RANKING AND RESULTS BY 2050 #24
(IMPROVED RICE CULTIVATION)
11.34 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2
NO ADDITIONAL COSTS REQUIRED
$519.1 BILLION NET SAVINGS

RANKING AND RESULTS BY 2050 #53
(SYSTEM OF RICE INTENSIFICATION)
3.13 GIGATONS REDUCED CO2
NO ADDITIONAL COSTS REQUIRED
$677.8 BILLION NET SAVINGS

Vietnamese poet Phan Van Tri writes of rice grains: “They leave rice fields to travel far and wide: who doesn’t count on them for sustenance? . . . Time after time, their forebears saved the realm—for centuries their breed has fed our folk.” Rice has, in fact, been part of human life for thousands of years. Most likely domesticated in China first, today the grain is nearly universal—white, brown, and sticky; noodles, cakes, and vinegar; pilaf, paella, and porridge. Rice provides a full one-fifth of calories consumed worldwide, more than wheat or corn, and is the essential staple in the daily diet of 3 billion people, many of them poor and food insecure.

Presently, rice cultivation is responsible for at least 10 percent of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and 9 to 19 percent of global methane emissions. Flooded rice paddies are perfect environments for methane-producing microbes that feed on decomposing organic matter, a process known as methanogenesis. Higher ambient temperatures where rice is cultivated increase emissions, which suggests that methane releases from rice paddies will increase as the planet gets hotter. Methane does not persist in the atmosphere as long as carbon dioxide does, but over a century, its global warming potential is thirty-four times greater. Thus, the world faces a multifaceted challenge: to find and adopt ways to produce rice that are efficient, dependable, and sustainable, meeting the growing demand for this staple food without causing warming.

It “was discovered almost by accident.” That is how French Jesuit priest and agronomist Henri de Laulanié described the origins of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), a key approach to improve rice production, which he and smallholder farmers developed on Madagascar in the 1980s. Under atypical time constraints, a group of agricultural students transplanted rice seedlings much earlier than usual. It was an unanticipated first step toward a holistic system that lowers the inputs required for rice production—seeds, water, and fertilizer—while dramatically increasing crop yields.

IMPACT: Our analysis includes both SRI and improved rice production, which involves improved soil, nutrient management, water use, and tillage practices. SRI has been adopted largely by smallholder farmers and has much higher yield benefits compared to improved rice production. We calculate that SRI can expand from 8.4 million acres to 133 million acres by 2050, both sequestering carbon and avoiding methane emissions that together total 3.1 gigatons of carbon dioxide or its equivalent over thirty years. With increased yields, 477 million additional tons of rice could be produced, earning farmers an additional $678 billion in profit by 2050. If improved rice production grows from 70 million acres to 218 million acres over thirty years, another 11.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions can be reduced. Farmers could realize $519 billion in additional profits.

– Pages 48 – 49, Section (excerpt only) from book DRAWDOWN – THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE PLAN EVER PROPOSED TO REVERSE GLOBAL WARMING | EDITED BY PAUL HAWKEN

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