Amazon cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's CO2 emissions

Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com
December 12, 2009



Cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions according to a new study led by scientists from Brazil's National Space Institute for Space Research (INPE).

The research found emissions from cattle ranching in the Amazon and the cerrado, a woody tropical grassland south of the Amazon rainforest, generated 813 million to 1.09 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions between 2003 and 2008. The Amazon accounted for 499 to 775 million tons in CO2 emissions, while the cerrado accounted for 229-231 million tons.

Emissions from cattle ranching in other parts of the country amounted to 84-87 million tons over the period.

The study, which is based on Brazil's cutting-edge system for monitoring land use change, found that 75 percent of the rainforest cleared during the period ended up as cattle pasture, while 56 percent of cerrado clearing results in pastureland.

The study estimates that each kilogram of Brazilian beef is associated with 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of CO2 emissions.

"We found that the cost of carbon emissions per unit of output exceeds the actual cost of the product at wholesale," said Roberto Smeraldi of Friends of the Earth - Brazilian Amazon, a co-author of the study.

The authors, led by Carlos Nobre of INPE, said the study shows that Brazil needs to focus on ways to reduce the environmental impact of cattle ranching in order to cut greenhouse gas emissions. They suggest that policy reforms, increased law enforcement, and improved land management practices could curtail deforestation and associated emissions. Payments for forest restoration and conservation could incentivize ranchers and forests to adopt more ecologically-responsible approaches. Further, certification of Amazon agricultural products to allow traceability through the supply chain back to farms and ranches where cattle are produced could foster better environmental performance among producers.

Brazil has offered to reduce emissions by nearly 40 percent from projected levels (14 to 19 percent below 2005 levels) by 2020. Most of the reductions would come from a 70 percent reduction in deforestation rates.



Brazil's proposed targets for reducing deforestation:






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CITATION:
Rhett A. Butler, mongabay.com (December 12, 2009).

Amazon cattle ranching accounts for half of Brazil's CO2 emissions.

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