Global Warming Potential (GWP): understanding the implications for mitigating methane emissions in agriculture

Agricultural GHG emissions are predominately in the form of CH4, nitrous oxide (N2O), CO2, and black carbon. Methane and black carbon are both SLCPs. Black carbon emissions can be caused by the burning of biomass (such as crop residues) and from incomplete combustion of fossil fuels. Cold-chain logistics – part of the broader food system’s footprint – may also result in refrigerant leakage, some of which are SLCPs. Most importantly, agriculture is the major anthropogenic CH4 emission source, especially from the enteric fermentation of ruminant animals (e.g., beef cattle). For the purposes of this Info Note, focus exclusively on CH4 to illustrate the importance and relevance of GWP to agricultural GHG accounting and mitigation.