Impact of a vegan agricultural system on the environment

This report forms part of the "Moving to a vegan agricultural system" series which examines how a move to an agricultural system where no animals are used would impact sectors such as the economy, employment, land use, the environment and food security. This part outlines impacts on the environment, including

  • reducing and reversing Australia's contribution to global warming
  • revegetation of large areas, including forest regrowth
  • restoring habitat, increasing biodiversity and reducing species extinctions
  • reducing water use, making more water available for crops and allowing river systems to recover
  • reducing soil loss and degradation
  • reducing pollution from intensive feeding operations
  • reducing pressure on native forests
  • restoration of marine environment
  • helping save the Great Barrier Reef

Impact on global warming

The current situation

Australia's climate is warming. The Bureau of Meteorology reports that "air and ocean temperatures across Australia are now, on average, almost a degree Celsius warmer than they were in 1910, with most of the warming occurring since 1950. This warming has seen Australia experiencing more warm weather and extreme heat, and fewer cool extremes. There has been an increase in extreme fire weather, and a longer fire season, across large parts of Australia."

For decades we have been warned of the possibility of these serious problems. In his 2005 book "Living in the hothouse: how global warming effects Australia", Professor Ian Lowe, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation warns that global warming will result in more severe bushfires, reduced water availability in Southern Australia, more intense heat during summers, a greater risk of insect-borne diseases and a greater incidence of extreme weather, including rainfalls of flood proportions, longer and more intense droughts and frequent, severe and widespread tropical cyclones.

The Bureau of Meteorology continues, "Atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations continue to rise and continued emissions will cause further warming over this century. Limiting the magnitude of future climate change requires large and sustained net global reductions in greenhouse gases."

One of the major sources of greenhouse gases is animal agriculture. According to Lowe in 2005, "Producing meat turns vegetable protein very inefficiently into animal protein, using large amounts of energy and water in the process. ... Ruminant animals also produce large amounts of methane, a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, in the process of digesting grass. So overall, meat production in general and beef production in particular is a serious contribution to greenhouse gas pollution and hence global warming."

By 2015, climate science now understands in greater detail the effects of animal agriculture on global warming, with a number of reports and papers in peer reviewed journals stating that livestock production is responsible for about 50% of worldwide and Australian greenhouse gas emissions. See also the BZE Zero Carbon Australia Land Use report (p68-69).

This fact is worth emphasising: half of Australia's global warming gas emissions comes from animal agriculture - more than all the fossil fuels used to run the transport systems and electricity generators combined. The movie Cowspiracy has tried to popularise this fact, but it is still not well known by the general public.

This information is not being reported more widely because of two arbitrary conventions used by climate scientists to allow comparisons to be made more easily between different areas and different times. The conventions are used by the UN and governments when reporting emissions. One convention is that the relative impact of the various warming gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, should be reported over a 100 year time frame. This may have been a valid decision decades ago when the urgency of global warming was not as apparent. But now there is a much better case for using a 20 year time frame, being more in line with the possibility of reaching various climatic tipping points. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has stated that there is no scientific basis for the decision to use the 100 year time frame (see Section 8.7 of reference). Using a shorter time frame, such as 20 years, is fully acceptable.

The other convention is to ignore the warming effect of emissions of short lived gases. It is now realised that these short lived gases have a very significant impact on global warming and should be included when measuring greenhouse gases. By looking at climate change using these more relevant conventions, we see that animal agriculture is a much more significant source of greenhouse gases than fossil fuels, going from being the source of less than 20% of greenhouse gases under the old conventions to about 50% under the more relevant reporting conventions. For a full analysis of this issue see the paper "Neglected Transformational Responses: Implications of Excluding Short Lived Emissions and Near Term Projections in Greenhouse Gas Accounting", published in The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses.

Effect on global warming of removing animals from agriculture

The main sources of greenhouse gas emissions from the animal agriculture sector are methane production through enteric fermentation, land clearing for grazing, and savanna burning in the north west of Australia. If animals were removed from Australian agriculture, these emissions would quickly reduce. We would soon see climate benefits as methane is removed from the atmosphere in only 12 years, much less time than most other greenhouse gases. We would also see carbon being sequestered in vegetation regrowing on the previous grazing lands. According to research by Australia's Chief Scientist on storing carbon in plants "forests are typically more than 10 times as effective as grasslands at storing carbon".

If this reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the drawing down of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by revegetation occurred on a global scale, as well as in Australia, this may result in a slowing and eventual reversal of the warming of the planet, a reduction of the current negative effects of global warming and a reduction in the risk of future catastrophe. This would mean less frequent and less intense floods, droughts, bushfires, and cyclones, amongst other effects.

