Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock

By Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop and Lefkothea Pavlidis.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Shorter lived climate forcers have been recognised as a means of moderating dangerous global warming over the next 20 years, allowing time for necessary longer term carbon dioxide abatement measures to take effect. Annual emissions of three short lived agents: methane, black carbon and tropospheric ozone combined have a greater warming impact than carbon dioxide emissions each year. Reducing these three forcers offers a powerful means of slowing potentially dangerous climate change. This paper examines how changing just one human activity–livestock production–can substantially cut shorter lived climate forcers as well as legacy carbon dioxide now in our atmosphere. Livestock production is shown to be the single largest source of methane, black carbon and tropospheric ozone (by methane’s effect on the production process). Livestock production also offers a substantial low cost means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, since it is determined to be the largest driver of deforestation and the greatest cause of ‘open fires’ (burning of savannah lands and forests). Reducing livestock production is shown to draw down legacy carbon dioxide in natural, low cost processes of reforestation and building soil carbon. The climate impacts of this one industry offer a unique opportunity to stem global warming, giving the scientific and political communities time to work on longer term solutions.

Keywords: Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers, Black Carbon, Methane, Tropospheric Ozone, Deforestation, Reforestation, Fast-Acting Solution, Rapid Cooling

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp.129-144. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 7.030MB).

Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop

Senior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation, Pottsville, NSW, Australia

Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop (B Surv (Hons1) University of Queensland) is a climate activist and recently retired principal scientist with the Queensland government in the field of remote sensing. His work began with 15 years in federal agencies involved with surveying and mapping the Great Barrier Reef, followed by 22 years mapping and monitoring natural resources with state government, most recently working with the Queensland Remote Sensing Centre in association with the Queensland Climate Change Centre of Excellence. Here he worked with teams quantifying woodland extent and density, rates of deforestation, and monitoring groundcover change and weed invasion.

Lefkothea Pavlidis

Research Scientist, World Preservation Foundation, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Master of Geomatic Science, the University of Melbourne, with 10 years experience in natural resources, remote sensing, geographic information systems and mapping. Until recently Lefkothea worked as a Remote Sensing Scientist with the Queensland Department of Environment and Resources Management and is now a researcher for the World Preservation Foundation.


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