Carola Godman Irvine. Farmer, Campaigner & Columnist. 10-11-21

  • Written by Carola Godman Irvine
  • Posted on Nov 10, 2021
  • Articles

British farmers are not denying that action is required on climate change, but surely our high standards of farming must be recognised as part of the solution. Unfortunately, misleading political rhetoric is increasingly turning up the heat on this country’s admirable farming sector.

We are tired of being tarred by the same brush as less ethical farming practises elsewhere. UK farmers are world leaders regarding soil management, and the welfare of our livestock.

In Glasgow the EU and USA launched a landmark pledge to slash emissions of methane – by 30 percent below 2020 levels, more than 100 countries signing up, including Nigeria and Pakistan.

EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said at the launch, “Cutting back on methane emissions, ‘from livestock’, is one of the most effective things we can do to reduce near-term global warming - it is the lowest hanging fruit”.

I wonder if those homing in on the ‘lowest hanging fruit’, have considered that during the past sixty years, the world population has risen 76%. Cars on the road are up 225%, air passengers up 575%, but worldwide cattle numbers are down 5%.

Since 1950, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation, half of the world’s forests have disappeared. Latin America has lost 37 percent, Central America 66 percent, Southeast Asia 38 percent and Central Africa 52 percent. The Amazon alone has lost 17 percent, mostly due to forest conversion for cattle intensive ranching.

The natural process of global warming has been happening for thousands of years. Carbon dioxide and water are essential ingredients, which when combined with sunshine, enable plants and trees to produce complex carbon compounds, and oxygen which keeps us alive. CO2 is the most important airborne ‘fertiliser’, without which there would be no green plants and no oxygen.

Should British farmers be compared with the industrialised deforestation of millions of hectares of rainforests. 7 million hectares of forest are lost annually while ‘agricultural’ land expands by 6 million. The biggest threat to forests today is the industrial production of commodities like Conflict Palm Oil, fabric, paper and logging. Only 4 billion hectares of forest now remain worldwide.

CO2 emissions in the UK are estimated to have fallen by 10.7 percent since 2019, with total greenhouse gas emissions dropping by 8.9 percent. It is worth noting that our total greenhouse gas emissions are 48.8 percent lower than they were in 1990, a fact which seems to have escaped the attention of our politicians, and Greta Thunberg who travelled to Glasgow to tell the world’s media that the gathering is a ‘waste of time’. So why did she go?

I watch with interest when fellow farmers grow a new variety of wheat, build a bio- digester or instal solar panels, wind turbines or heat pumps. However, until I know they work effectively, or yield more grain, I won’t go there. Likewise, I think before our politicians take the country down the slippery slope towards Net Zero, and economic meltdown by burning our bridges regarding fossil fuels, and not committing to nuclear energy, we should watch and learn from other’s mistakes.

The top carbon emitting countries are China, The USA, India, The Russian Federation and Japan. According to data published by the World Resources Institute, China, the EU and the USA contributed to more than 50 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2016, China alone accounts for 26 percent.

These eye watering statistics make the 1.1% global emissions produced by the UK pale into insignificance. However, despite these statistics we are being led towards the economy being crippled by heavy energy costs to businesses and households, compulsory insulation, and targets, while farmers face bonkers new rules and regulations.

If this is allowed to run, soon there will be no going back.

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