NEW: Project Summary Report and Recommendations:
Fire in the Fields:
Moving Beyond the Damage of Open Agricultural Burning on Communities, Soil, and the Cryosphere
The CCAC Scoping Project is nearing completion, but CCAC, ICCI and other work to address open burning continues. Look for frequent updates on this page regarding activities addressing open burning worldwide, including plans for side events at COP-21 in Paris.
Certain air quality measures, primarily involving reductions in black carbon and methane, hold special promise to slow climate change in cryosphere (snow, ice and glacier) regions in ways that can also support local development and adaptation. Open field and forest burning contributes to regional and global climate change by producing CO2, methane, and – of special interest near cryosphere – black carbon (BC), which deposits on nearby snow and ice, speeding melting.
In addition to depositing on nearby ice and snow, causing greater and earlier melting, set agricultural fires often burn out of control, spreading and causing forest and field wild fires that release additional BC as well as greenhouse gases including methane, CO, and CO2; damage nearby sensitive ecosystems; and cause loss of human life and infrastructure. Smoke from open burning also negatively impacts human health, sometimes quite signficiantly, as occured during the Russian fires of summer 2010.
At the same time, agricultural burning negatively impacts soil quality by compacting and destroying the humus and organic matter that make agricultural lands productive. This decreases yields, at a time when agriculture already is under stress from climate change. Nevertheless, good alternatives exist to burning, especially those that integrate low-till or no-till methods.
This project, part of the Agriculture Initiative of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) aims to explore these alternatives in a manner consistent with local needs and rural development.
The overall CCAC Agriculture Initiative aims at maximizing best practices to minimize emissions of short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) from agriculture. This CCAC Open Burning project will map fires and develop concrete options for emissions reductions from open burning, targeting at least two staple crops/technologies in each of two cryosphere regions, the Andes and Himalayas. The overall project is managed by the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative (ICCI), with partners including ICIMOD (the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) in Kathmandu, Nepal; the Molina Center for Energy and Environment in La Jolla, California; and the UN Food and Agriculture Organizartion (FAO). Michigan Tech University has carried out related satellite fires mapping.
The following pages, divided into Himalayan and Andes sections, will provide background information as the project moves forward on patterns and practices of open field and forest burning in each region, including planned conferences in February open to interested agriculture, air quality, adaptation and other appropriate experts.
(For additional information on programs addressing open burning in near-Arctic regions such as Russia, see also ICCI’s website, http://iccinet.org/open-