at best it is misleading to use a 27% when discussing the impact of fertilizer.
We suggest, at best that it is misleading and serves no purpose to help all of us to make the right decisions, to use 27% impact when discussing the use of fertilizer. Following is a breakdown of the 27%.
Fertilizer use, that supports approximately 4 billion people, accounts for 3% of the total agriculture GHG emissions, but as a total of all GHG emissions, it accounts for 0.008%.
Question: Why are we running down a track to cut 30% fertilizer use, which will impact a .0024% decrease un GHG emissions, when there are so many other critical issues that have to be addressed? A .0024% reduction can disappear faster than we can blink if some of the larger contributions to GHG production are not adequately addressed.
That’s Not Saying
That’s not saying it is not important to address fertilizer use. It is. But we have limited financial resources to put to all of this, and making the appropriate decisions are critical to our future.
What Are the Steps to Success?
There are three steps we see at Sustainable Circular Economy that must be taken to arrive at decisions that consider impacts on people, the planet and sustainability:
1. Use correct statistics
2. Use the principles of a circular economy to address evaluation of decision-making
3. Change from a top-down, power approach, to a bottom-up participatory approach.
Evaluating decision-making on the basis of a circular economy, “gives us the tools to tackle climate change and biodiversity loss together, while addressing important social needs. It gives us the power to grow prosperity, jobs, and resilience while cutting greenhouse gas emissions, waste, and pollution.”
Following are the top 7 actions that can be taken to support a significant reduction in GHG from agriculture. These have been identified by McKinsey and Company, in their April, 2020 report, “Agriculture and Climate Change.”
Question: Why such a focus on the fertilizer use when there is so much more benefit to address the top 7?
What Can We ?
Taking action with agriculture is a highly emotional and practical issue. About 2 billion people are directly involved with farms ranging in size from a few acres to large mega-sized operations. “One size will not fit all.”
We need an approach that recognizes the diversity and the full spectrum of the stakeholders need to be involved. We have seen so many examples of a top-down power-driven approach that has created conflict, and to date, we have not hit any targets.
There is no utopian solution; but there is an opportunity for a better approach. I suggest we can do much better by adopting decision-making on the basis of a circular economy. The present linear approach, does not work – the present example where government has come down with their edict that fertilizer use be reduce by 30% has not shown any analysis of the impacts on people, the planet or sustainability.
We can be, and should be, all supportive of making appropriate changes. Doing this right is for our future and the future of our families. This is very personal and I personally want it done right.
To stay up to date, please sign up for our Newsletter and if you and your business wish to consider transitioning a business model based upon a circular economy, please contact us at Sustainable Circular Economy. There can be substantial positive benefits to your profitability, your staff and to the environment all identified and evaluated through the lens of a circular economy.
Best wishes from all of us.
 Ellen MaCarthur Foundation (2022). What is a Circular Economy? https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/topics/circular-economy-introduction/overview Accessed 02 August 2022.
 McKinsey & Company (April, 2022). Agriculture and Climate Change https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/industries/agriculture/our%20insights/reducing%20agriculture%20emissions%20through%20improved%20farming%20practices/agriculture-and-climate-change.ashx Accessed 28 July, 2022 – Please Note: the estimates are provided for information only and are not to be used as a basis of any study or decision-making.
Assumes a linear reduction, 30% of 0.6 GtC02e