Impact on biodiversity and species extinction

A report by the CSIRO states that "Land clearing, primarily for agriculture, is perhaps the single most important cause of environmental degradation, loss of species, and depletion of ecological communities."

Revegetating land cleared for animal agriculture will allow endangered species to recover and may prevent possible extinctions in the future. This is already happening on a small scale in Australia. A good example is the regeneration of grazing land by the owners of Wooleen Station in Western Australia. Just a few years after regeneration started an endangered bird, the Australian Painted Snipe, was discovered at Wooleen with a full clutch of fledgling chicks. As the owners said, this is confirmation "that the rehabilitation of Wooleen and other pastoral land in Western Australia is certainly necessary if we are going to save species like the Snipe from extinction."

wooleen_snipe.jpg

Photo of Australian Painted Snipe at Wooleen Station by Andrew Hobbs


Note: This is a work in progress.

Below are notes taken by the author, mainly from the BZE Zero Carbon Australia Land Use report (LU). These will be incorporated into the rest of this work.

Impact on greenhouse gas emissions

    - different ways to measure emissions (LU p131)
	- 20 year vs 100 year (LU p2)
	- "Agriculture is commonly understood to cause about 16 - 20%
	    of Australia's total greenhouse gas emissions.  But this
	    figure excludes emissions from the Kyoto Protocol category
	    Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF).  We
	    allocate emissions due to land clearing for agriculture,
	    among others, to a more accurate Agriculture category.  We
	    also assess agricultural emissions according to
	    twenty-year global warming potential, as this measure is
	    more closely aligned with the urgency of action on climate
	    change." (LU p13)
	- "Abatement of short-lived emissions offers high impact and
	    immediate climate change mitigation opportunities, both in
	    terms of total warming, and because their short term
	    effect means abatement has a quick payoff.  Such action is
	    the most effective means of slowing global warming in the
	    near term, and has the potential to both partially offset
	    'committed' warming from CO 2 already emitted and to limit
	    warming to the widely-accepted -- though not scientific --
	    2?C guardrail.  153 40% cuts in methane could delay
	    climate change by 15 years.  154 For a target year of
	    2050, reducing CH 4 emissions by 46% can be as effective
	    as entirely stopping CO 2 emissions.  155 The Climate and
	    Clean Air Coalition of countries, with the United Nations
	    Environment Program (UNEP), are therefore pursuing urgent
	    abatement of methane, tropospheric ozone and BC.  Warming
	    from Australian agricultural emissions over the next 20
	    years will be greater than warming from all fossil fuel
	    emissions.  When short term gases are fully accounted,
	    transformational mitigation opportunities are revealed. 
	    Rangeland grazing, with associated deforestation, enteric
	    fermentation and savanna burning, produces 49% of national
	    emissions when accounted over 20 years.  These activities
	    can be curtailed as described above to effect immediate
	    emissions abatement.  (LU p96-97)
	- "The basis for most greenhouse reporting is GWP 100 , but
	    GWP 20 better captures both the greenhouse potency of
	    methane in its relatively short atmospheric lifetime, and
	    the timeframe available to humankind in which to make
	    serious cuts to emissions." (LU p131)
    - in Australia animal agriculture makes up a relatively large
	proportion of GHG emissions and our large land mass gives
	plenty of opportunity for carbon sequestration through
	revegetation.  This will help reduce the severity of climate
	change.
    - "The largest single source of land use emissions is land
	clearing for the expansion of grazing.  These emissions can be
	avoided through the cessation of land clearing and re-clearing
	in the rangelands of Australia." (LU p4)
    - "among the most emissions intensive activities in Australia"
	(LU p2)
    - emissions by different sectors
	- total ag 15% (LU p2) of all greenhouse gases
	- total ag 30% (LU p11)
	- world ag average 19% to 29% (LU p11)
	- total 
	- land clearing
	- enteric fermentation
	- fodder cropping and grains used for animal feed
	- beef production is more emissions intensive than aluminium
	    and steel production (LU p2)
    - long and short lived emissions
    - abatement (LU p83-98)
    - soil carbon (LU p74)
    - biochar (LU p157)
	- "We examine the major types and magnitudes of emissions from
	    land use, as reported in the national inventory.  We
	    examine the activities responsible for agricultural
	    emissions, and how emissions can be abated.  Emissions
	    from native forest logging are also described and
	    estimated." (LU p14)
    - "Biochar from tree crops:  Short rotation woody crops grown as a
	feedstock for biochar production may have far greater
	potential to provide ongoing carbon sequestration than
	permanent plantations, because on decadal timescales they can
	be harvested and re-harvested from a relatively small spatial
