Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

The potential of agricultural land management to contribute to lower global surface temperatures

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science Advances  29 Aug 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 8, eaaq0932
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aaq0932


Removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) combined with emission reduction is necessary to keep climate warming below the internationally agreed upon 2°C target. Soil organic carbon sequestration through agricultural management has been proposed as a means to lower atmospheric CO2 concentration, but the magnitude needed to meaningfully lower temperature is unknown. We show that sequestration of 0.68 Pg C year−1 for 85 years could lower global temperature by 0.1°C in 2100 when combined with a low emission trajectory [Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 2.6]. This value is potentially achievable using existing agricultural management approaches, without decreasing land area for food production. Existing agricultural mitigation approaches could lower global temperature by up to 0.26°C under RCP 2.6 or as much as 25% of remaining warming to 2°C. This declines to 0.14°C under RCP 8.5. Results were sensitive to assumptions regarding the duration of carbon sequestration rates, which is poorly constrained by data. Results provide a framework for the potential role of agricultural soil organic carbon sequestration in climate change mitigation.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

View Full Text