Kerry lamented that agriculture production alone creates 33% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions, arguing that reducing those emissions must be “front and center” in the quest to defeat global warming, during remarks Wednesday morning at the Department of Agriculture’s AIM for Climate Summit. The former secretary of state also touted so-called climate smart agriculture as a potential solution.
“A lot of people have no clue that agriculture contributes about 33% of all the emissions of the world,” he said during his keynote address. “We can’t get to net-zero, we don’t get this job done unless agriculture is front and center as part of the solution. So all of us understand here the depths of this mission.”
“Food systems themselves contribute a significant amount of emissions just in the way in which we do the things we’ve been doing,” he continued. “With a growing population on the planet – we just crossed the threshold of 8 billion fellow citizens around the world – emissions from the food system alone are projected to cause another half a degree of warming by mid-century.”
Kerry added that “lives depend” on world leaders and scientists developing the tools necessary to lower agriculture emissions.
Overall, the global food system – which includes land-use change, actual agricultural production, packaging and waste management – generates about 18 billion tons of carbon dioxide per year, the equivalent of 34% of total worldwide emissions, according to a March 2021 study published in the Nature Food journal.
In the U.S., though, agriculture alone generates about 10% of total greenhouse gas emissions, federal data showed.
“This sector needs innovation now more than ever,” Kerry continued Wednesday. “We’re facing record malnutrition at a time when agriculture, more than any other sector, is suffering from the impacts of the climate crisis. And I refuse to call it climate change anymore. It’s not change. It’s a crisis.”
According to the Agriculture Department, the AIM for Climate Summit Wednesday was planned to bring together public and private sector officials who are pursuing climate-focused innovation in agriculture and food systems.