China Irrigation System Responsible for Rising Emissions, Research Shows

New study highlights energy and climate costs of watering crops in drought-plagued northern China.

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The irrigation of Chinese farm fields with more water pumped from ever deeper underground is responsible for 33m tonnes of carbon dioxide per year – equivalent to the entire emissions of New Zealand – a new study revealed on Wednesday.

The research, carried out by a team of UK and Chinese scientists, highlights the rising but often overlooked energy and climate costs of irrigating crops in drought-plagued northern China, where farmers have to mine aquifers because surface rivers and lakes are increasingly polluted and over-exploited by factories and cities.

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