	footprint.  Consistent with Ajani et al.  (2013 22 ) and
	Mackey et al.  (2013 23 ) we challenge the view that offsets
	have any legitimate role in climate change mitigation, and
	consider that efforts need to not only be focused on reducing
	emissions, but on actively sequestering CO 2 from the
	atmosphere.  Biochar production systems are one of the few
	systems with potential to achieve continuous draw-down of
	carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and ought to be prioritised
	for research and industry development." (LU p157)
    - Biochar can have economic benefits:  "Certain trees, such as
	some eucalypts, can grow multiple stems and can regenerate
	quickly by coppicing (cutting to near ground level) after
	harvesting.  These have been identified as particularly
	suitable biomass crop species for integration with Australian
	dryland agriculture.  They are adapted to low rainfall
	environments and can be harvested in short rotation for
	biochar." (LU p158)
    - Biochar can be applied to, for example, wheat cropping land.
	(LU p159)
	- "For example in the West Australian wheat belt
	where mallee eucalypts and other woody crops have been
	investigated for their potential for integration with dryland
	wheat cropping." (LU p159)
    - Removing emissions caused by animal agriculture is one of the
	cheapest methods of climate mitigation. (LU p4)
    - address emissions at the scale required to prevent catastrophic
	climate change. (LU p5)
    - adapted from LU p8-9:
	Levels of atmosphere greenhouse gases (including carbon
	dioxide) are now higher than they have been since before human
	civilisation arose. 
	This increase has been primarily caused by human activity and
	is driving increases in global average temperatures.
	Climate change poses severe threats to both natural and human
	systems, particularly agriculture, and is impacting human
	health and security.
	Greenhouse gas emissions and their harmful effects are
	tracking ahead of worst-case scenarios and a large body of
	literature indicates that this human interference in climate
	systems has already committed the planet to warming in excess
	of 2 degrees C relative to pre-industrial average
	temperatures.
	Furthermore, in a world where 2 degrees C is surpassed,
	progress toward and beyond 4 degrees C of warming is almost
	assured and would lead to major disruption.  These mileposts
	may also be closer than we have so far supposed.
	Unless effective action to reduce emissions is taken in the
	near future, global mean temperature increase relative to the
	pre-industrial period is likely to exceed 2 degrees C by 2030
	- 2040 and to exceed 4 - 5 degrees C by 2080 - 2100. 
	Temperature increases in this range are likely to induce
	further, possibly uncontrollable warming, through a variety of
	feedback loops.  But progress to date in emissions abatement
	negotiations does not inspire confidence that a solution is at
	hand.  Indeed emissions have tracked with or ahead of
	worst-case projections throughout recent years.
	It is imperative that we radically reduce greenhouse emissions
	in the near future.  The removal of animals from the
	Australian agricultural system will go a long way towards
	fulfilling Australia's part in the solution.
	Australian agriculture is highly exposed to climatic
	variability and likely future changes.  Given the natural
	volatility of our climate, our rural industries may be in a
	worse position than those of other countries.  Modelling
	indicates great uncertainty but alarming possibilities for the
	future, with shifting climate regimes likely to affect all
	aspects of Australian food production.  Australian producers
	are already facing severe impacts, with recent extremes
	including the widespread Millennium Drought bearing the mark of
	human influence.
	Studies confirm a decades-long drying pattern in
	agriculturally important regions of Australia, including the
	east coast and hinterland, most eastern inland areas and
	southern WA. Many such regions have lost 20 - 50 mm of
	rainfall per decade since the 1970s. Late autumn
	and winter rainfall has reduced since 1950, especially in
	south-west Western Australia. This signal is distinct from
	background variability and affects crucial growing season
	rain for wheat. South-east Australia has also seen a trend
	to lower rainfall. These data, from large-scale, systematic
	meteorological observations and modelling, are in direct
	agreement with farmers' lived experience. Cereal growers
	in Victoria's Wimmera, for example, also report that
	most rainfall has been lost from the growing season.
	It is likely that conditions for many rural industries will
	deteriorate further without effective mitigation of climate
	change.
	Average temperatures have trended higher in recent
	decades, at rates of up to 0.15 - 0.30 over many areas
	important for agriculture and forestry, and
	extreme heat has followed a similar pattern. In isolation
	from rainfall reductions, warmer conditions can have
	dramatic effects on agriculture. Increased accumulated
	heat can reduce the time crops take to mature, allowing
	plants less time to accumulate biomass and hence lowering
	yields. Just days or even hours of extreme temperatures
	during critical periods of growth can crash entire crops.
	Hot weather can also reduce animal performance, increase
