Scientists with the Carnegie Institutions’s Department of Global Ecology at Stanford University and the University of Montana analyzed temperature, reflectivity, and evapotranspiration from satellite data across 733,000 square miles—an area larger than the state of Alaska. They found converting from natural cerrado grassland vegetation to crop/pasture on average triggered warming of 2.79 °F (1.55 °C), but that subsequent conversion to sugarcane, cooled the surrounding air by an average of 1.67 °F (0.93°C).
“We found that shifting from natural vegetation to crops or pasture results in local warming because the plants give off less beneficial water. But the bamboo-like sugarcane is more reflective and gives off more water—much like the natural vegetation,” said Carnegie’s Scott Loarie, lead author of the research. “It’s a potential win-win for the climate—using sugarcane to power vehicles reduces carbon emissions, while growing it lowers the local air temperature.”
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