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. For the calculation that animal agriculture is the source of over 50% of Australia's greenhouse gases when accounted over 20 years, see Neglected Transformational Responses: Implications of Excluding Short Lived Emissions and Near Term Projections in Greenhouse Gas Accounting, by Wedderburn-Bisshop, Longmire and Rickards. For the calculation that animal agriculture is the source of over 51% of worldwide greenhouse gases when accounted over 20 years, see Livestock and Climate Change, by Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, Worldwatch Institute. 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."
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
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)
"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)
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/[email protected]/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/[email protected]/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/[email protected]/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)