Jon Foley presented an excellent talk at the NASA Land-Cover and Land-Use Change Meeting April 4-6, 2007 in College Park, MD [hosted by Garik Gutman and Chris Justice] entitled “Planet Against the Grain” where he reports that about 40% of Earth’s land has been converted to agriculture. He thus states that today about 40% of the global photosynthesis is now in human hands. He concludes that agriculture has already altered the biosphere as much as projections of future climate change, but now they are happening together.
The slides of his talk are now on-line and are worth viewing!
He reports, for example, that global change is much more than CO2 and global warming and asked the question should we “reframe global change from a human/land-based perspective?”.
Among his other conclusions are that
“agriculture & land use release more greenhouse gases than any other single human activity” and that this “extends far beyond CO2”.
He also states that the
“effects on physical climate are also large” and that these are “regional in scale, but still important” and “often get ‘washed out’ in outdated climate metrics of radiative forcing and global mean temperature”.
He has concluded his talk with “4 Things to Remember” which are:
1. “Agriculture is a major planetary force”
2. “Land use practices are changing much faster than land cover”.
3. [The] “Current focus on CO2/climate connection is very short sighted”
4. [We] “need [a] more comprehensive framework to exploring the Earth system”
His talk complements the perspective given on Climate Science where we have concluded that climate change is much more than “global warming” and global change is much more than climate change. The vulnerability viewpoint that has been emphasized on Climate Science; i.e. see
Pielke, R.A. Sr., 2004: Discussion Forum: A broader perspective on climate change is needed. IGBP Newsletter, 59, 16-19,
fits directly into the scientific framework that Jon Foley is advocating.