Texas AgriLife Research economist Dr. Bruce McCarl was part of a team of researchers who participated in a series of climate change reports released recently by the National Research Council – the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Engineering.
The three reports examine how the nation can combat the effects of global warming. One report focuses on the science that supports human-induced climate change, and the others review options for limiting the magnitude of and adapting to the impacts of global warming.
McCarl was part of a panel of researchers collaborating on a study titled, "Limiting the Magnitude of Future Climate Change." The panel's report focuses on actions available to the U.S. to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.
"The report basically recommends that the U.S. take action to place itself in a leading global role in reducing these emissions, while at the same time influencing the rest of the world to control their emissions," McCarl said.
The basic recommendations include:
- Incentives be designed to cause industry to adopt prompt and sustained strategies to reduce GHG emissions by pricing emissions.
- Research, development, and deployment of new technologies to be aggressively promoted toward enhancing emission reduction and reducing the cost of implementation.
- An inclusive national framework for instituting response strategies and policies be developed that both generates and is underpinned by international cooperation.
- A flexible policy system be developed that is adaptable as new scientific information emerges, providing new insights and understanding of the climate problem.
- The U.S. adopt an aggressive total emissions budget.
"Pursuit of these recommendations will contribute to a reduction in climate change risk and allow private industry to react in an efficient manner in response to this global challenge," McCarl said. "All sectors will be involved through actions to curtail energy based emissions, reduce emissions and increase storage of potential atmospheric greenhouse gasses.
Agriculture and forestry will not be unaffected facing options to increase storage by adjusting management and land use, producing fossil fuel replacements and reducing other forms of emissions."
With regards to agriculture, the report suggests implementing a variety of practices to enhance carbon sequestration in forests and croplands. This includes "planting new forests (afforestation), protecting existing forests against loss and degradation, reducing cropland tillage, and enhancing conversion (of) grasslands."
The research panel notes the importance to recognize competition for land use, such as bioenergy and afforestation, which "further reduces the competitive economic potential for soil carbon sequestration to less than one-third of the technical potential."
"Climate change promises to be one of the most significant challenges of the 21st century," McCarl said. "Since the industrial revolution, the atmosphere has changed in CO2 concentration from 275 parts per million to about 390 with the rise being almost 2 parts per million annually during the last 25 years. "A preponderance of the world’s leading scientists believes that this is changing the global climate with evidence showing changes in rainfall, precipitation, drought, ice melt, snow pack and other items."
McCarl said the climate will continue to change particularly due to the CO2 emissions from energy coupled with world economic growth.
"The ultimate effects of this are unknown but many think it poses a large risk to society and a burden on future generations. Thus a large societal question arises as to whether actions should be undertaken to limit emissions and future climate change risk."
McCarl, distinguished professor of agricultural economics and AgriLife Research Fellow, shared the Nobel Peace Prize for climate change in 2007 with a team of scientists that were part of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
McCarl has spent the past 20 years studying the effects of global warming on farming and ranching in Texas and abroad.
For more on the reports, visit http://www.americasclimatechoices.org/index.shtml. For profiles on each of the panel members, visit http://www.americasclimatechoices.org/mitigationslate.shtml.