Phasing out the Practice of Crop Burning

People all throughout the world are preparing to breathe through what is known as “smog season,” when farmers burn their fields to make space for new crops.

According to the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), this technique produces highly harmful black carbon and damages the land.

Black carbon is extremely hazardous to human health and the environment; it has caused millions of premature deaths each year and has a 460 to 1,500-fold larger impact on global warming than carbon dioxide, the primary cause of climate change.

Agricultural burning is often regarded as the most successful and cost-effective method of clearing land, fertilizing the soil, and preparing it for new plantations by many farmers. These fires, and the wildfires that result from them, are the world’s largest source of black carbon, posing a threat to human and environmental health.

PM2.5, a small pollutant that penetrates deep into the lungs and circulation, contains black carbon. PM2.5 raises the risk of death from heart and lung disease, stroke, and some malignancies, killing millions of people prematurely each year.

PM2.5 can potentially cause psychological and behavioral issues in youngsters. It has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia in elderly adults. Because air pollution wreaks havoc on respiratory health, it may also make people more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Black carbon is likewise a short-lived climate pollutant, meaning that its impact on global warming is 460–1,500 times larger than carbon dioxide, despite the fact that it only lives for a few days or weeks.

Agricultural burning, on the other hand, instead of boosting development, reduces water retention and soil fertility by 25 to 30%, necessitating farmers to invest in costly fertilizers and irrigation systems to compensate. Black carbon has the potential to alter rainfall patterns, particularly the Asian monsoon, altering agricultural weather events.

The Climate and Clean Air Coalition promote alternatives to field burning in countries and through regional networks. For example, in India, it provides farmers with information and assistance to find alternatives to crop fires, employing satellites to monitor and track the impact of fires, supporting legislative interventions, subsidizing farmers, and eventually turning agricultural waste into a resource.

The coalition and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are working together in Punjab to find ways to turn crop residue that would otherwise be burned into a renewable fuel source. Creating a circular economy for such trash allows farmers to earn more money while also lowering pollution levels.

Efforts are being made in countries all around the world to reduce air pollution. On September 7, the International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, which is intended to stimulate global action against harmful particles, that drive will be front and center.

An initiative called the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture is mainstreaming farming within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, with an eye on global warming and food security. This year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) will host the following cycle.

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