Global agriculture and carbon trade-offs
Johnson et al
Feeding a growing and increasingly affluent world will require expanded agricultural production, which may require converting grasslands and forests into cropland. Such conversions can reduce carbon storage, habitat provision, and other ecosystem services, presenting difficult societal trade-offs. In this paper, we use spatially explicit data on agricultural productivity and carbon storage in a global analysis to find where agricultural extensification should occur to meet growing demand while minimizing carbon emissions from land use change. Selective extensification saves ∼6 billion metric tons of carbon compared with a business-as-usual approach, with a value of approximately $1 trillion (2012 US dollars) using recent estimates of the social cost of carbon. This type of spatially explicit geospatial analysis can be expanded to include other ecosystem services and other industries to analyze how to minimize conflicts between economic development and environmental sustainability.