Vilsack was in Michigan to announce a “voluntary strategy” between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and America’s farmers and ranchers to address climate change by reducing agricultural carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 120 million metric tons over the next decade.
“This strategy accomplishes three major goals,” Vilsack said. “First, it recognizes and rewards what farmers, ranchers and foresters are already doing. It gives them access to the resources and assistance they need to do even more to adapt to climate change, increase carbon sequestration and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“Second, through these voluntary actions by the agriculture and forestry sectors, we expect to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions and enhance carbon sequestration by over 120 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent per year by the year 2025," the agriculture secretary said.
”Third, it further positions the United States and our producers as global leaders in climate smart agriculture and forestry. It demonstrates to the world these sectors can provide solutions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously boosting productivity to meet growing demands for food and fiber.”
Vilsacks’ targeted goal of 120 million metric tons of CO2 is equivalent to “about 2% of economy-wide net greenhouse emissions,” according to a fact sheet issued by the USDA.
The strategy includes “10 building blocks ranging from improving soil health and nutrient management, to enhancing stewardship of federal forests, to working with utilities to improve energy efficiency in rural America,” Vilsack noted.
Other goals include increasing the number of “no-till” acres from 67 million to over 100 million by 2025, and providing financial incentives for farmers and ranchers to invest in 500 new anaerobic digesters that convert methane from cow and pig manure into heat and electricity.
The USDA also plans to encourage the planting of 9,000 trees per year in urban areas to “reduce energy costs, storm water runoff, and urban heat island effects while increasing carbon sequestration, curb appeal and property values.”
Vilsack was joined at the nation’s oldest agricultural college by senior White House Advisor Brian Deese and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who said in a statement that “as our climate changes, (farmers, ranchers and foresters’) ability to produce our food, timber and fiber will become increasingly strained and uncertain. That’s why it’s important we begin to address the issues of climate change in a serious way.”
However, the widely-held belief that atmospheric CO2, which plants utilize during photosynthesis, is the main driver of global warming has been challenged by a number of scientific papers in recent years.
“The observational evidence strongly suggest that climate models display too much sensitivity to carbon dioxide concentrations and in almost all cases exaggerate the likely path of global warming,” independent UK climate scientist Nic Lewis and Danish science writer Marcel Crok noted in a 2014 report.
Both authors were expert reviewers of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) report warning that rising CO2 emissions were the main cause of potentially catastrophic global warming.
According to another UN report, worldwide crop production is at record levels despite a 14 percent increase in atmospheric CO2 between 1982 and 2010.
A June 2013 study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a peer-reviewed journal, also stated that the CO2 “fertilization effect is now a significant land surface process” that has created “a greening of the globe over recent decades.”
Related: Record CO2 Coincides With Record-Breaking Crop Yields, ‘Greening of Globe’
Related: WH Science Adviser: Make CO2 Emissions ‘Close to Zero’
Related: Report: CO2 Is Not a Pollutant, Provides ‘Beneficial Impacts’ to Planet