En-ROADS User Guide

Agricultural Emissions and Food Choices🔗

Change the level of adoption of emissions best practices in agriculture and food habits. Methane (CH4) arises from sources like cows and rice paddies, while nitrous oxide (N2O) comes from fertilizers and manure. Improved farming methods can directly lower emissions, and changing food habits can reduce demand for livestock and crops, cutting the need for new farmland and helping prevent deforestation.



  • Reducing methane production in livestock (enteric fermentation), through methods like enhanced livestock health, diet optimization, genetic selection, and feed additives.
  • Manure management techniques such as covered methane-capturing lagoons, anaerobic digesters, and composting.
  • Improved rice cultivation techniques, including alternate wetting and drying methods and water management.
  • Sustainable agricultural practices such as rotational grazing, crop rotation, and soil health management.

Nitrous Oxide (N2O):

  • Adopting agricultural methods such as precision fertilization, controlled-release fertilizers, rotational grazing, crop rotation, soil health management, and nitrification inhibitors.
  • Improving water management practices, including using drip irrigation and timing irrigation to match nitrogen demand.

Big Messages🔗

  • Improving agricultural practices can substantially decrease the amount of methane and nitrous oxide produced per unit of agricultural products.
  • To maximize total emissions reduction, it is also important to consider reducing the amount of livestock and methane-intensive crops. Options include reducing food from animals and food waste.
  • Agricultural emissions cannot be reduced to zero; they are inherent to crop and livestock production to feed the world, even when the world’s agricultural systems follow best management practices.

Key Dynamics🔗

  • Contribution. Methane and N2O emissions comprise approximately 22% of current greenhouse gas emissions, and their reduction is key to addressing climate change.

  • Challenges to diffusion. It takes time for best practices to be developed, improved, and implemented, and for policy to support their adoption.

  • Scale and intensity. There are two ways to change emissions: decrease the overall scale of production, and decrease the emissions intensity of that production through adoption of improved management practices and technological advances.

  • Other sources of CH4 and N2O. Besides agriculture, methane and N2O are also produced by energy and waste. For an in-depth understanding of methane emissions, read the Methane Explainer.

Potential Co-Benefits of Reducing Agricultural Emissions🔗

  • Sustainable and plant-based agriculture produces more food with fewer resources, which increases food security.
  • Good manure management and less nitrogen-rich fertilizer runoff can reduce water pollution, decrease eutrophication, and increase the health of aquatic ecosystems.
  • Reducing methane emissions contributes to reduced ground-level ozone, an air quality concern, which affects human health and diminishes crop yields.

Equity Considerations🔗

  • Policies implemented without care may threaten food security for certain individuals and communities. For example, rice paddies, a significant source of methane, produce a main dietary staple for many countries.
  • Changes in agricultural practices that increase costs can threaten local economies and employment in communities that rely on farming as their main livelihood.
  • Many cultural values are attached to certain foods, meaning a change to more plant-based diets could require a large societal shift.

Slider Settings🔗

Moving the main slider changes the level of global adoption of best practices in two areas—livestock and crops—and affects the methane emissions intensity (kilograms of methane released per ton of agricultural production). One can change the overall scale of agricultural production via the “Food from animals” and “Food waste” sliders. Note that a 100% reduction of the “Methane and nitrous oxide from agriculture” slider is not a 100% total emissions reduction, since some emissions from agriculture are considered unavoidable.

highly reduced reduced status quo increased
Percent of potential reduction 100% to 70% 70% to 20% 20% to 0% 0% to -10%

Model Structure🔗

En-ROADS distinguishes between the scale of Total Agricultural Production (measured in gigatons per year) and the Methane Intensity of Agriculture (measured in kilograms of methane per ton produced).

In the Baseline Scenario, the methane emissions intensity of agricultural production continues to decrease, with a small amount of improvement each year. When the Agricultural Emissions slider is reduced and a higher potential reduction is selected, best practices for reducing emissions are adopted over a 30-year time period. This speeds the improvement towards even lower values for emissions intensities, with a lower bound defined by the least-emitting systems for crops and livestock.

Each greenhouse gas is modeled separately within En-ROADS, which enables the impact of each gas on global temperature to be handled without using global warming potential (GWP) and CO2 equivalency conversions. Greenhouse gases other than CO2 that are reflected in graphs with the units CO2e use GWP100 to enable comparison and reporting of all greenhouse gases together, but only for documentation purposes.


Please visit support.climateinteractive.org for additional inquiries and support.

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