Planet808: Farming as a Climate Crisis Ally

Sep 3, 2019

After a month of sweltering temperatures, August closed with a record 95 degrees in Honolulu on Saturday. As local residents make more and more adjustments for the heat, the United Nations Climate Commission has concluded that simple changes in land use would help resolve global warming. In this edition of Planet808, climate expert Chip Fletcher says, Hawai‘i could lead on this. The new UN findings dovetail with initiatives already taking root in Hawai‘i.

Charles “Chip” Fletcher is Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, at the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology (SOEST), University of Hawai’i at Manoa. He is also Vice-Chair of the Honolulu Climate Change Commission, and has recently published the second edition of his textbook on the climate crisis, “Climate Change: What the Science Tells Us.”
Credit Chip Fletcher

  

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This month, some of the record highs surpassed previous highs by two to three degrees Fahrenheit. Hawai‘i is forecast to have some relief this week, though September, along with August, is traditionally one of our hottest months.

Climate crisis expert Chip Fletcher says the new United Nations Climate Commission report on the role of land in global warming shows some very basic land use adjustments hold real hope for reducing global warming.

The latest UN climate change report focuses on how land both stores and releases carbon. It says humans can change farming and other practices to pull a lot more carbon out of the atmosphere. It also says that if we continue to degrade the land, it could cascade toward releasing more carbon than it takes in.

Land itself is a crucial player in climate change.  According to the IPCC report, human land use, including forestry and agriculture, accounts for 23% of human greenhouse gas emissions.  On the other hand, natural land processes absorb the equivalent of about a third of emissions caused by human industries and use of fossil fuels. The IPCC’s Climate Change and Land report finds that an overall focus on sustainability will put the world in the best position to tackle climate change. 

According to Fletcher, changes to, for example, agricultural land use, would incorporate principles of “regenerative agriculture” that some farmers in Hawai‘i are already exploring. “In Hawai‘i, we have an amazing, blossoming community of organic farmers that are treating the land this way because, number one, it’s consistent with indigenous views of the land: That the land is living and you must treat it with respect.”

Fletcher says there would be environmental and community benefits to large scale regenerative farming, and it will have ripple effects. “If we can find principally economic incentives, and that would call on the state legislature, then I think it would increase our food sustainability.”

Fletcher says, adapting to climate change will take getting informed, talking with neighbors and colleagues, and working actively with government and industries to incentivize carbon neutral living.