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Climate Change - The Role of Agriculture

The Earth is warming up and man-made greenhouse gases (GHG) are the primary cause of this warming. The main man-made gas is Carbon dioxide (CO2) which accounts for 76% of global emissions.

Agricultural emissions are dominated by methane from ruminants and manures and by nitrous oxide (N2O) from fertiliser and animal deposition. These contribute 16% and 6% respectively towards man-made warming. 

Greenhouse gases (GHGs) are a collection of gases, Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide these act as a blanket around the earth. Increased amounts of GHGs have caused global temperatures to rise. This process causes climate change and climate action refers to efforts in combating climate change and its impacts.

Carbon footprint is used to describe how much carbon goes into the air because of something done by humans. Everything we do, everywhere we go and everything we eat has a carbon footprint and the lower the footprint, the less carbon emitted.

National or industry targets are GHG reduction targets which aim at reducing total emissions rather than just reducing the carbon footprint. Reducing the carbon footprint of activities is extremely important, but if the amount of an activity increases at the same time (i.e. number of cows), then it becomes harder to reduce total emissions.

Climate Action

Climate Actions by Farmers 

Many farmers have already taken action to reduce footprint by:

  • improving their efficiency
  • better grassland management 
  • utilisation of animal manures

Greater levels of mitigation are required and this will require the whole sector working in unison including:

  • farmers
  • industry
  • research
  • advisory/education
  • policymakers

Effective large scale mitigation will only occur if best practice can be communicated on the ground. This will involve a closer linkage between research/analysis for the development of relevant policies and effective translation on the ground via knowledge transfer.