Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Hybrid Path to Feeding 9 Billion on a Still- Green Planet

A Hybrid Path to Feeding 9 Billion on a Still- Green Planet


Improvements in crop genetics and wasteful, inefficient farming and food management provide the biggest gains in a plan to triple agricultural production on today’s global farm acreage, with the potential shifts displayed above. This vision of a path to feeding roughly 9 billion people with rising living standards, while also limiting deforestation and other damage to ecosystems, comes from Jason Clay, a longtime analyst of the intersection of food and the environment and a senior vice president of the World Wildlife Fund.

Here’s his draft paper on this strategy. The genetic work he describes includes all uses of genetic research to improve plant productivity or farming efficiency. Genetic modification, the realm of the GMO’s that are anathema to some environmentalists and much of Europe, is a subset of that arena. [At the Climate, Mind and Behavior Conference of the Garrison Institute on Thursday, Clay laid out the logic behind working with big corporations to foster food production that can fit on a finite planet. He made a point that he stressed at the recent annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of science: "In the next 40 years we're going to have to produce as much food as was produced in last 8,000."]

Clay’s work builds in part on the research of Jon Foley, the director of the Institute of the Environment at the University of Minnesota. I encourage you to review Foley’s argument for a resilient hybrid strategy. Here’s how he put it in an interview with Earth & Sky:
I think we need a new kind of agriculture – kind of a third agriculture, between the big agribusiness, commercial approach to agriculture, and the lessons from organic and local systems…. Can we take the best of both of these and invent a more sustainable, and scalable agriculture? [Read, and hear, his answer..]

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Interesting analysis.

Here is a very authoritative study on the subject:

Food Sustainability: Can We Feed 9 Billion People In 2050? by John Johnston on 01/12/2011 in Earth,Living,Social,THE 9BILLION,People,Planet,Purpose,Pleasure:
“Will we be able to feed the estimated 9 billion people living on Earth in 2050? The answer may be yes, reports NewScientist. Well that’s according to a new food sustainability paper out this week.

The findings are the result of a five year joint modeling project by two French national agencies: INRA (French National Institute for Agricultural Research) and CIRAD (Agricultural Research For Development).

The aim was to see how 3000 calories per day per person, for 9 billion people, could be achieved, including 500 calories per person from animal sources. The team ran a global model repeatedly, with and without environmental limits on farming. The upshot seems to be that we will need to counter excessive fluctuations in food prices so that imports in some regions (that will need imports) are not hindered, even if local food production rises.

Another main finding is that “the rich must stop consuming so much” food. It is pointed out that around 800 food calories per person per day is currently lost as food waste in the wealthier nations.

The study found that yield increases could help to feed 9 billion people, even as farmers take measures such as cutting down on the use of fossil fuels in industrialized farming practices. The key will be to come up with different solutions for different regions of the world.

Industrial high-yield farming currently means large areas of one crop. This is causing quite a few problems, including crop diseases and the overuse of pesticides. The researchers suggest that ways need to be found to raise yields at the same time as maintaining biodiversity. No easy task”

Scientist’s View: In Climate Action, No Shortcuts Around CO2 

There’s been much discussion recently of quick, cheap steps, with many benefits, that could slow warming driven by the atmospheric buildup of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. They all involve greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, along with black carbon — the sooty emanations from diesel engines and guttering cooking fires that both heat and kill.

The latest focal point was a United Nations Environment Program report on black carbon and ozone (which, besides being a powerful greenhouse gas is a beneficial shield against radiation high in the atmosphere but a noxious pollutant near the ground).

I’ve done some writing in this arena, most notably in my coverage of opportunities to stanch vast leaks of natural gas (most of which is methane, a potent greenhouse gas) from oil and gas facilities around the world.

Back in 2000, I wrote the first stories about a push by James Hansen of NASA to curb black carbon (soot) as a first step, while working to build the bigger effort needed to address the tougher CO2 challenge. That work was sufficiently intriguing to prompt the Bush White House, resisting carbon dioxide cuts, to invite Hansen to brief the cabinet a couple of times.

Despite their appeal, such steps are almost meaningless when considering the grand challenge of limiting warming even as human numbers and energy appetites crest in coming decades, an array of climate scientists warn. (Hansen always stressed there was ultimately no way around the CO2 challenge.)

Given the recent push on other substances, many of the scientists most deeply immersed in charted human-driven heating of the planet have become increasingly concerned that carbon dioxide’s primacy is under-appreciated.

This group includes Susan Solomon, the federal climate scientist who led the 2007 science review by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Kenneth Caldeira of the Carnegie Institution and Stanford University and Raymond T. Pierrehumbert of the University of Chicago and (on occasion)

Anumakonda Jagadeesh comments:

Everybody is concerned now about climate change in the wake of greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.

“Climate change concerns and the need to reduce carbon emissions are driving increasing growth in the renewable energy industries. Some 85 countries now have targets for their own renewable energy futures, and have enacted wide-ranging public policies to promote renewables. Low-carbon renewable energy replaces conventional fossil fuels in three main areas: power generation, hot water/ space heating, and transport fuels.

In terms of power generation, renewable energy currently provides 18 percent of total electricity generation worldwide and this percentage is growing each year. Renewable power generators are spread across many countries, and wind power alone already provides a significant share of electricity in some areas: for example, 14 percent in the U.S. state of Iowa, 40 percent in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, and 20 percent in Denmark. Some countries get most of their power from renewables, including Iceland (100 percent), Brazil (85 percent), Austria (62 percent), New Zealand (65 percent), and Sweden (54 percent).

Solar water heating makes an important and growing contribution in many countries, most notably in China, which now has 70 percent of the global total (180 GWth).
Worldwide, total installed solar water heating systems meet a portion of the water heating needs of over 70 million households. The use of biomass for heating continues to grow as well. In Sweden, national use of biomass energy has surpassed that of oil. Direct geothermal heating is also growing rapidly.

Renewable biofuels for transportation, such as ethanol fuel and biodiesel, have contributed to a significant decline in oil consumption in the United States since 2006. The 93 billion liters of biofuels produced worldwide in 2009 displaced the equivalent of an estimated 68 billion liters of gasoline, equal to about 5 percent of world gasoline production.

Scientists have advanced a plan to power 100% of the world's energy with wind, hydroelectric, and solar power by the year 2030, recommending renewable energy subsidies and a price on carbon reflecting its cost for flood and related expenses (Source: Wikipedia)”.

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