Newswise — ITHACA, N.Y. – An important tactic for slowing climate change is for private companies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, but knowing exactly how much they’re emitting can be a challenge. Working with Walmart Inc., Cornell University researchers have developed an online greenhouse gas emissions accounting tool to help quantify these emissions in crop production.

Walmart is using the tool, FAST-GHG, as part of its Project Gigaton initiative, aimed at working with suppliers to avoid 1 gigaton of GHG emissions from the global supply chain by 2030. Recently, Walmart made the new tool available to its suppliers.

Large supply chains often receive limited information about the emissions created in the production of the products they sell. This is especially true in the food sector, where, until now, supply chains lacked simple, scientifically rigorous tools for greenhouse gas accounting.

To help solve this problem, three Cornell researchers – Peter Woodbury and Dominic Woolf, senior research associates in soil and crop sciences, and Christina Tonitto, research associate in the Department of Global Development – developed a scientifically rigorous calculator to quantify how soil health management practices can reduce greenhouse gas emissions in crop production. 

“Rapid and ambitious action is required if we are to maintain a habitable Earth,” Woolf said. “One of the ways that we can drive rapid change is by supporting climate action initiatives within the private sector. Reducing the climate footprint of large supply chains can potentially have a rapid and scalable impact, provided that it is based on sound science.”

The calculator focuses on emissions from the production of three major U.S. crops: corn, soybeans and wheat. It allows food companies to quantify how much supplying farmers have reduced greenhouse gas emissions through improved tilling and cover cropping. The calculator also accounts for how improved nitrogen fertilizer management reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

The tool allows companies to report net avoided greenhouse gas emissions due to any combination of these practices.

The researchers developed the online calculator with Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability, in partnership with Walmart, Environmental Defense Fund and The Nature Conservancy.

The research team developed FAST-GHG as a public good, meaning the tool will soon be made publicly available. The methodology behind it has been carefully and transparently documented to allow any individual to implement the method.

For additional information, see this Cornell Chronicle story.