In this short comment piece, Chloe Lewis (CGLN Youth Advisory member for Agriculture) unpicks recent comments made by Elon Musk regarding the effects of farming on the climate.
In a recent tweet, Elon Musk sparked controversy by suggesting that farming has "no meaningful impact on climate change."
Let’s delve into each phrase of his statement and shed light on the profound influence of agriculture, forestry, and land use activities (AFOLU) on our climate.
By examining the data, we can challenge the notion that farming poses no threat to our environment and reinforce the urgency of addressing emissions reductions (and removals) in the agriculture sector.
Farming has “no meaningful impact on climate change”.
For the billionaire, farming does not constitute a threat to the environment. Contrary to Musk's claim, AFOLU activities are significant drivers of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. Over one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions result from food production, and the source of those emissions are primarily from non-fossil-fuel-combustion activities. Such activities include land use and albedo change, savannah burning, soil degradation, cattle methane, pasture management and supply chain activities. While the impact may not be as immediately apparent as that of fossil fuel use, it is imperative to recognize that AFOLU emissions represent a substantial portion of the climate challenge we face.
“The risk of climate change is due to moving billions of tons of carbon from deep underground into the atmosphere.”
It is true that fossil fuels have long been identified as a primary cause of climate change. However, dismissing the role of AFOLU emissions as negligible is a fallacy. Even when examining the fraction of AFOLU emissions attributable to fossil fuel use itself, it becomes apparent that they account for only a modest 10%.
Most emissions arise from farming practices, deforestation, and other land-use changes. Ignoring this reality hinders our ability to comprehensively address the climate crisis.
“Over time, if we keep doing this, the chemical makeup of our atmosphere will change enough to induce meaningful climate change.”
Musk's assertion that meaningful climate change will only occur over time risks downplaying the pressing issues we face today. The immediate impacts of climate change demand urgent action and a collective commitment to change.
By acknowledging the present reality, galvanizing leadership, and embracing a multi-faceted approach, we can address the current challenges while laying the foundation for a sustainable future. In an era where misinformation spreads rapidly, it is essential to highlight the dangers it poses in the realm of climate change.
Tweets, like Musk's, that downplay the impact of farming on climate change can perpetuate false narratives and hinder meaningful action. By promoting accurate information and encouraging critical thinking, we can combat the dissemination of misleading claims and foster a more informed public discourse on climate change.