The challenges of climate change for Ireland's farmers


Ireland's agriculture emissions are the highest in Europe but a climate conference is meeting this week to discuss different methods to tackle the threat of climate change.

The challenges of climate change for Ireland's farmers

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Ireland's agriculture emissions are the highest in Europe but a climate conference is meeting this week to discuss different methods to tackle the threat of climate change.

Ireland's agriculture emissions are the highest in Europe and account for 33% of Ireland's overall emissions, the largest contributing sector. So said Department of Agriculture chief inspector Bill Callanan when addressing a meeting of the IPCC Dublin: “In the developed world, only New Zealand has a higher proportion of emissions from agriculture. However, we are investing in improving production efficiency through better fertiliser management, grassland management and improved breeding.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is meeting in Dublin this week (February 13-16). The “scoping meeting” has been called to discuss the contents of its upcoming “Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.” The event is being attended by 70 international scientists, numerous politicians, the EPA as well as civil society and business leaders.

Dr Laura Burke, director general of the EPA said Ireland's important agri-sector was at threat from the effects of climate change: “Right now, land management and food production systems are threatened by climate change. They are also key contributors to climate change, with the IPCC estimating that 24 per cent of global emissions come from this sector. We need to remove the threat to global food production and increase the resilience of these systems to current and future climate and weather extreme.”

The meeting comes in a week when the European Commission released a scathing report that singled Ireland out for failing to lower emissions which are above 1990 levels. Agricultural emissions are predicted to rise a further 2% by 2020. "High per capita emissions in Ireland reflect the importance of the agricultural sector in the economy, but also the lack of public transport and the underutilisation of Ireland's renewable potential," the report said. The report noted that Ireland's wetlands all have “unfavourable conservation status” while many “important habitats, such as peatlands, native woodlands and coastal habitats, are under continuing pressure.”

Climate change is in the news for other reasons too, as Antarctica recorded its lowest ever level of ice this week. Scientists are still monitoring the situation to get a 5 day average, but it looks like satellite data will confirm ice presently covers an area of 883,015 sq miles (2.28m sq km). The previous lowest record is from 1997 when ice retreated to 884,173 sq miles.

Antarctic ice has behaved strangely in recent years, expanding temporarily in defiance of rises in global average temperatures. Climate sceptics pointed to this anomaly as evidence of fraud, but widespread melting of other ice packs around the world corroborates temperature data. Arctic sea ice has been in retreat for years while glaciers around the world are also diminishing. A recent study from Colorado University found that a quarter of all meltwater entering the world's oceans each year comes from glaciers and other ice sheets, but most comes from Greenland, which has seen alarming rates of ice melt.

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