Growing Toward a Low-Carbon Future
Mar 1, 2023
The authors assessed the greenhouse gas emissions of crop production in California's Westlands Water District and the trade-offs of policies aimed at decarbonization. They provide policy insights and recommendations to local and state decisionmakers. The authors developed a cross-sectoral model to evaluate emissions and analyzed how resource trade-offs from decarbonization could differ under climate change.
Estimating Greenhouse Gas Emissions in California's Westlands Water District
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The authors assessed the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of crop production in California's Westlands Water District and the trade-offs of policies aimed at decarbonization. The authors developed a bottom-up carbon and nitrogen cycle model to evaluate GHG emissions from 37 different crop types and five different land uses (e.g., solar energy generation, pasture), as well as key resource trade-offs introduced by options to decarbonize Westlands' crop production. This model was coupled with a water use model and an energy use model. They also analyzed how these resource trade-offs could differ under climate change.
They found that crop production and land use in Westlands will release about 1.2 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per acre per year from 2020 to 2050. Almonds and pistachios, as well as fallowed land, are the major contributors to these emissions because of the number of acres planted. In the short term, Westlands will offset more emissions than it releases through solar generation and will not start contributing net emissions until 2033. Further expanding solar generation in the district by converting a portion of Westlands-owned land to solar generation would shift the year in which Westlands becomes a net positive emitter to 2043.
Data and Methods
Agricultural Carbon and Nitrogen Cycles
Data from UC Davis Cost Studies
The research described in this report was sponsored by Westlands Water District and conducted in the Community Health and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Social and Economic Well-Being.
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