This blog was originally based on a course ran by Professor Nick Gray of the Trinity Centre for the Environment at Trinity College Dublin who also wrote a textbook for the module Facing up to global warming: What is going on and what you can do about it. Now working as an independent consultant, Nick continues to work in the area of environmental sustainability and looking at ways of making a difference without recriminations or guilt. Saving the planet is all about living sustainably.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Agriculture: Feeding 7 Billion While Reducing Emissions. How can we do both?

With the world’s population recently surpassing 7 billion and still climbing, an increase in food production is unquestionably a necessity. Some predictions forecast a population rise to 11 or even 12 billion. These estimates become worrying when you take into account the fact that at current population figures it is stated that 19% of boy-children and 14% of girl-children in Ireland “always or often go to bed hungry”. So the challenge facing us is by no means trivial, we need to feed more people while reducing emissions from agriculture. Solving this problem however becomes multifaceted when you consider that 24.4% of Irish greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. Roughly 10 energy units are spent for every energy unit of food on our dinner table. Reducing the emissions from the agricultural sector has been the focus of numerous studies. However the solutions, much like the problems are multidimensional. Some suggested solutions to the emissions problem include using feed additives, genetic engineering and better farm management. Solutions must however consider the economic aspects. Currently, farmers are being paid between 30 to 33 cent per litre for milk, however as recent as 2009 they were only receiving as little as 23 cent per litre. While the cost of producing 1 litre of milk varies seasonally, it can be as high as 23 cent per litre, thus leaving little room for profits. Therefore employing a solution at the production level must consider many variables and be economically viable. Along with all these aspects the population must be fed. Surely this highlights the need for detailed and extensive research.
Christopher Fennell

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