	animals' drinking water needs and introduce or exacerbate
	animal welfare issues.
    - The compound effect of issues associated with climate change is
	potentially catastrophic.  (LU p10)
    - Bleak picture:  warmer temperatures, more extreme heat = kill
	crops, lower rainfall especially during growing season, higher
	evaporation, lower yields, drier soils = higher soil
	degradation and less sequestration, lower river flows, less
	water available for irrigation, increase in intense storms,
	floods, erosion, drier forests lead to more frequent and
	intense fires releasing carbon and lowering sequestration
	potential, less water retained, greater weather variability,
	changes to pest and weed distribution
    - "Despite their iconic toughness, adapting to climate-related
	pressures such as drought and flood has already tested some
	farmers' and communities' resilience.  Distressingly for all
	of us, there is a direct relationship between drought and
	ill-health, suicide and other problems in rural Australia. 
	(LU p10)
    - "There is also a danger that climate change adaptation leads to
	perverse outcomes for the climate.  This may happen, for
	example, if landholders turn cropland over to pasture. 
	Because they are less sensitive to short periods of low
	rainfall, grazing animals can lessen financial risk, but emit
	more greenhouse gas.  Another scenario is the abandonment of
	land when in fact careful management is required for the best
	climate outcome, such as landscape carbon storage." (LU p10)
    - The most common way of counting greenhouse gas emissions
	underestimates the emissions from animal agriculture.  In
	particular it omits short lived emissions, which mostly arise
	from agriculture. (LU p42)
    - agriculture emits 33% of greenhouse gases (LU p42)
    - "Crop emissions are minor in comparison to land
	clearing and enteric fermentation." (LU p42)
    - "Including emissions from clearing for pasture, enteric
	fermentation, prescribed burning of savannas, and manure,
	livestock production generates ... 83% of all agricultural
	emissions." (LU p45)
    - "Even though clearing has declined in recent years this remains
	the largest agricultural emission." (LU p45) - therefore
	reforesting could be significant
    - "From 2006 - 2010, 79% of clearing was for grazing and the
	remainder for cropping." (LU p45)
    - "Approximately three quarters of Australia's recent tree
	clearing occurred in Queensland, and 65% of 2010 emissions due
	to clearing and subsequent soil carbon loss came from this
	state (Fig.  3.6).  Queensland has published detailed reports
	on deforestation showing an annual average of 415,000 ha of
	woodland or forest has been cleared since the late 1980s.  60%
	of this total was 'remnant' (old growth), with the remainder
	re-clearing of woody regrowth on pasture cleared in recent
	decades; 93% was for grazing pasture (Fig.  2.5 p 24)." (LU
	p46)
    - "deforestation to grazing pasture accounts for 30.8% of the
	total emissions for agriculture." (LU p47)
    - "Methane (CH 4 ) from enteric fermentation (EF) contributes 56.2
	Mt CO 2 -e/yr, 30% of all agricultural emissions or more than
	10% of total national emissions under standard NIR reporting. 
	This equates to 48% of total national CH 4 emissions.  Enteric
	fermentation is therefore an important target for mitigation,
	as the grazing industries have recognised." (LU p48)
    - "Northern beef production also drives land clearing and savanna
	burning for pasture maintenance.  Emissions from northern beef
	production therefore include approximately 47 Mt CO 2 -e
	(deforestation), 26 Mt CO 2 -e (enteric fermentation), and 10
	Mt CO 2 -e (prescribed burning of savannas) -- a total of 83
	Mt CO 2 -e, 43% of agricultural emissions or 14% of the
	national total.  The suppression of woody regrowth by grazing
	pressure also prevents landscape sequestration of carbon over
	vast tracts of the continent." (LU p49) - so more than 14%
    - Beef cattle in feedlots contribute 2 Mt CO 2 -e/yr, or 3.5% of
	total annual average EF emissions from 2006 - 2010.  This
	equates to just 1% of total emissions from agriculture for the
	same period.  (LU p50)
    - "Prescribed burning of Australia's tropical and sub-tropical
	savannas each year is a large source of CH 4 and N 2 O, and
	from 2006 - 2010 emitted on average 10.85 Mt CO 2 -e/yr, or
	5.7% of total agricultural emissions.  Prescribed burning of
	Australia's tropical and sub-tropical savannas is a large
	source of CO 2 , CH 4 and N 2 O, and is by far the largest
	source of short term gas carbon monoxide (CO)." (LU p51)
    - "In area, over 90% of fires in Australia occur in northern arid,
	semi-humid and humid zones in these grassland ecosystems, in
	the dry season (winter/spring).  28 Between 2006 and 2010, an
	average of 46 million hectares (Mha; approximately twice the
	size of Victoria) of savanna and open woodland was burnt each
	year for pasture maintenance" (LU p51)
    - "In many regions, burning is annual:  The 2010 National
	Inventory Report states that remote sensing showed fires in
	consecutive years in 55% of pixels (100 ha/ pixel), and 83% of
	pixels experienced another fire in two years or less.  This
	fire frequency is far higher than would naturally occur (Fig. 
	3.9)." (LU p52)
    - "Fire and grazing pressure combined are very
