How ladybugs and disease-killing microbes can help reduce agriculture’s carbon footprint
- Impact Area
Given that agriculture is a major contributor to climate change, measuring greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from various agricultural sources is important to track sustainability commitments and develop mitigation strategies. Several analyses have focused on the carbon footprints of nitrogen fertilizers, but relatively few assess synthetic pesticides—drivers of biodiversity loss that are often applied excessively and inefficiently.
In a recently published Comment in Nature Food, researchers from IFPRI, the University of Queensland, Australia, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), gauge the carbon footprint of pesticide use globally. Our analysis shows that pesticide manufacture, distribution, and application jointly account for annual emissions of 19.9 million metric tons carbon equivalent (MtCe)—equal to the yearly output of 18.4 coal-fired power stations. Although this carbon footprint may seem relatively small, pesticide use has synergistic impacts that extend through agrifood systems.