UK Climate Change Advisors Recommend a Huge Tree Planting Boom And Say That Airlines And Oil Companies Should Pay For It. Tell Us What You Think.
A recent article in New Scientist, discusses the proposals by the Committee for Climate Change (CCC). The proposals centre on their recommendations to the government that a huge tree planting scheme is needed in the UK if we are to reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the air. The proposals would mean taking significant areas of land out of agriculture at a time when our food self-sufficiency is low.
However, experts suggest that farming could become more efficient (intensive?) and that this would offset the loss of land devoted to food production. Whereas intensive farming is contentious and often blamed for a countryside devoid of wildlife, some farmers have suggested that simple improvements to agricultural practices could offset land loss. They argue that soil compaction limits agricultural production in far too many cases and that this could be remedied by better land management.
A counter-argument for increasing forestry is that as a CO2 capture process trees are limited. They take years before that store much carbon and release it again once they are cut down and decompose or are burnt for fuel.
Ruminants and CO2 Production
Agriculture itself could also reduce CO2 emissions if ruminant numbers were decreased. Beef and dairy cattle produce a huge amount of methane and other greenhouse gases due to their digestive system breaking down cellulose in the grass to produce energy. This is primarily achieved by gut bacteria in the four stomachs of bovines and other ruminants. Scientists have for a long time suggested that cattle could be bred that produced less CO2. Maybe that’s possible but it’s hard to see how the bacteria will change!
Significant amounts of greenhouse gases are also produced from farmyard and livestock wastes. The efficient use of biodigesters could reduce this considerably and produce energy as a by-product. The methane produced can be used as a high calorific fuel to be burnt to produce electricity. If this were done at night it could be fed into the electric capture systems that are fed by solar-powered PV cells by day. Anaerobic digesters are however expensive to purchase and the payback periods perhaps too long for most farmers to consider them economic. Perhaps far simpler gas capture systems need to be investigated to make this a viable technology.
One suggestion mooted by those concerned with CO2 and cattle is to impose a meat and dairy tax. Others argue it’s unnecessary as meat and dairy consumption is already falling in the UK.
Buy Local: Avoid Imported Food
It’s argued that if we buy local produce, or at least produce produced in our own country we will reduce farming carbon footprint. Certainly, in principle, this makes sense as transport should be reduced. However, we frequently see locally produced food enter a supermarket distribution stream to be whisked away to a packing and distribution hub miles away, only to be returned to a shop a few miles down the road. So the concept is more complex than might first appear.
Likewise, the food may appear local but still have travelled great distances. Eggs can be laid in one country, hatched in another, taken as day-old chicks to a third country and then moved to the final destination as live animals. Weeks later they can be slaughtered in the destination country and be claimed as local!
Buying local is further complicated by the fact we don’t produce enough food in the UK. and of course the carbon footprint doesn’t only involve food. Drinks must be subject to the same scrutiny. For example, wine is imported into the UK from South America, The USA, Australia, NZ and a huge number of other countries. So should we give up foreign wines and rely on home-produced wines? I like my South African pinotage … so maybe compromises need making?
There’s an article in New Scientist if you want to learn more about these proposals.
Controversial, Problematic, Taxable?
What has the above got to do with biodiversity in the Sid Valley you might ask. Simple, whilst tree planting is generally regarded as a good thing there are pros and cons to consider. There are also other ways in which we can reduce global warming and climate change. If we all ate more locally produced food and drink rather than imported produce the production of CO2 and other greenhouse gases would be reduced. If we cut down on meat and dairy the impact would also be a reduction in greenhouse gases. And if we all produced just a little more energy from solar panels and heat pumps, took a bus rather than a car, walked instead of using transport etc. things would improve.
But all the above impact our way of life, the way we make a living, the way farmers produce food and even what they produce. Or we can go with the CCC proposals and charge oil companies and airlines. But of course, that means the cost is passed onto the consumer!
What is sure is that climate change is real and that impacts the biodiversity of the Sid Valley