Cropland Use can be cut in half yet still Produce same amount of food, according to new Study

Biofuel farming alternatives

It’s Possible To Cut Cropland Use in Half and Produce the Same Amount of Food, Says New Study

Restoring up to 2.2 million square miles to nature

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“If during the next sixty to seventy years the world farmer reaches the average yield of today’s US corn grower, the ten billion will need only half of today’s cropland while they eat today’s American calories,” concluded agronomist Paul Waggoner in his seminal 1996 article, “How Much Land Can Ten Billion People Spare for Nature?

In their 2013 article, “Peak Farmland and the Prospect for Land Sparing,” Waggoner and Rockefeller University researchers Jesse Ausubel and Iddo Wernick citing current global trends in yield increases and fertilizer deployment calculated if biofuel production could be reined in, that as much as 400 million hectares (1.5 million square miles) of current cropland could be returned to nature by 2060. That’s about 25 percent of the land currently devoted to growing crops. “Now we are confident that we stand on the peak of cropland use, gazing at a wide expanse of land that will be spared for nature,” the authors concluded.

It is worth noting that according to Food and Agricultural Organization data, cropland has not yet topped out, but agricultural land which includes pastures peaked back in 2000.

Now a new study in the journal Nature Sustainability by researcher Christian Folberth and his colleagues at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria reinforces the findings from these earlier reports.

In their article, “The global cropland-sparing potential of high-yield farming,” the researchers calculate a scenario that closes current global yield gaps, bringing the crop yields of farmers in poorer countries up to those in richer countries. Achieving that goal “would allow reduction of the cropland area required to maintain present production volumes by nearly 50% of its current extent.” That would mean that about 576 million hectares (2.2 million square miles) could be restored to nature.

The researchers also sketch out an alternative high crop yield scenario that specifically aims to protect and expand the habitats of threatened species. In that case, cropland use would still shrink by almost 40 percent.

Folberth et al. 

Keep in mind that these scenarios are conservatively reckoning what would happen to global land use assuming that essentially all of the world’s farmers adopt modern high yield agriculture. They do not take into account technological improvements in farming over the coming decades.

In addition, possible shifts in consumption toward alternative protein sources such as plant-based “meats” or cultured meats are not considered. Since about 36 percent of cropland is used to produce animal feed and the vast majority of agricultural land is pasture, such changes in consumer tastes could result in hundreds of millions more hectares of land being spared for nature by the middle of this century.

At the end of my book The End of Doom, I wrote:

New technologies and wealth produced by human creativity will spark a vast environmental renewal in this century. Most global trends suggest that by the end of this century, the world will be populated with fewer and much wealthier people living mostly in cities fueled by cheap no-carbon energy sources. As the amount of land and sea needed to supply human needs decreases, both cities and wild nature will expand, with nature occupying or reoccupying the bulk of the land and sea freed up by human ingenuity. Nature will become chiefly an arena for human pleasure and instruction, not a source of raw materials. I don’t fear for future generations; instead, I rejoice for them.

Happily this new study bolsters that conclusion.

Story by RONALD BAILEY, a science correspondent at Reason.

How does burning fossil fuels create climate change?

Natural greenhouse effect versus man made greenhouse effect and global warming.

Learn the basics about climate change and how burning fossil fuels adds extra carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, and how this then leads to climate change.

Fossil fuels, like oil, coal and natural gas, are the remains of living things from millions of years ago. They are mainly composed of carbon with varying amounts of hydrogen. When the petrol burns, it joins with oxygen to build up hydrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.

Before the world became industrialised by burning fossil fuels the carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere was about 0.028% tiny compared with oxygen at 21% and nitrogen at 78%, but enough to keep us warm. Without this natural blanket of insulating gas the earth would be too cold to support life as we know it. But this carbon dioxide released when fossil fuels burn adds to the existing carbon dioxide levels which are now nearly 50% higher than pre-industrial times. Although we get a daily supply of heat from the sun, the earth normally loses this (at night and in the colder seasons) so the average temperature of the earth remains constant.

 

But this status quo is starting to change: as humanity adds carbon dioxide into our atmosphere the extra layer isolates the heat and it cannot escape as easily. The earth cannot lose its greenhouse gases quickly – and we keep adding to them! By putting our planet in a sweat box, we are causing wide ranging consequences for our climate and life on the planet.

Greenhouse pollutants

Some people think that living things contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect because they breathe out carbon dioxide – but this carbon has come from their food and that has come from plants which took the carbon from the atmosphere in what is called the carbon cycle. Even burning wood does not contribute to the enhanced greenhouse effect as long as the trees you cut down are replanted.

However the carbon in fossil fuels has remained trapped underground for 100’s of millions of years so it is extra carbon that is being added to the natural cycle. We are also throwing away other gases into the atmosphere which help trap infra-red radiation, and so also enhance the natural greenhouse effect. They are methane, especially from rice paddy fields and from cows and nitrous oxide NON from car exhausts.

This rise in temperature cause our climate to change because extra energy is trapped on earth – already causing glaciers and ice caps to melt. With more energy in the atmosphere weather becomes more extreme, so there are more floods, droughts, and storms. Not everywhere will get warmer, but the climate is changing all because we have been using fossil fuels at an ever increasing rate.

pollution by country

Shanxi province in China attempts to save coal industry by sacrificing environment and people.

Children must suffer with the pollution from the Changzhi, Shanxi province coal mines

 

Environmentalists warn that Shanxi’s fight to save its ailing coal industry by handing out tax cuts will increase pollution, damage the environment and hurt it’s people.

 

The centre of China’s coal industry is in steep decline. Shanxi province, in northern China, has long relied on its natural coal resources, but is now suffering from a drop in domestic demand amid China’s economic downturn. Coal prices have plunged to their lowest level in four years.
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How do you get rid of back acne really fast?

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