News

    Left in the Cold at Copenhagen, Farmers Look to Future

    As the dust settles in the Danish capital, a look at what changes could be in store for agriculture.

    Left in the Cold at Copenhagen, Farmers Look to Future
    Left in the Cold at Copenhagen, Farmers Look to Future

    In the run-up to the Copenhagen climate conference, many experts said agriculture should be a central issue in the discussions. After all, farmers are directly affected by climate change, they contribute up to a third of all man-made greenhouse gases, and they can also mitigate their impact by capturing excess carbon dioxide in the soil.

    Many farmers worldwide hoped that negotiators in Copenhagen would devise a way to shield them from the heat waves, droughts, floods, and other unpredictable weather predicted under climate change, and reward them for activities that trap greenhouse gases. But agriculture wasn't mentioned in the final accord signed December 18th by the United States, China, India, Brazil, and South Africa.

    "So it's basically back to the drawing board as far as agriculture is concerned," says Ajay Vashee, president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.

    Vashee says at least negotiators agreed on a framework for a possible future agreement that could include farmers.

    Farms vs. forests?

    Experts note that agriculture is a newcomer to climate negotiations. By comparison, it took several years of talks before reducing emissions from deforestation received a pledge of financial backing in Copenhagen.

    The details of that deal -- how countries can earn credit for preserving and restoring their forests -- are still sketchy, however. And the American Farm Bureau Federation, the nation's largest farmers' organization, warns that incentives to grow trees could backfire if they lead farmers to plant fewer crops.

    "People need to understand that there [are] going to be some trade-offs here," says Russell Williams, the Farm Bureau's director of regulatory relations. "If you're taking this much land out of production, what's that going to do to food prices? They really need to find a way, if they're going to move forward with this stuff, to have these forestry and agriculture offsets harmonized so you don't have a perverse incentive to forest land that's going to feed people."

    Farms + forests?
       
    David Waskow, climate change program director at the advocacy group Oxfam America, says there are circumstances in which the pro-forest and pro-farming camps could be in opposition. "But I think there are also ways in which they can be very mutually beneficial." He says in some cases, introducing trees into cropping systems can improve yields while storing carbon.

    "We've seen that in areas like the Sahel where farmers have increased tree cover, that's really been beneficial in terms of natural fertilizers, in terms of water retention," he says. "So there's actually quite a bit of synergy there."

    Philosophical rift

    Waskow says Oxfam is one of several organizations that prefer these kinds of ecologically-based solutions to the Western model of intensive agriculture using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.

    There is a deep philosophical rift within the agriculture community on this issue. Those who say organic agriculture is the only way to go drew fire in Copenhagen from the Farm Bureau's Russell Williams.

    "You just have to stand up and say, 'Hey, wait a second. It doesn't do anybody any good to denigrate Western agriculture,'" he says. "And no matter what you think, and no matter what you say, Western agriculture has become the most efficient land use for food. The United States feeds a whole heck of a lot of people."

    And the world will have to feed a whole heck of a lot more people in the coming decades, experts say, even as a changing climate makes growing food more challenging. As climate change negotiations move forward, expect to see more sparks fly over the best way to reduce greenhouse gases while continuing to feed a hungry planet.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.