	effective at inhibiting woody regrowth." (LU p52)
    - "almost all grassland/savanna/woodland fire is human-caused."
	(LU p52) to manage pasture for grazing animals
    - "a five-fold increase in fire frequency in the Australian Alps,
	concurrent with the large-scale introduction of sheep grazing
	in that region." (LU p90)
    - Black carbon (BC, also known as soot) is produced from
	incomplete combustion of biomass, and lasts a few days in the
	atmosphere.  Globally, BC is responsible for 1.1 W/ m 2 of
	radiative forcing (Table 3.11).  66 The human-caused part of
	this radiative forcing is 0.71 W/m 2 , making BC the second
	greatest warming emission after CO 2 .  Globally 67 and in
	Australia, 28, 67 most BC comes from savanna burning
	(grassland and woodland fires).  However, aerosols co-emitted
	with BC from open biomass burning may have a cooling effect,
	offsetting direct warming from BC.  Data on Australian
	emissions of BC and co-emitted aerosols is lacking, therefore
	the effects of these emissions is unknown, although it may
	potentially be a significant contributor to short-lived
	forcing.  Because BC has caused 15% of human- caused warming,
	our understanding of this significant emission nationally
	would benefit from further research.  (LU p65)
    - Black carbon is 2900 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas
	than carbon dioxide.  (LU p66)
    - Emissions for manure from farmed animals:  "Piggeries, beef
	feedlots, dairy and beef grazing, and to a lesser extent
	sheep, also contribute to Australia's total carbon footprint
	through GHGs emitted from manure -- largely methane (CH 4 )
	and nitrous oxide (N 2 O).  Manure management emissions
	totalled around 3.3 Mt CO 2 -e/ yr in 2010 (Fig.  3.11). 
	Piggeries were the largest single contributor (1.1 Mt CO 2
	-e/yr).  (LU p52)
    - "As urgency increases in the years leading up to the target
	year, the metric values used to compare gases tend to converge
	as the target approaches.  This means that choice of metric is
	far less important than the time remaining to reach the
	target.  77 New insights emerge when this approach is used. 
	For example, for a year 2060 target, reducing global methane
	emissions by 46% would have the same impact as entirely
	stopping CO 2 emissions." (LU p67)
    - We need to set a stabilisation target of 20 years (2035).  Any
	later and we risk increases in global mean surface temperature
	of 4?C or more.  (LU p67)
    - For the next 20 years, short-term emissions (mainly methane)
	greater warming impact than CO2.  (LU P67)
    - "The inclusion of warming from short-term gases brings
	agriculture to the fore as a heavy-emitting sector.  At GWP 20
	agriculture emits 54% of national emissions, more than any
	other single sector."  (LU p68)
    - animal ag causes 48% of greenhouse gases in Australia
	(see LU pp68-69)
    - 7,500 Mt CO2 could be sequestered by allowing the eucalyptus
	forests of south-eastern Australia that have been cleared for
	animals to return to forest. (LU p74)
    - "Though emissions from deforestation and subsequent soil carbon
	loss have reduced in the twenty years to 2010, they have large
	potential for further reduction and are targeted in the
	Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI).  The CFI has noted
	shortcomings and faces an uncertain future, but could frame a
	concerted effort toward substantial bio-sequestration by
	ensuring financial rewards for retaining and maintaining
	forests and woodlands exceeded those for grazing activities. 
	Ceasing deforestation for pasture would reduce national
	emissions by 58.4 Mt CO 2 -e, 31% of average 2006 - 2010
	agricultural emissions." (LU p83)
    - "Emissions from Grassland remaining Grassland are captured here
	and include those from re-clearing and soil carbon loss after
	clearing.  The component of this caused by clearing and
	burning regrowth vegetation can be avoided simply by ceasing
	the practice.  Graziers in some regions commit significant
	time and resources re-clearing woody re-growth and 'weeds'
	that invade pastures, and some would gladly turn these areas
	over to biosequestration if there were financial incentives."
	(LU p83)
    - "Ongoing reduction in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations
	are necessary to increase humanity's chance of avoiding
	climate tipping points and reduce the current incidence and
	risk of extreme weather events" (LU p132)
    - "Winiam's Andrew Colbert feels farmers in the Wimmera are "at
	the coal face" in facing the effects of regional climate
	change.  "We've lost two inches of growing season rain since
	the mid-90's," Mr.  Colbert said.  "That's 20% of our income."
	Mr.  Colbert reacted to the prospect of revegetating 10 - 12%
	of his holding with "It can be done -- we can deal with that. 
	We don't want to lose another two inches of rain in the next
	twenty years." Mr.  Colbert feels the cost and burden of
	responding to climate change would ideally be shared across
	the whole Australian community, instead of rural communities
	bearing the brunt and being expected to do the work." (LU
	p148)
    - Ceasing savanna burning for pasture will reduce emissions of
	short-term climate forcers, such as carbon monoxide and
	methane, precursors to tropospheric ozone, and of black
	carbon. (LU p152)

