Better for climate does not mean sacrificing quality: new findings

Farmed animals bred for less impact on the climate are as healthy and produce meat quality just as good, if not better, newly published results of long-running research suggest.

New Zealand has been a world leader in the recent development of breeding sheep that belch out less methane – a relatively short-lived but potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

The progress stems from more than a decade of research by AgResearch scientists – supported by the industry through the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium and Beef + Lamb New Zealand Genetics, and the Government via the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre – proving that some sheep naturally emit less methane as a product of their digestion, and that this trait can be bred for and passed down through generations.

After three generations of breeding, the lowest emitting sheep in a research flock produced close to 13 per cent less methane than the highest emitters, per kilogram of feed eaten. But questions have remained about whether this low methane trait means sacrifices for the health or quality of the animals, including quality of the meat that is derived for export around the world. Continue reading

Robyn Dynes on the HWEN partnership’s recommendations

The He Waka Eke Noa partnership this week released its recommendations to Government on pricing of agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. You can read about it here.   AgResearch’s Robyn Dynes provided commentary on the recommended approach from her perspective as a senior scientist who works closely with the primary industries.  She writes:   

As a food-exporting nation, it is critical for the New Zealand primary sector to be taking concrete steps to reduce its agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. This proposed levy and approach recommended by He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) provides a means to reduce emissions and support sustainable food production.

This recommended pricing approach is part of a larger ongoing effort and investment over the last two decades by farmers, iwi, government and scientists to find solutions to help meet New Zealand’s targets for reducing agriculture’s contribution to climate change. Continue reading

NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions unchanged but annual glacier ice volumes continue to shrink

Updated environmental indicators show the country’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2019 showed no sustained reductions compared to 2005 levels but our glacier ice volumes are continuing to decrease, Stats NZ reports.

The indicator ‘greenhouse gas emissions’ measures New Zealand’s GHG emissions from 1990 to 2019, showing the trends for emissions, quantities of different types of emissions, and their main sources.

In 2019 New Zealand’s gross greenhouse gas emissions were 82.3 million tonnes of CO2-e, 0.2% lower than 2005 and 26.4% higher than 1990. Emissions were 2.2% higher than 2018.

Gross GHG emissions were mainly made up of carbon dioxide (45.5%), methane (42.1%), and nitrous oxide (10.2%). Continue reading

Kicking the can on methane

There is a real risk that focusing on methane will mean we take our foot off the accelerator of CO2 reductions – where we’ve traditionally had a pretty poor record, Professor Dave Frame and Dr Adrian Macey contend in article published by Newsroom and republished on the Victoria University of Wellington website.

Dave Frame is Professor of Climate Change and Director of the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at the university.

Dr Adrian Macey is an adjunct professor of the Institute and a fellow at the Institut d’études avancées de Nantes, France.

They write:

As 20,000 people get ready to converge on Glasgow for the next United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), there has been a flurry of reports and media coverage suggesting urgent action to reduce methane emissions is the best thing we can do for the climate right now.

A recent joint United States-European Union pledge on methane, which other countries are being encouraged to join, aims at a 30 percent reduction in methane by 2030. The argument is that because methane is very potent in the short term, reducing it now will give us a big hit on warming, or that it somehow buys time for reducing carbon dioxide (CO2). 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

Why NZ farmers should hope for positive results from research into the methane effects of lacing stock feed with seaweed

A post on the Point of Order blog today reports on concerns about the contribution of methane to climate change and to the research in New Zealand and Australia to find ways of reducing methane emissions in farm animals…

A warning  bell  sounded  for  New Zealand farmers  when The Economist – in an editorial  last week headed “It  is  not  all  about  the  CO2” – argued  that carbon  dioxide is by far the most important   driver of  climate  change, but methane  matters  too.

The  final  sentence of  the  editorial reads,  ominously:

“Methane  should be  given priority on the  COP26 climate  summit  this  November”.

NZ may  fight  its  corner   vigorously   at the   Glasgow  summit,  but  the   risk is  that  delegates  there   will  seize  on  the  thesis  advanced  by The Economist    that   methane is  a more  powerful  greenhouse  gas  than  carbon   dioxide,  and  decide  to  target  it harshly.

 “Reduce  methane  emissions and  you  soon  reduce  methane  levels;  reduce   methane  levels  and  you  reduce global  warming”,  says The Economist.

With  NZ’s   greenhouse  gas  emissions  comprising  about 49%  methane, this  country  could  be  savaged  by  climate  change  warriors,  while other  countries  could  follow the  European Union  in  contemplating  a  tariff regime,  or  what  it  calls  a  carbon border  adjustment  mechanism  (CBAM),  in  which the  price  of  imports  reflect their carbon  content.    Such  a    mechanism, if  adopted   broadly, could severely penalise NZ  agriculture  exports. Continue reading

Bull burps may hold the answer to breeding climate-friendly cows

A Waikato trial’s discovery of a possible link between bulls’ genetics and the amount of methane they produce raises that New Zealand dairy farmers might be able to breed

The pilot trial, by artificial breeding companies LIC and CRV with funding from the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre, measured feed intake and methane emissions – in the form of burps – from 20 young bulls destined to father the next generation of New Zealand’s dairy cows.

LIC Chief Scientist Richard Spelman says results from the pilot trial are promising.

“Methane production primarily relates to how much an animal eats. We’ve accounted for this and we’re still seeing variation which suggests genetics plays a role in a dairy bull’s methane emissions – now we need more data to prove it.” 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

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

Mixed performance by regions results in small reduction of national emissions

Approximately two-thirds of New Zealand’s regions recorded decreases in their total greenhouse gas emissions while one-third of regions increased their emissions between 2007 and 2018, Stats NZ said today.

Overall, this resulted in a reduction of just over 1% in New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions between 2007 and 2018.

Changes to a region’s total emissions result from increases or decreases in emissions from industry and households.

Industrial emissions, from either primary industries, goods-producing industries, or service industries, can be affected by several factors, such as structural changes to the local economy, changes in technology, or efficiency gains, environmental-economic accounts manager Stephen Oakley explained.

Primary industries – especially dairying – were a significant factor in the increased emissions in Canterbury, Otago and Southland. Continue reading