The Contribution of Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Use activities to Global Warming, 1990-2012

Francesco N Tubiello, Mirella Salvatore, Alessandro F Ferrara, Jo House, Sandro Federici, Simone Rossi, Riccardo Biancalani, Rocio D Condor Golec, Heather Jacobs, Alessandro Flammini, Paolo Prosperi, Paola Cardenas-Galindo, Josef Schmidhuber, Maria J Sanz Sanchez, Nalin Srivastava, Pete Smith

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We refine the information available through the IPCC AR5 with regard to recent trends in global GHG emissions from agriculture, forestry and other land uses (AFOLU), including global emission updates to 2012. Using all three available AFOLU datasets employed for analysis in the IPCC AR5, rather than just one as done in the IPCC AR5 WGIII Summary for Policy Makers, our analyses point to a down-revision of global AFOLU shares of total anthropogenic emissions, while providing important additional information on subsectoral trends. Our findings confirm that the share of AFOLU emissions to the anthropogenic total declined over time. They indicate a decadal average of 28.7 ± 1.5% in the 1990s and 23.6 ± 2.1% in the 2000s and an annual value of 21.2 ± 1.5% in 2010. The IPCC AR5 had indicated a 24% share in 2010. In contrast to previous decades, when emissions from land use (land use, land use change and forestry, including deforestation) were significantly larger than those from agriculture (crop and livestock production), in 2010 agriculture was the larger component, contributing 11.2 ± 0.4% of total GHG emissions, compared to 10.0 ± 1.2% of the land use sector. Deforestation was responsible for only 8% of total anthropogenic emissions in 2010, compared to 12% in the 1990s. Since 2010, the last year assessed by the IPCC AR5, new FAO estimates indicate that land use emissions have remained stable, at about 4.8 Gt CO2 eq yr(-1) in 2012. Emissions minus removals have also remained stable, at 3.2 Gt CO2 eq yr(-1) in 2012. By contrast, agriculture emissions have continued to grow, at roughly 1% annually, and remained larger than the land use sector, reaching 5.4 Gt CO2 eq yr(-1) in 2012. These results are useful to further inform the current climate policy debate on land use, suggesting that more efforts and resources should be directed to further explore options for mitigation in agriculture, much in line with the large efforts devoted to REDD+ in the past decade.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2655-2660
Number of pages6
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number7
Early online date2 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Date of Acceptance: 16/12/2014
This work was carried out with generous funding by the Governments of Germany (GCP/GLO/286/GER) and Norway (GCP/GLO/325/NOR) to the ‘Monitoring and Assessment of GHG Emissions and Mitigation Potential from Agriculture’ Project of the FAO Climate, Energy and Tenure Division. P. Smith is a Royal Society Wolfson Merit Award holder, and his input contributes to the University of Aberdeen Environment and Food Security Theme and to Scotland's ClimateXChange. J. House was funded by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship. The FAO Statistics Division maintains the FAOSTAT Emissions database with regular program funds allocated through Strategic Objective 6.

© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • agriculture
  • climate change
  • emissions
  • GHG
  • mitigation


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