For the past decade, politicians and environmentalists have been excited about the amount of greenhouse gas generated by the livestock industry. As a result, targets have been set to cut these emissions as part of the wider campaign to reduce global warming.
But yesterday in presenting the results of research sponsored by Quality Meat Scotland, Dr Jimmy Hyslop, beef specialist at SAC, pointed out that no-one had worked out how much of the carbon dioxide generated by livestock was then absorbed into grassland and that this was an essential part of the environmental equation.
The results of his work on 21 livestock farms throughout Scotland showed vast differences in the amount of greenhouse gases generated, depending on the intensity of the farming.
He said that it was straightforward to work out how much CO2 was produced, but added: “While there is general acceptance that grassland does sequester carbon, no assessment of this is currently undertaken because no accepted mechanisms exist to achieve this in practical circumstances on farms.”
However, using a system which is emerging within Brussels for estimating such a quantity – though it has neither been fully authenticated nor agreed – Dr Hyslop said it was possible that Scotland’s grassland may be capable of taking up at least a substantial part of the country’s livestock-based greenhouse gas emissions.
He said: “We can’t say with certainty that these unimproved or semi-improved areas are sequestering an amount of carbon which would offset the equivalent being generated by beef and lamb production on these farms because we don’t have the technology to prove it. However, it probably is the case.”
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Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South