Research ArticleCLIMATOLOGY

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

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

Abstract

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.

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