World’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree attracts new scholarships

Tower is pledging $45,000 over three years to support students in a world-first Bachelor of Climate Change degree at the University of Waikato.

The three-year degree offers a combination of scientific knowledge, socio-economic understanding, and cultural diversity of climate change issues. Students will not only learn from expert researchers at the University, but also get the chance to see real-world cases where climate change is impacting groups and individuals.

Tower’s contribution will help the University nurture a workforce with a comprehensive understanding of climate change to lead New Zealand’s transformation towards a zero-emissions society. Continue reading

Consultation document opens opportunity to shape NZ’s first Emissions Reduction Plan

The Government today invited New Zealanders to inform the country’s first Emissions Reduction Plan with the release of a consultation document containing a range of policy ideas to decrease the country’s emissions.

The Emissions Reduction Plan will set the direction for climate action through to 2035 prescribing action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions across a range of areas, including energy, transport, waste, agriculture, construction and financial services.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said:

 “Over the last four years we have laid the foundations for a prosperous, low-emissions economy with the passing of the Zero Carbon Act and the work of the Climate Commission. Today’s discussion document gives New Zealanders the chance to say what policies they want in order to reach our climate targets.

“Tackling climate change is a job for everyone. Be it school children or business leaders, I hear from a range of New Zealanders about the opportunities a low carbon future offers our country, so I encourage everyone to have their say,” Jacinda Ardern said.

 The Minister of Climate Change, James Shaw, said the discussion document released today is not a draft of the Emissions Reduction Plan. Rather it is an opportunity to hear feedback on what should be included in the plan. Continue reading

Most agricultural funding distorts prices and harms environment – UN report

Our readers will already know that agriculture is a polluting industry which raises a raft of challenges in the world-wide effort to tackle climate change.

The role played  by agricultural subsidies is addressed in a new UN report, which calls for repurposing government subsidies and incentives to achieve more of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and realise the UN Decade of Ecosystem Restoration.

The main finding of the report is that around 87% of the $540 billion in total annual government support given worldwide to agricultural producers includes measures that are price distorting and that can be harmful to nature and health.

The report, A multi-billion-dollar opportunity: Repurposing agricultural support to transform food systems, was published by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Global support to producers in the form of subsidies and other incentives, makes up 15 per cent of total agricultural production value.

By 2030, this is projected to more than triple, to $1.759 trillion. Continue reading

World’s first Bachelor of Climate Change launched at University of Waikato

The world’s first Bachelor of Climate Change degree has been launched by the University of Waikato, delivering graduates that will lead future climate change solutions, as New Zealand works to meet its target of net zero emissions by 2050.

The three-year degree is the first of its kind in the world, combining scientific knowledge with understanding of economic, social and political systems and Māori and Pacific responses to climate change.

University of Waikato Dean of Science, Professor Margaret Barbour, says as Aotearoa and the world works towards a target of net zero emissions by 2050, our future depends on how we respond to the challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and how we adapt to environmental change. Continue reading

“You can’t manage what you can’t measure” – FARM head’s call for science to underpin regulation

Overseer and farm greenhouse gas emissions are back in the news today.  The need for the regulation of farmers to be underpinned by good science comes into the picture, too.

Robin Grieve, chairman of FARM (Facts about ruminant methane) issued a press release calling on politicians to wait for science to catch up with their rules, regulations and diktats.  Regulators must not make the same mistake with farm greenhouse gas emissions as they did with Overseer, he said.

Councils and Government attempting to regulate farm activities without having the tools to measure what it is they are regulating, is a classic example of politicians running ahead of the science.

Our environment deserves better than having our politicians blundering their way along a regulatory path when they don’t really know what they are talking about or dealing with. “You can’t manage what you can’t measure” is a farm adage that our politicians would be well advised to learn from.

Overseer was never the tool for the job and the zest with which our politicians adopted it as a tool to regulate, despite knowing its deficiencies, should be concerning to any fair minded person who cares for the environment.

Farm greenhouse gases were subject to the same disregard by our politicians when some decades ago they adopted the CO2 equivalent system to quantify methane emissions, despite being told by the climate scientists at the time that it was not fit for purpose.

The CO2 equivalents system does not take in to account the cyclical nature of ruminant methane emissions which leads to it massively overstating the impact of methane emissions and renders it meaningless. To use this system at all is to deny science.

If improving water quality and stopping global warming are important to our politicians, Grieve concluded, they will call time on overzealous regulations that lack scientific credibility, and instead seek enduring solutions that are science based.

Source:  Scoop

Climate change will increase crop disease risk

Crops like wheat and soybeans could become more productive in a changing climate, with warming temperatures unlocking more land to grow and harvest them from.

However researchers have found those gains could also be thwarted by climate change, with temperature-sensitive plant pathogens moving into new environments too.

In a linked Nature News & Views piece, a plant disease expert says this is troubling news for the regions most at risk because it could lead to more epidemics like the Irish potato famine of the 1840s.

According to a study published in Nature Climate Change, climate change could lead to greater crop yields at high latitudes, but the gains may be offset by an increased risk of crop infection by pathogens

Food security is a continuous concern as the global population expands, arable land is reduced and the threat of climate change increases.

Climate change-induced losses to global crop production can occur either directly, for example as a result of drought, or indirectly, including via the impact of plant pathogens.

Plant pathogens represent a major threat to crop production, but little is known about how climate change will impact their distribution and abundance.

Daniel Bebber and colleagues model the production of four major commodity crops (maize, wheat, soybean and rice), as well as eight additional temperate and tropical crops, under future climate scenarios over the 21st century.

The authors predict that, overall, the yield of most of these crops will increase at high latitudes, such as in North America and parts of Eurasia.