    - "Our agricultural systems and workforce have borne the brunt of
	climate change to date, and rural livelihoods are further
	threatened by likely future change.  Our farmers supply food
	to Australians and to millions of others, in the process
	earning important revenues for our nation.  This capacity must
	be protected.  Farmers and graziers know their land and have
	the right to make decisions about how that land is used, and
	will be a crucial human resource as we tackle climate change. 
	Rural Australians also have the tools, equipment, ingenuity
	and work ethic to get the job done." (LU p12)

Impact on soil loss and degradation

    - "Agriculture and widespread clearing of native vegetation are
	recognised as the most important cause of land degradation
	over more than half of the Australian continent." (LU p23)
    - "... the introduction of hard-hooved production
	animals to vast swathes of the country also changed the
	structure of our soils, making soils more susceptible to
	erosive loss and compounding the effects of clearing itself."
	(LU p23)
    - "Our continent now loses 50 to 150 million tonnes (Mt) of soil
	each year as dust 5 alone and probably comparable quantities
	as waterborne sediment.  Cultivation, bare fallowing, and the
	associated drying of soil and loss of soil structure have
	played a large part in these losses, as have both production
	animals and ferals such as rabbits.  Inflexible pasture
	management practices and the use of imported feed to maintain
	high animal stocking rates long into periods of drought have
	also contributed." (LU p74)
    - "Soil carbon exists as living biomass -- plant roots and other
	soil organisms -- and as non-living organic matter.  Plants
	grow by absorbing CO 2 from the atmosphere, thus converting
	gaseous carbon to less reactive, solid forms." (LU p76)
    - "Long term SOC depletion in Australian soils is largely due to
	grazing pressure and a reduction of this pressure can prevent
	rangeland SOC loss." (LU p76)
    - Because of its small particle size and relatively lower density,
	the SOC fraction of soils is selectively lost to wind erosion
	20 ; hence the most valuable portion of soil is simply blown
	away more easily.  A 2013 analysis of the quantity and sources
	of carbon emitted when soil is lost to wind erosion in
	Australia reveals total annual emissions of 5.38 Mt CO 2
	-e/yr.  22 These emissions are not captured in national
	greenhouse accounting, despite the fact they are approximately
	equal to direct emissions from agricultural soils.  21
	Rangeland grazing land is the source of 4.92 Mt CO 2 -e/yr, or
	84% of these emissions due to SOC loss.  22 This significant
	contribution from rangelands is due in part to the great area
	of grazing in Australia, and also to inflexible pasture
	management practices as described above.  (LU p76)
    - "Livestock grazing is the major driver of rangeland degradation
	and sediment loss." (LU p153)

Impact on biodiversity loss

    - "Since colonisation Australia has seen more biodiversity loss
	than any other continent and this rate is still one of the
	highest globally.  Land use change (mainly deforestation) and
	grazing pressure are the major threats to biodiversity." (LU
	p25)

    - "Tree clearing has made eastern and south-western Australia
	hotter, and eastern Australia drier than would otherwise occur
	with global climate change.  Decreased rainfall due to tree
	clearing has been evident in Queensland, New South Wales and
	southwest Western Australia since the 1950s.  Other impacts of
	tree clearing include regional climate change, greater
	variability of rainfall, more droughts and more severe floods;
	more extreme wildfires and greater risk of salinisation. 
	Forest and woodland removal and modification have therefore
	reduced the resilience of rural landscapes to the impacts of
	climate change." (LU p25)
    - see also section on move logging from native forests to
	plantations on land cleared for animal farming
    - "There is mounting evidence that fire negatively impacts
	biodiversity and species mix.  The current practice of high
	frequency pasture fires is also modifying ecosystems in
	northern and central Australia.  (LU p91)
    - Stopping land clearing and re-clearing and focusing on
	revegetation will improve "biodiversity, resilience to
	disturbance, regulation of regional climate and other
	ecosystem services" (LU p152)
    - fire promotes introduced pasture grasses, inhibits native tree regrowth (LU p52)

