Are small-scale farms the future of global agriculture?

Small scale farming could be part of the solution to climate change, according to some of the world’s top scientists. Among them is Professor Jack Heinemann,  who contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Cycle (AR6) Report released this week, Mitigation of Climate Change.

Industrial agriculture uses carbon-intensive inputs to support large monocultural crops, while small farmers, who produce an astounding proportion of food, do not, says Professor Jack Heinemann, from the University of Canterbury’s School of Biological Sciences.

Small-scale food producers currently produce about 80% of the world’s food,  he notes.  More important, they have potential not only to increase the proportion of their contribution, but also the total that they produce.

Small-scale farmers are mostly women, he says. This is important because evidence shows that women in developing countries tend to do better at investing money from small businesses back into their families. Continue reading

Climate change: a threat to human wellbeing and health of the planet

Human-induced climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people around the world, despite efforts to reduce the risks.

People and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit, said scientists in the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, released this week.

“This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC.

“It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.”

The world faces unavoidable multiple climate hazards over the next two decades with global warming of 1.5°C (2.7°F). Even temporarily exceeding this warming level will result in additional severe impacts, some of which will be irreversible. Continue reading

IPCC begins process to approve report on impacts of climate change

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has opened the virtual meeting to approve the Working Group II report: Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability.

The report, which focuses on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change, includes a chapter specifically on Australia and New Zealand.

The session began on 14 February and the final report is expected on 28 February.

The report, a second instalment of the Sixth Assessment Report, integrates more strongly natural, social and economic sciences, highlighting the role of social justice and diverse forms of knowledge such as indigenous and local knowledge. It also reflects the increasing importance of urgent and immediate action to address climate risks.

It brings more knowledge at local and regional levels and linkages between biodiversity and climate change.

The report prepared by IPCC’s Working Group II will build on the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report released in August 2021 that showed climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. Continue reading

Experts comment on latest international report on climate change – NZ Minister says Govt will be equal to the science

Human-induced climate change is already affecting weather and climate extremes across the globe, according to the latest report from Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The evidence has strengthened – not only in the observed changes in heatwaves, heavy rains, and drought extremes, but also in their attribution to human influence, since the panel’s previous report, published in 2013.

The report has been written by thousands of scientists and reviewers from more than 100 countries, including New Zealand.

The findings provide the starkest warning yet of the risk facing our children, our planet, and future generations, unless urgent action is taken, this country’s Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said in a statement in response to the report.

The Minister said a collective effort involving every sector of the economy, every community, and almost every government agency and their Minister will be needed to avert a climate crisis.

“Right now, Ministers and agencies are discussing what action they will take to bring down emissions in their sector, which will form the basis of our forthcoming Emission Reduction Plan. We must use this chance to review progress and make sure the actions we are committing to will cut emissions in line with what the latest science requires. Anything less will not be enough.

“The findings of the IPCC reaffirm those of the Climate Change Commission and confirm why this Government is right to prioritise climate action.”  Continue reading

NZ scientist to head project to detect methane in global satellite mission

Dr Sara Mikaloff-Fletcher, an atmosphere and ocean scientist at Niwa, has been appointed the scientific leader of a New Zealand-led $6 million project to find and reduce farming emissions

New Zealand will become the testing ground for an international space mission to detect, by satellite, methane emissions from animals’ stomachs anywhere in the world.

The 350kg satellite will have its mission control based in New Zealand after the Government contributed $26m to the mission. The location of the ground control centre in New Zealand is still to be announced.

It will be launched in 2022 and will be capable of focusing on swathes of farmland anywhere in the world, revealing how much methane is being released at higher resolutions than before. Continue reading

UN report presents depressing data on climate change effects on ocean and ice – SMC posts expert reaction

A major new report from a United Nations panel of scientists says climate change is devastating our seas and frozen regions as never before.

Waters are rising, the ice is melting, and species are moving habitat due to human activities, the report says.

An dthe loss of perm
The report is the third ianently frozen lands threatens to unleash even more carbon, hastening the decline.
n a series of special reports that have been produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) over the past 12 months.

Previous reports looked at how the world would cope if temperatures rose by 1.5C by the end of this century and reported on how the lands of the Earth would be affected by climate change. Continue reading

Call for culling of the NZ dairy herd is among responses to IPCC report on climate change

NZ Herald science writer Jamie Morton has followed up on the just-released UN report on climate change and reported on its big implications for agricultural New Zealand.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – he writes – has released its wide-ranging special report, Climate Change and Land, after two years’ work.

Its key takeaways include:

• The temperature over land has risen considerably more than the global average, rising 1.53C since pre-industrial times compared with 0.87C globally.