They also suggest, however, that temperature-dependent infection risk from 80 fungal and oomycete (fungi-like) plant pathogens will increase at high latitudes. Major shifts in species composition within pathogen communities may additionally occur in some regions, such as the United States, Europe and China.

The authors conclude that potential increases in pathogen burden highlight a potential major risk to food security, reinforcing the need for careful crop management.

Link to research (DOI): 10.1038/s41558-021-01104-8

Source:  Scimex

Slowing the sugar rush to yield better grapes

One of the many challenges for grape growers posed by climate change is the accelerated rate at which grapes ripen in warmer climates, which can result in poor colour and aroma development.

In a new study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers from the University of Adelaide found it is possible to increase the flavour potential of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes by slowing down the ripening process with strategies including crop load manipulation and irrigation management.

Lead author Pietro Previtali, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, said:

“Advanced maturation due to warmer temperatures is a key issue for grape growers in most wine regions worldwide and especially in warm and dry areas such as Australia and California.

“It leads to faster sugar accumulation in grapes, which results in reaching the targeted sugar levels when the concentrations of colour and aroma compounds are below their maximum values.

“Growers therefore have to compromise between harvesting when sugar is ready but the desired flavours are missing, and prolonging grape maturation until an optimal composition of colour, mouthfeel and aroma compounds is achieved.

“The problem with prolonging maturation is grapes undergo shrivelling and yields are reduced with a negative consequence on profitability, and higher sugar levels that lead to high-alcohol wines.”

Where earlier research has found techniques such as thinning vines and intense irrigation late in the growing season can change wine composition, the new study examined how these techniques specifically affect the development of aroma compounds in the grapes themselves.

The researchers grew Cabernet Sauvignon wine grapes at a commercial vineyard in the San Joaquin Valley in California. The vines were either thinned, or irrigated late in the growing season, or both, with grapes collected throughout the ripening period. These were compared with grapes grown in the same block where neither technique was applied.

The researchers found that delaying ripening slowed down sugar accumulation, which led to a decrease in green aroma compounds, unwanted in winemaking, and increased fruity aromas, colour and mouthfeel compounds, associated with red wine quality.

They also observed that the composition of grape quality traits is not dependent on a single strategy.

“Rather, groups of compounds were responsive to different factors, including crop load, irrigation, ripening rate and in some cases an interaction of these,” Mr Previtali said.

Using the strategies available, the researchers sought to achieve the longest delay possible to study the relationship between sugar accumulation and flavour development. For example, a delay of three weeks was achieved through a 35 per cent reduction of crop load and late season irrigation of 50 per cent additional water.

“While representing a valuable experimental tool, this approach however may not be practical due to availability and high cost of irrigation, particularly as water becomes a scarcer resource,” said Project lead and co-author, Associate Professor Christopher Ford, the University of Adelaide.

“Tailoring the management of these strategies seems to be the way to achieve the targeted levels of aroma compounds, colour and mouthfeel in wines.”

The researchers say replication of these vineyard trials over future seasons is necessary to fully understand the implications of year-to-year variation, and develop a broader understanding of combining crop load and late season irrigation to delay sugar accumulation.

The study was conducted within the ARC Training Centre for Innovative Wine Production based at the University of Adelaide, with research partners from the Training Centre and E. & J. Gallo Winery in California.

Link to research (DOI): 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c01229

Source:  Scimex

Efficient biofilters can slow climate change

University of Canterbury research into making biofilters more efficient could be key to New Zealand meeting its climate change targets and improving cattle farming long-term.

University of Canterbury (UC) chemical and process engineer Professor Peter Gostomski is leading a team aiming to dramatically improve the efficiency of biofilters in removing methane from dairy shelters.

Professor Gostomski, a biofilters expert, recently began to focus on methane. With 37% of New Zealand’s carbon footprint from methane produced by cattle, in order to reduce methane emissions by 10% by year 2030 (as part of the Zero Carbon Bill and Paris Accord), biofilters could help meet this goal. Continue reading

Science and research were mentioned in the Budget speech – but the ag/hort sector had to hunt for something for them

We listened closely for a mention of “science” in the Budget speech.

If we had triumphantly downed a glass of our favourite tipple to celebrate, each time the word was dropped into Finance Minister Grant  Robertson’s carefully crafted text, we could have driven off afterwards and – if stopped by the police – would have comfortably passed the breathalyser test.

There was just one mention of “science” and it had nothing much to do with the work of ag/hort scientists.  Rather, it was related to the government’s response to COVID-19.

“It has been recognised around the world as not only a leading successful, science-driven public health response but also as a strong economic response….”

We could have done the same thing, to celebrate each mention of the word “research”, without denting our sobriety.

Again, there was just one use of that word.  Mr Robertson spoke of the government’s goal to diversify and lift the value of what we produce, and to grow the range of places to which we sell our goods and services. Continue reading

PM joins global leaders on climate warming while another step is taken to measure methane emissions

Two statements from the Beehive have drawn attention to the government’s aims to tackle climate change, reducing emissions and paving the way for a carbon-free New Zealand.

One of the statements reminded us that the US is back in the business of joining other countries in efforts to combat climate change.

This came from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said she had joined President Biden at a virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate hosted by the United States overnight.

The summit, held for Earth Day, brought world leaders together to galvanise efforts to reduce emissions this decade and keep the shared goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels within reach.

“New Zealand welcomes the United States’ international leadership on climate change and sees this summit as an important opportunity to work collectively to drive effective global action on climate change,” Jacinda Ardern said.

New Zealand was asked to specifically participate in the climate finance session of the Summit. Continue reading