Impact on water use

Some ABS statistics: here and here

Impact on native forests

    - native forest logging:  much of the native forests of Australia
	have been logged.  By transforming some of the land currently
	used for farmed animals into forest plantations, the logging
	of native forests could be stopped.
    - 34% of rainforest, 14% of eucalyptus tall open forest and 31% of
	eucalyptus open forest have been cleared in Australia.  (LU
	p33) Much of the cleared land is being used for animal
	production.
    - "Most current logging occurs in the eucalyptus tall open forests
	and eucalyptus open forests." (LU p34)

Impact on Great Barrier Reef

    - "Losses of soil to water erosion are also significant, though
	less well documented for the continent as a whole.  Around 14
	Mt of soil are deposited into the Great Barrier Reef (GBR)
	lagoon each year, a rate around 3 to 4 times higher than that
	before the land was cleared.  9 The rate of sedimentation to
	the GBR has increased up to tenfold since European
	colonisation, 10 and the greatest increase has been from
	intensively-grazed catchments; 11 a 2013 Queensland Government
	report estimated that more than 75% of total sediment in the
	Fitzroy and Burdekin rivers was soil lost from grazing land."
	(LU p75)
    - "Livestock grazing is the major driver of rangeland degradation
	and sediment loss, for example to the Great Barrier Reef
	lagoon." (LU p153)

Impact on other environmental issues

    - pollution
    - species extinctions

Planning the move to a VAS

    - "Most of Australia was (and much still is) crown land, so
	governments could influence development through lease
	conditions" (LU p21)
    - "Northern properties are predominantly crown land leasehold,
	leased by pastoral corporations." (LU p27)
    - "The majority of native forest logging is conducted by state
	owned corporations." (LU p35)

Implementation challenges

    "interventions require transformational changes in policy and
    people's behaviour for their successful implementation." (LU p i)

    "Australian farmers are among the most innovative, resilient
    people in our community and have faced many challenges
    in the past." (LU p3)

    The report presents challenging issues and will require
    robust discussion. Engagement with stakeholders is
    essential. (LU p5)

    - "Australian farmers cope with drought, floods, pests, disease,
	competition from cheap imports, market and buyer price
	pressure, changing consumer preferences, government
	regulation, and natural resource conservation demands.  Our
	farmers are among the world's best for productivity and
	efficiency.  Many producers face large capital expenditure and
	a reliance on corporate priorities, as well as marginal
	profitability and exposure to large risks.  To our demands for
	quality food, we must now add a requirement to take on the
	climate problem 'at the coal face', and a fair day's pay must
	be offered in exchange.  Farmers and graziers know their land,
	have the right to decide how that land is used and have the
	equipment, ingenuity and work ethic to get the job done. 
	Rural Australians will be a crucial human resource as we
	tackle climate change Climate change itself has exacted a
	severe cost on farmers and rural communities, imposing acute
	stress and testing resilience." (LU p171)

    - "Numerous management options are available at local and regional
	level.  As well as mitigating climate change, these have the
	potential to maintain or improve rural productivity and
	livelihoods.  Such a transformation will require some changes
	to the way land use change is encouraged and rewarded.  In
	some cases, we will have to pay to get carbon into landscapes
	and keep it there.  In others, leaving ecosystem carbon intact
	will save money." (LU p172)

Notes

    We can look for inspiration to many cases of significant change,
    both in Australia's history and in other parts of the world.

    "over half Australia's beef, veal and sheep meat is exported."
	(LU p4)
    "Queensland is Australia's main producer and exporter, supplying
	nearly 50% of Australia's export beef, worth about $3.4b/yr."
	(LU p27)

    need an economic statistician to find
	total GDP, ag GDP, animal ag GDP, plant ag GDP
        total exports, ag exports, animal ag exports, plant ag exports
    GDP:
	http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/7503.0
	Gross value, year 2013: crops $28b, animals $20b
	- "Although the gross value of the combined agriculture,
	    forestry and fishery industries is just 2% of Australia's
	    GDP, the land-based extent of agriculture and forestry
	    occupies around 60% of the continent.  This vast spatial
	    extent underlines the potential for rural industries to
	    contribute to an effective national climate change
	    mitigation strategy." (LU p26)
	http://www.agriculture.gov.au/about/annualreport/2011-12/ ...
		... figure-descriptions
	    agriculture, fisheries and forestry--2% of GDP 2011-12
	    animal prod is 43.2% of sector -> 1% of GDP
	    (defence spending is about 2% of GDP)

    exports
	http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/ ...
	    ... 5302.0Sep%202014?OpenDocument
	(table 101)
	    Mar 2014 quarter $Millions
	    63701 TOTAL exports (about 254 billion per year)

