‘Increasing productivity in Africa – a carbon-rich region with low agricultural yields – could have negative effects on the environment, especially if agricultural markets are highly integrated,’ said Professor Hertel. ‘The study highlights the importance of understanding the interplay between globalization and the environmental impacts of agricultural technology. They are deeply intertwined.’
Advances in agriculture usually lead to both land conservation and a reduction in carbon dioxide levels as better yields mean fewer crops need to be cleared from other areas.
However, Africa’s new agricultural revolution is dividing scientists. Some hold that increasing profitability on farms amplifies negative environmental impacts through increasing deforestation. Others, meanwhile, argue that more intensive agricultural production allows more land to be spared for nature.
Using a novel economic framework the research compared historic green revolutions in Latin America and Asia with more recent innovations in Africa. ‘If the future global economy remains as fragmented as it has been historically – a world of very distinct agricultural markets,’ said the professor, ‘then a green revolution in Africa will lower global carbon emissions. But if the markets become more integrated, faster agricultural innovation in Africa could raise global carbon emissions by 267 million tons in the coming decades.’