The carbon footprint of international agricultural trade is increasing

A large international research team has assessed carbon emissions from agriculture and trade in agricultural products, and Science Magazine The results are published in University of California, Irvine. The researchers wondered how, along with goods, their carbon footprint shifted from poorer – producing – countries to richer – consuming countries.

Perhaps it is easy to understand that although beef is not produced in a particular consumer country, for example, its environmental impact still exists, and it must be linked to consumption, because without it no one would produce it (and this also applies to everyone). other goods, but we tend to forget about them). In practice, meat consumption in China is still associated with significant carbon emissions, despite the fact that the meat is imported from South America. Researchers have now discovered how often these semi-global trade networks appear in production.

Between 2004 and 2017, the associated greenhouse gas emissions increased from 5.1 to 5.8 gigatons, the benefit of the increase being the conversion of larger forest areas to agricultural land due to excess consumption.

“Nearly a quarter of human carbon emissions are associated with land use,” explained Earth System researcher Stephen Davis. “Our research shows that a very large proportion of these emissions are in poor countries, due to consumption in richer countries.”

The main emitting countries are Brazil, Argentina (animal husbandry) and Indonesia (oil palm cultivation), where natural vegetation is being replaced by agricultural production, followed by Thailand, Russia and Australia.

Researchers have estimated that nearly a quarter of the world’s production regions produce goods that will be exported abroad (to other continents). Research has also shown a shift: while China itself was a food exporter in 2004, and became an importer by 2017, this country took the lead in Brazil’s foreign trade, and the share of the United States and Europe declined.

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Countries that are the largest emitters of agricultural exports are also highly dependent on this production in their national economies, implying a highly interdependent system of dependency. To improve the situation, it is essential that importers purchase goods only of environmentally acceptable production, thus encouraging exporting countries to use better and cleaner technologies.

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