	     2072 MEAT AND MEAT PREPARATIONS
	      674 WOOL AND SHEEPSKINS
	      287 Live animals (excl.  fish (not marine mammals)
		    crustaceans, molluscs and aquatic invertebrates of
		    SITC Division 03)
	      557 Dairy products and birds' eggs
	      327 Fish (excl.  marine mammals) crustaceans, molluscs
		    and aquatic invertebrates, and preparations
		    thereof (excl.  extracts and juices of fish,
		    crustaceans, molluscs or other aquatic
		    invertebrates, prepared or preserved of SITC
		    01710)
	      286 Feeding stuff for animals (excl. unmilled cereals)
	      133 Hides, skins and furskins, raw
	       63 Crude animal and vegetable materials, nes
	       87 Animal oils and fats
		5 Animal or vegetable fats and oils, processed waxes
			of animal or vegetable origin, inedible
			mixtures or preparations of animal or
			vegetable fats or oils, nes
	       50 Leather, leather manufactures, nes, and dressed
		       furskins
	     ----
	     4541 animal products is 7% of total exports

	     2980 CEREAL GRAINS AND CEREAL PREPARATIONS
	      599 Vegetables and fruit
	       68 Coffee, tea, cocoa, spices, and manufactures thereof
	       13 Tobacco and tobacco manufactures
	      786 Oil-seeds and oleaginous fruits
		3 Crude rubber (incl. synthetic and reclaimed)
	      293 Cork and wood
	       55 Pulp and waste paper
	       69 Textile fibres (excl.  wool tops and other combed
		    wool) and their wastes, not manufactured into yarn
		    or fabric
	       64 Fixed vegetable fats and oils, crude, refined or
		   fractionated
	       20 Cork and wood manufactures (excl. furniture)
	      226 Paper, paperboard and articles of paper pulp, of
		  paper or of paperboard
	       50 Textile yarn, fabrics, made-up articles nes, and
		   related products
	      172 Sugars, sugar preparations and honey
	      441 Beverages
	      246 Miscellaneous edible products and preparations
	     ----
	     6085 plant products is 9% of total exports
	http://www.agriculture.gov.au/about/annualreport/2011-12/ ...
		... figure-descriptions
	    exports for 2011-12 
	    total agriculture $39.3 billion
	    animals 34% of ag
	    plants 38% of ag
	    other agriculture 28% of ag
    imports
	http://www.agriculture.gov.au/about/annualreport/2011-12/ ...
	    ... snapshot-of-agriculture-fisheries-and-forestry
	    Our three largest food imports are beverages ($2.2
	    billion), processed fruit and vegetables ($1.7 billion)
	    and processed seafood ($1.3 billion).

    employment
	http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/ ...
	    ... 6202.0Dec%202014?OpenDocument
	    (table 21)
	about 3% work in agriculture
	- "In 2010 - 11, agricultural industries employed 306,700
	    people in 134,000 businesses." (LU p26)
	- "Beef production directly employs 47,000 people and another
	    18,000 in the mixed beef-sheep industry, while meat
	    processing (all meats) employs another 18,000 people." (LU
	    p26)
	- fruit, vegetables, nuts, etc employs 63,000 directly and
	    another 9,800 in fruit and vegetable processing." (LU p31)
	- Heckbert and colleagues (2008 122 p.22) proposed that one
	    full-time equivalent job would be created in Indigenous
	    communities for each 7500 t CO 2 -e of emissions abated on
	    indigenous-held land." (LU p91)
	- in Darling Downs, watering newly planted trees would be
	    necessary for at least the first year, thus giving
	    employment (in return for carbon sequestering) (LU p148)

    foreign ownership
	- "A very significant proportion of Australia's grazing land
	    is controlled by offshore interests." (LU p27)

    emissions: http://faostat3.fao.org/browse/area/10/E
    Garnau review: http://www.garnautreview.org.au/chp7.htm


"Environmental issues associated with sheep and cattle grazing include habitat loss, surface soil loss, salinity, and soil and water quality issues." - ABS Measures of Australia's Progress

The massive land clearing in Australia "has led to regional climate change, erosion, biodiversity loss as well as immediate and ongoing carbon emissions from plants and soils." (LU p20)


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.