2012-04-20. Food for thought on greenhouse gas emissions

posted Apr 24, 2012, 10:44 AM by Alan D. GOULD
 | by Rachel Berkowitz, Physics Today. An article relevant to GSS Climate Change chapter 3. Excerpt: …Reducing humans’ meat consumption by at least 50% will be necessary to stabilize discharge of nitrous oxide, a potent greenhouse gas, by 2050. …In a world dependent on nitrogen for food production—it has been estimated that more than half Earth’s human population is fed as a result of synthetic nitrogen fertilizer use—agriculture is responsible for more than 80% of anthropogenic nitrous oxide emissions…. The third highest greenhouse gas contributor to climate change after carbon dioxide and methane, N2O is the most potent of the three gases because it's a better absorber of IR radiation. …But it's going to be tricky to reduce N2O emissions, as food production processes have been accelerating to feed Earth’s growing human population, which is currently at 7 billion. The nitrogen-use efficiency of crops is far from perfect, and efficiency is further reduced when crops are used as animal feed. In its fifth assessment report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented several scenarios … that represent possible ways to reduce major greenhouse gas emissions. …The most aggressive involves stabilizing N2O concentrations by 2050 via a combination of reducing humans’ meat consumption, improving agricultural efficiency, and reducing emissions from industry. …The study, however, lends new value to Albert Einstein’s observation that "Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." Read the full article: http://www.physicstoday.org/daily_edition/down_to_earth/food_for_thought_on_greenhouse_gas_emissions?type=PTPICKS