Science, earth scientists from the UCI and other institutions have tracked greenhouse gas emissions embodied in international trade in agricultural goods. They found a significant change from 2004, when China was a net exporter of agricultural products, to 2017, when the nation was the largest importer of Brazilian exports. Credit: Stephen Davis / UCI “width =” 768 “height =” 317 “/>

For a new article in the magazine science, scientists from the terrestrial system from UCI and other institutions monitored the emissions of greenhouse gases embodied in international trade in agricultural goods. They found a significant change from 2004, when China was a net exporter of agricultural products, to 2017, when the nation was the largest importer of Brazilian exports. Credit: Stephen Davis / UCI

Earth scientists from the University of California, Irvine and other institutions have drawn the clearest line linking agricultural consumers in richer countries in Asia, Europe and North America with rising greenhouse gas emissions in less developed countries. mostly in the Southern Hemisphere.

In a post published today in scienceresearchers report that trade in land use emissions – which comes from a combination of agriculture and land use change – has increased by 5.1 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (taking into account other greenhouse gas emissions such as nitrous oxide and methane ) per year in 2004 to 5.8 gigatons in 2017.

In the article, the researchers found that land use change – including the deforestation of forests to create space for farms and pastures – contributed to approximately three-quarters of the amount of greenhouse gases caused by global agricultural trade between 2004 and 2017.

“Approximately a quarter of all human greenhouse gas emissions come from land use,” said co-author Stephen Davis, a professor of terrestrial science at UCI. “Our work shows that large shares of these emissions in lower-income countries are related to consumption in more developed countries.”

The leading sources of emissions from land use change during the period under review are Brazil, where the practice of removing natural vegetation such as forests to make way for livestock pastures and farms has caused a major transformation in land use in the country, and Indonesia, where ancient carbon-storing peats have been burned or otherwise eliminated to enable the cultivation of palm oil-producing plants for export to rich countries.

According to researchers, about 22 percent of the world’s crops and pastures – 1 billion hectares – are used to grow products intended for overseas consumers. Goods such as rice, wheat, corn, soybeans, palm oil and other oilseeds occupy almost one third of the land used for traded goods and contribute to approximately half of the traded greenhouse gas emissions.

The study showed changes in certain regions between 2004 and 2017: In the early stages, China was a net exporter of agricultural goods, but by 2017 it had become an importer of both goods and emissions from land use, partly from Brazil. At the same time, Brazil’s exports to Europe and the United States, which were the country’s largest agricultural trading partners in 2004, declined.

In 2017, the last year studied by researchers, the largest source of emissions related to exports was Brazil, followed by Argentina, Indonesia, Thailand, Russia and Australia. The largest net importers of products linked to such emissions are China, the United States, Japan and Germany, along with the United Kingdom, Italy, South Korea and Saudi Arabia.

In addition to the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, human land use practices have caused significant ecosystem damage, degraded biodiversity, depleted water resources and introduced other types of pollution into the local environment.

From an economic point of view, the exporters producing the largest amounts of emissions from land use are also highly dependent on export agriculture as a contribution to gross domestic product.

Davis said: “We hope that this study will raise awareness of the role of international trade in stimulating emissions from land use. For their part, importers can adopt “clean” buying policies to reduce the most emitted imports and discourage regions from gaining an environmentally destructive trade advantage. We recognize that in several regions, including Europe, the United States and China, there has been an increase in efforts in recent years to improve the transparency of the supply chain – a really good sign. “

The project also includes researchers from the University of California, San Diego; University of California, Davis; Stanford University; Tsinghua Chinese University, Beijing Normal University, Beijing University, Chinese Academy of Sciences; and the German Ludwig-Maximilian University.

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More information:
Chaopeng Hong et al, Emissions from land use embodied in international trade, science (2022). DOI: 10.1126 / science.abj1572

Provided by the University of California, Irvine

Quote: Emissions related to international trade in agricultural goods are increasing (2022, 6 May), extracted on 6 May 2022 from

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