Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture: Reconciling the Epistemological, Ethical, Political, and Practical Challenges


The purpose of this paper is to provide further clarity to the technical and policy difficulties associated with mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by identifying and distilling the core tensions which propagate and animate them. We argue that these complexities exist across four critical dimensions: the epistemological, the ethical, the political, and the practical. Adequately confronting the challenge of agricultural emissions will require improved transparency in emissions measurement, increased science communication, enhanced public participatory mechanisms, and the integration of ethical deliberation in scientific and policy discussions.

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The authors would like to thank David Blandford, Katharina Hassapoyannes, Clare Hinrichs, Carolyn Sachs, Arie Sanders, Paul B. Thompson, Wes Eaton, Leslie Pillen, and Heidrun Moschitz for their very useful comments and contributions to our group discussions. Any errors or omissions are the authors’ alone. This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Federal Appropriations under Project PEN04437 and Accession number 1012188.

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Correspondence to Robert M. Chiles.

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Chiles, R.M., Fabian, E.E., Tobin, D. et al. Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture: Reconciling the Epistemological, Ethical, Political, and Practical Challenges. J Agric Environ Ethics 31, 341–348 (2018).

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  • Agricultural ethics
  • Climate change
  • Emissions measurement
  • Climate justice
  • Sustainability
  • Epistemology
  • Food politics
  • Governance
  • Science and technology studies