88% of farmers agree that climate change is real

In the 2017 Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll, 88% of farmers agreed that climate change was a reality.

Irish farmers are therefore definitely climate change believers, despite the greenhouse gas issue being very diffuse.

Farmers go along with the general agreement that the earth is getting warmer (which may in practice be a benefit for Ireland, if not for others), and that this is caused by human activity, according to the poll results.

This climate change could have catastrophic effects in raising sea and river levels and expansion of deserts, causing drought, particularly in poorer parts of the world.

More frequent extreme weather events such as hurricanes are also forecast.

The human activity, which causes global warming is largely concentrated in the developed world, including in Ireland.

Half those polled agreed that farming contributed to global warming, while 30% disagreed.

Tillage farmers were much less inclined to the view that farming contributed to global warming.

Ireland is unusual in that 35% of the greenhouse gases produced here are attributed to the agriculture sector, and in particular to our cattle, which emit large quantities of methane, (a particularly potent greenhouse gas), when they digest food.

The corresponding figures for transport and residential buildings are 22% and 10%.

Again, about half those polled felt the Government was doing enough to combat climate change, while about 30% felt more was needed.

Younger farmers, and those with smaller farms, were more inclined to the view that the Government was not doing enough.

If “enough” means reaching the targets set by the EU to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and 2030, and targets set for 2050 by the United Nations, there seems to be strong farmer backing for Ireland’s 2020 target to cut emissions 20% in agriculture, transport, the built environment, waste and non-energy intensive industry, compared to 2005 levels.

But there is almost no chance of these targets being met, due to the recovery in the economy and growth in the dairy herd.

The latest estimate by the Environmental Protection Agency is that a reduction of 4-6% from 2005 levels is all that will be achieved.

There are few Government measures in place to ensure that the targets will be achieved.

However there is a clear threat of fines from the European Union if the targets are not met.

One estimate puts the level of these fines at €610m for 2020, with continuing fines thereafter.

So while there is a moral case for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, there is also now a financial one.

Government targets for continued expansion of the dairy and beef industry and for meeting commitments to reduce greenhouse gasses are clearly in conflict.

Over 60% of those in the 2017 Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll claimed that they had implemented measures on their farms, which would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Two years ago, in the 2015 Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll, only 85 farmers out of 569 said they should cut back their production in order to reduce global warming.

Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll

The Irish Examiner ICMSA farming poll was designed to provide a robust and accurate snapshot of the attitudes, beliefs and opinions of the farming community about a range of issues, both farming and social. The survey involved 569 interviews with farm dwelling adults in the Republic of Ireland.

Fieldwork was completed by Behaviour & Attitudes over a two-week period between August 13 and 27, with interviewing undertaken onsite by Behaviour & Attitudes interviewers across eight agricultural shows. The sample size is large and the data has a statistical margin of error of +/-4%.

The sampling approach involves a random probability method, with interviews being undertaken with attendees provided they worked and/or lived on a farm. 429 interviews were with farmers themselves, 31 with non family, farm employees, and the balance with spouses (66), most of whom -5 out of 6- personally work on the family farm as well.

All data is copyrighted by the Irish Examiner and Behaviour & Attitudes and should be attributed to this source where quoted.

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