An overview of Climate Change - Alan Hopkins (GES Consulting)

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This presentation was given as part of the Farming Futures workshop "Focus on: Renewables in the North-West".

(11th December 2008)

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An overview of Climate Change - Alan Hopkins (GES Consulting)

  1. 1. An Overview of Climate Change Alan Hopkins (GES Consulting)
  2. 2. Outline of talk Climate change and greenhouse gases: evidence of recent trends in climate change and anticipated future trends. Possible effects on agriculture and land use: how resilient are we?
  3. 3. Adaptations and possible measures to reduce climate change Risks and uncertainties – need to plan ahead and act now Opportunities for UK farms and rural businesses
  4. 4. • Climate change and global warming • The “Greenhouse effect” • Greenhouse gases • Climate change “scenarios” • Adaptations and mitigations
  5. 5. Greenhouse gases 100-yr GWP Concentrations now (and 200 years ago) ………………………………..……….. • CO2 1 374 ppm (280) • Methane 23 1745 ppb (700) • Nitrous oxide 300 314 ppb (270) • CFCs 4000 268 ppt (zero)
  6. 6. Agriculture’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in UK • 1% of carbon dioxide (fuels and fertilisers). • > 30% of methane (enteric fermentation / manure management; mainly cattle /sheep) • > 60% nitrous oxide (soils and fertilisers). • 7% direct greenhouse gas emissions in UK • UK agriculture part of the problem but is part of the solution
  7. 7. Anticipated 21st century climate change impacts • Annual rainfall similar to past, but more wetter winters and summer droughts . • Continuing trend of higher average temperatures (1-5o C higher). • Regional variations: warming greatest in SE. • More variability in winds, storms and droughts. • Internationally: impacts greater in other parts of Europe and some feed exporting areas. • …specifically in the NW
  8. 8. Likely climate change impacts and adaptations for different sectors • How resilient are the various sectors of UK farming ? • What responses can farmers make to climate change ? • What are the international impacts ?
  9. 9. 1). Forage production and ruminant livestock: risks and opportunities • Changes in rainfall will affect grazing, summer feed and timing of field operations. • Higher temperatures and CO2 can lead to increased forage growth. • New opportunities (legumes, maize, whole- crop) and some on-farm potential for energy cropping and AD. • But: heat stress, increased winter wind speed, and risks from more extreme events require management responses.
  10. 10. 1). Forage production and ruminant livestock • Changes in rainfall will affect grazing, summer feed and timing of field operations. • Higher temps and CO2 increase forage growth. • New opportunities (legumes, maize, whole-crop) and some on-farm potential for energy cropping and AD. • But: heat stress, increased winter wind speed, and risks from more extreme events require management responses. • Overall: UK dairy, beef and sheep have good potential to adapt to effects of future climate change compared with some competitors.
  11. 11. 2) UK arable cropping systems: risks and opportunities • Warmer, drier summers: increased drought stress (especially for root crops) and earlier maturation. • Risks of damage from increased storminess (standing crops, farm buildings). • Wetter winters and storms: establishment of winter- sown crops and fields ops in general; soil erosion and nutrient losses. Flooding and coastal losses. • New pests and diseases and earlier attacks.
  12. 12. UK arable cropping systems: potential for responses and adaptations • New crops and varieties. • Precision Conservation Management. • Risk management (e.g. mix of crops, managing water supplies; flood, storm and drought plans) and need to maintain soil structure and carbon. • Biomass planting and carbon sequestration. • Overall: UK arable farms have potential to adapt to effects of future climate change. Major concerns of coastal land and flood plains and of soils with poor structure and low organic matter.
  13. 13. Likely future pressures for farmers to mitigate impacts of climate change: what are the options ? • Improved management of manures, fertiliser, soil and water to conserve water supplies, protect soil quality and reduce net gaseous emissions. • Increase carbon sequestration in soils, grass and other farmland vegetation (possibly with future carbon emissions trading). • Renewable energy crops to displace fossil fuels and at same time remove GHGs from atmosphere. • Many low-cost options can be implemented now.
  14. 14. Management to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions: CO2 • Energy plan to improve energy efficiency on the farm, per unit of output. • Maximize returns of manure and carbon to improve soil organic matter. • On mixed farms maintain existing permanent pasture, and incorporate forage leys and reduced tillage where possible. • Optimise nutrient N inputs for feed crops aiming to minimise mineral N fertiliser use. • Consider potential for biomass or biofuel crops, or of trees, hedges, scrub etc on any unproductive sites, ground-source heat.
  15. 15. Management to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions: methane • Reduce emissions from manure through better management (oxygen supply/ covers) • Consider using manure in anaerobic digestion as energy source – potentially very important in future. • Diet change (cattle, reduce emissions from enteric fermentation through diet change, rumen manipulation, or systematic changes) incentives needed here.
  16. 16. Management to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions: nitrous oxide • Improving fertilizer efficiency, especially of nitrates. • Optimizing methods and timing of applications. • Avoid bare ground after crops (use cover crops to catch residual N). • For cattle grazing: minimizing the grazing period allows more control of manure.
  17. 17. New farm-scale opportunities? • UK more resilient than some other areas, so global effects on world agriculture could benefit UK farmers. • Some benefits from climate change from milder “average” climate and increased CO2. • New crops, including biofuels and industrial crops, and longer growing season in some areas. • Climate Change Levy Rebate. • Legumes to offset artificial N inputs (£ savings). • Carbon trading for C storage in soils • On-farm energy production. • Reduce methane emissions from livestock manures through anaerobic digestion.
  18. 18. Conclusions • Convergence of food economy and energy economy, plus wider environmental goals → need for integrated approaches. Global effects on world agriculture, and energy security issues will benefit UK farmers. • Potential for increased yields of crops and forages, but regional problems of droughts and coastal areas and flood plains vulnerable. • Uncertainties remain. Consensus that we plan to adapt to anticipated change and to mitigate the probable causes (GHGs) at the farm scale. • Plan for uncertainties through more home produced feeds, mix of crops and harvest / sowing times. Multi- purpose land use and on-farm energy production. .

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