Crops and Carbon
Paying Farmers to Combat Climate Change
By Mike Robbins
Unknown – 2011 – 300 pages
Rich countries are paying poor countries to fight climate change on their behalf – and one way they are doing it is through carbon sinks. These are reservoirs of organic carbon tied up in plants and in the earth, rather than being in the atmosphere as greenhouse gases. This book looks critically at this mode of climate change mitigation. Can it work? Is it just? Will poorer countries benefit? The book considers the scientific, economic and ethical basis for this type of mitigation.
Previous attention has been focused mainly on reducing emissions from deforestation and land degradation (REDD), but this book is one of the first attempts to examine the potential for carbon sinks in agriculture in crop plants and the soil. In assessing this, the author examines exactly how north-south climate mitigation trading works, or does not, and what the pitfalls are. It highlights the complex relationship between agriculture, particularly different forms of farming systems, and the mitigation of climate change. The arguments are backed up by original research with farmers in Brazil to demonstrate the challenges and prospects which these proposals offer in terms of payments for environmental services from agriculture through carbon trading.
'The soil is our greatest single sink for atmospheric carbon. Farmers hold the pivotal key to managing soil resources, mitigating climate change and ensuring a secure future. Dr Robbins's timely, thought-provoking and readable book examines the farming options. Readers will find his conclusions illuminating. This should be mandatory reading for national and international policy-makers.' – Michael Stocking, Emeritus Professor of Natural Resource Development, University of East Anglia, UK
'This book is important - and timely too - as the world begins to realise the connection between climate change, crops, farmers and the soil. Robbins sets out the facts and cogently argues the case for 'cropping carbon'. This book is a must for all who care about the climate, the soil and those who depend directly on agriculture for their livelihoods.' – William Critchley, Head, Sustainable Land Management Unit, VU University Amsterdam, The Netherlands
'Agricultural climate change mitigation urgently needs attention. Robbins' analysis shows the challenges and opportunities of trying to bring together food production and climate change mitigation in the developing world.' – Lini Wollenberg, University of Vermont, USA, and CGIAR Challenge Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security
'An excellent first step in understanding why carbon management cannot ignore soils and the farming sector.' – Camilla Toulmin (Director, IIED, London) in Agriculture for Development (Spring 2013)
'The book is a welcome addition and one of the first comprehensive attempts to explore issues in the field of soil carbon sinks and climate change. It is rich in information about the linkages between climate change and agriculture including agroforestry. I recommend it as a useful reading for students, researchers, negotiators and policy makers dealing with farmers, agriculture and climate change.' – Seyoum Hameso, Economic Analysis & Policy, Vol. 43 No. 1
'Robbins’ book provides a valuable and comprehensive analysis of the theoretical and practical feasibility of paying farmers to combat climate change. As such it is essential reading to both policy-makers and development practitioners looking to exploit the opportunities that currently exist, or may exist in the future … It is also accessible reading, assuming neither prior knowledge of climate change, nor of agricultural systems, and begins with chapters reviewing each of these.' – Katharine Vincent, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change
Introduction 1. Climate Change: Implications for Agriculture 2. Agriculture: Changing the Climate? 3. Three Questions on Carbon Economics 4. Flexible Instruments, Fungible Carbon 5. Carbon, Money and Agriculture 6. From Theory to Practice: The Atlantic Forest Biome 7. The Septical Farmer 8. The Farmer's View 9. The Heretic's View 10. The Keys to Soil Carbon. Index
Mike Robbins has worked for the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Syria, for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome and with the European Commission in Brussels. He has a PhD from the University of East Anglia, UK, for studies on the relationship between climate change and agriculture. He currently works in New York.