Environment and Agriculture - Climate Change
Scientists and Governments throughout the world are in agreement about the facts of man made climate change and the need to take action. We want Scotland to be a world-class producer of high quality food: sustainably, profitably and efficiently in environmental and economic terms. The farming and food production sector is key to achieving this ambition, however, the unique nature of Scotland’s land must be taken into account. With only 8% of agricultural land being considered “prime land” which is capable of supporting wide range of crops and the majority of the remaining land is classified as “rough grazing” which is land with severe limitations on what it can support and produce, our focus needs to be on maximising the efficiency of food production.
Greenhouses Gases and Agriculture.
There are three main greenhouses gases produced in agriculture; methane (CH4), carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O). Different greenhouse gasses have different impacts on global warming this is known as the Global Warming Potentials (GWP). Over a 100 year period methane is considered to be 25 times worse than carbon dioxide while nitrous oxide is 298 times worse than carbon dioxide. This higher warming potential partly explains why methane and nitrous oxide make up over two-thirds of Scottish agriculture’s emissions. Due to this increased GWP methane accounts for almost half of the emissions from the sector. Methane emissions have fallen however from 5.6 MtCO2e in 1990 to 4.8 MtCO2e in 2015 (15.0% fall over this time period). This reduction is partly linked to a fall in livestock numbers. Nitrous oxide accounts for around one quarter of emissions from the sector. Nitrous oxide emissions have also fallen from 4.8 MtCO2e in 1990 to 3.7 MtCO2e in 2015. This reduction can be linked to the rise in fertilisers costs and the improvements that have been made in the science behind the measuring of these emissions.
What can Agriculture do ?
Emisisons reductions can be achieved by taking a holistic approach to protecting and enhancing our soil, optimising land use, tackling livestock disease, utilising best technology, maximising input efficiency and turning wastes into a resource. Actions likes these will not only achieve emissions reductions but can generate improvements in animal health and welfare, provide cleaner water and air, improve soil quality whilst increasing the volume of our national carbon sink, have a beneficial effect on biodiversity as well as assist in giving farmers more financial security.