Climate Adaptation as Mitigation: Agricultural Productivity, Global Land Use and GHG Emissions

Successful adaptation of agriculture to ongoing climate changes would help to maintain productivity growth and thereby reduce pressure to bring new lands into agriculture. In this talk I will draw on three different papers to shed light on the potential for such adaptation to generate co-benefits in the form of avoided emissions from land use change. I will start with a theoretical model in which I analyze the global impacts of regional patterns of technological change. Having identified the key determinants of global land use and emissions impacts, I will move on to a relatively simple computational model of global agricultural trade and land use. After validating this model over the period: 1961-2006, we use it to analyze a scenario of global adaptation in which additional agricultural R&D is undertaken to offset the negative yield impacts of temperature and precipitation changes to 2050. Our estimates imply an annual mitigation co-benefit of 0.35 GtCO2e/yr. while spending $15 per tonne CO2e of avoided emissions. In contrast, adaptation investments focused solely on Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, while less costly in aggregate, result in much smaller mitigation potentials and higher per tonne costs. We conclude that, although investing in the least developed areas may be most desirable for the main objectives of adaptation, it has little net effect on mitigation because production gains are offset by greater rates of land clearing in the benefited regions, which are relatively low-yielding and land abundant.

About the presenter
Thomas Hertel

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Start date and time: 
Tuesday, February 19, 2013 - 3:30pm