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  1. Abstract

    Meeting ambitious climate targets will require deploying the full suite of mitigation options, including those that indirectly reduce greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. Healthy diets have sustainability co-benefits by directly reducing livestock emissions as well as indirectly reducing land use emissions. Increased crop productivity could indirectly avoid emissions by reducing cropland area. However, there is disagreement on the sustainability of proposed healthy U.S. diets and a lack of clarity on how long-term sustainability benefits may change in response to shifts in the livestock sector. Here, we explore the GHG emissions impacts of seven scenarios that vary U.S. crop yields and healthier diets in the U.S. and overseas. We also examine how impacts vary across assumptions of future ruminant livestock productivity and ruminant stocking density in the U.S. We employ two complementary land use models—the US FABLE Calculator, an agricultural and forestry sector accounting model with high agricultural commodity representation, and GLOBIOM, a spatially explicit partial equilibrium optimization model for global land use systems. Results suggest that healthier U.S. diets that follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans reduce agricultural and land use greenhouse gas emissions by 25–57% (approx 120–310 MtCO2e/y) and pastureland area by 28–38%. The potential emissions and land sparing benefitsmore »of U.S. agricultural productivity growth are modest within the U.S. due to the increasing comparative advantage of U.S. crops. Our findings suggest that healthy U.S. diets can significantly contribute toward meeting U.S. long-term climate goals for the land use sectors.

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  2. Major efforts are underway to harness the carbon sequestration capacity of forests to combat global climate change. However, tree damage and death associated with insect and disease disturbance can reduce this carbon sequestration capacity. We quantified average annual changes in live tree carbon accumulation associated with insect and disease disturbances utilizing the most recent (2001 – 2019) remeasurement data from National Forest Inventory plots in the contiguous United States. Forest plots recently impacted by insect disturbance sequestered on average 69% less carbon in live trees than plots with no recent disturbance, and plots recently impacted by disease disturbance sequestered on average 28% less carbon in live trees than plots with no recent disturbance. Nationally, we estimate that carbon sequestration by live trees, defined as the estimated average annual rate of above- and belowground carbon accumulation in live trees (diameter at breast height ≥ 2.54 cm) on forest land, has been reduced by 9.33 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 7.11 to 11.58) in forests that have experienced recent insect disturbance and 3.49 teragrams carbon per year (95% confidence interval: 1.30 to 5.70) in forests that have experienced recent disease disturbance, for a total reduction of 12.83 teragrams carbon permore »year (95% confidence interval: 8.41 to 17.28). Strengthened international trade policies and phytosanitary standards as well as improved forest management have the potential to protect forests and their natural capacity to contribute to climate change mitigation.« less
  3. Large-scale global reforestation goals have been proposed to help mitigate climate change and provide other ecosystem services. To explore reforestation potential in the United States, we used GIS analyses, surveys of nursery managers and foresters, and literature synthesis to assess the opportunities and challenges associated with meeting proposed reforestation goals. We considered a scenario where 26 million hectares (64 million acres) of natural and agricultural lands are reforested by 2040 with 30 billion trees at an estimated cost of $33 ($24–$53) billion USD. Cost per hectare will vary by region, site conditions, and other factors. This scenario would require increasing the number of tree seedlings produced each year by 1.7 billion, a 2.3-fold increase over current nursery production levels. Additional investment (not included in the reforestation cost estimate) will be needed to expand capacity for seed collection, seedling production, workforce development, and improvements in pre- and post-planting practices. Achieving this scenario will require public support for investing in these activities and incentives for landowners.