• Farming, forestry and other land-use activities combined accounted for around a quarter of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions.

• Since 1961, the consumption of meat has more than doubled, while emissions of methane from cattle and manure had increased by 1.7 times in the same period.

The Summary for Policymakers of the Special Report on Climate Change and Land (SRCCL) is available here.

A Fact Sheet and Headline Statements are available at

NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions profile is here. Continue reading

International global warming report lays out the critical challenge

A special report on global warming, released today, has laid out a strong case for countries to make every effort to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, says the Minister for Climate Change James Shaw.

The special report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that a host of climate-related risks – from sea level rise, to food and water supplies, security and health issues – will be worse if global temperatures rise to 2 degrees rather than 1.5 degrees.

The report also warns that the next two decades are crucial in limiting global warming to 1.5deg as opposed to 2deg.

The IPCC says it is likely that global warming will reach 1.5deg between 2030 and 2052, if warming continues at the current rate.

“The good news is that the IPCC’s report is broadly in line with this Government’s direction on climate change and it’s highly relevant to the work we are doing with the Zero Carbon Bill,” Mr Shaw said.

“The report shows the clear global benefits of maintaining efforts to limit global warming to 1.5oC.

“It says the goal is challenging but achievable but it also says that the pace of transition to low-emissions needs to step-up and be far reaching.”

Bronwyn Hayward, Associate Professor in Political Science at Canterbury University, was a Lead Author for the report.

Andy Reisinger, Deputy Director of the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre is a member of the IPCC Bureau.

New Zealand Government departments have reviewed drafts of the report.

A New Zealand delegation was present at IPCC talks on the report in South Korea last week.

Stuff report on gathering of climate change experts focuses on agricultural challenges for NZ

Journalist Dominic Harris reports for Stuff (HERE) on the conference in Christchurch of global experts who have been addressing climate change issues, focusing on what they had to say about what the future holds and how changing agriculture practices are vital.

The 120 scientists from 59 countries who gathered in Christchurch are members of the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a global coalition of experts who volunteered their time to draft a report that will influence governments as they tackle the policy challenges in the decades ahead.
The report will advise policy-makers on sustainable management of land and water, how to ensure millions of vulnerable people around the world have enough food, cutting greenhouse gases (GHG) and how to address the growing problem of desertification.

Mr Harris writes:

Some of the key themes are intrinsic to New Zealand’s national identity and will strike a chord with people up and down the country – land use, how to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture and dealing with the impacts of climate change at the same time as producing more and high-quality food for a growing global population.

Some of the facts around New Zealand’s agriculture are startling.

Dairy cattle increased 68.9 per cent between 1994 and 2015, up from 3.84 million to 6.49m, according to Stats NZ.

In 2015 there were 1,254,000 dairy cattle in Canterbury alone, a staggering rise of 490 per cent from the number in 1994.

New Zealand’s farmers are among the most productive and efficient in the world, improving the emissions efficiency of production by about one per cent a year over the last two decades.

But agriculture still accounts for an astonishingly high proportion of the country’s GHG emissions – almost 50 per cent, compared with around 10 per cent on average globally.

The Stuff report quotes Dr Andy Reisinger, deputy director (international) of the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and vice-chair of the IPCC group working on reducing GHG emissions.

Continue reading

Royal Society video: mitigating climate change with Professor Jim Skea

Committee on Climate Change portraits - 24/9/08.

 Professor Jim Skea

The Royal Society Te Apārangi has posted this video for those who didn’t make it to the public lecture by Professor Jim Skea in Wellington on March 21, “Climate change: stormy weather ahead”.  

Professor Skea, Chair of Sustainable Energy at Imperial College London and Co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group III, presented the lecture at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand’s Soundings Theatre.

Professor Skea was on his way to Christchurch for a meeting for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Special Report on Climate Change and Land, one of three Special Reports the panel will publish in the next two years.

In this talk, he discusses what we know about climate change (from the IPCC’s fifth Assessment Report), how the Paris Agreement is lifting ambition, the new questions being posed for the IPCC sixth Assessment cycle, carbon targets and budgets in the UK, plus his  own thoughts on the Zero Carbon bill.

The facilitator was Ralph Sims, Professor of Sustainable Energy at Massey University and chair of the Royal Society Te Apārangi panel that produced Climate Change Mitigation Options for New Zealand in 2016.

Promoting the lecture, the Royal Society noted that New Zealand had just recorded the hottest January on record and experienced severe weather events causing flood and coastal damage throughout the country.

The society also noted that the United States plan to cease participation in the 2015 Paris Agreement raised the question of whether the rest of the world would be able to manage the responsibility of mitigating climate change without the world’s largest economy.

Source:  Royal Society Te Apārangi