A practical tool and robust framework for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions from land-based activities

Co-Investigator Michelle Cain introduces the project in this short video

The way land is used can have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions. Recently, there has been particular interest in how large-scale changes in land use may be able to offset emissions and play an important role in the UK’s climate change mitigation efforts. The agriculture sector is a significant source of greenhouse gas emissions and the development of appropriate mitigation policies must be informed by accurate metrics that can reflect their impact on the climate.

The aim of this project was to develop a tool that can be used to link the greenhouse gas emissions associated with different land uses to their global warming impacts. Typical methods currently used to aggregate short-lived and long-lived greenhouse gases do not preserve the link to warming and are therefore unsuitable for evaluating warming impacts of combined emissions.

The project developed a tool to overcome this problem and provide a transparent means of estimating and communicating the climate impacts of different land-uses. Scaled up, it can also provide a novel, scientifically robust framework to assess the climate impacts of major landscape decisions. The project was based on previous work available here and here.

Key outcomes

The project developed a method to evaluate aggregated greenhouse gas emissions in a way that reflects the resultant warming from different management options for an intensive dairy farm in southwest Scotland. The project used data collected over the previous five years, comparing alternative management options. The method was compared to a simple climate model to demonstrate the impact of alternative approaches on accounting for greenhouse gas emissions.

Project contacts:
Prof Myles Robert Allen (Principal Investigator)
Prof Bob Rees (Co-Investigator)
Julian Hannan Bell (Co-Investigator)
Dr Michelle Cain (Researcher)
Project outputs:
1. Ensuring that offsets and other internationally transferred mitigation outcomes contribute effectively to limiting global warming, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 16, Issue 7, June 2021.
2. New evidence on mitigation solutions, Cambridge Open Engage, presentation delivered at the Climate Exp0 conference in May 2021.
3. Further improvement of warming-equivalent emissions calculation, npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, Vol. 4, Number 19, March 2021.
4. Demonstrating GWP*: a means of reporting warming-equivalent emissions that captures the contrasting impacts of short- and longlived climate pollutants, Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 15, Issue 4, January 2020.
5. Improved calculation of warming-equivalent emissions for short-lived climate pollutants, npj Climate and Atmospheric Science, Vol. 2, Issue 1, September 2019.
Link to the project page on the UKRI Gateway to Research: A practical tool and robust framework for evaluating greenhouse gas emissions from land-based activities