It is interesting to read in The Guardian, also carried in The Irish Times, that if global society was to collapse, Ireland would be one of the five best places in the world to survive such a meltdown.
The key criteria in making the selection was the ability to produce food, be able to defend against mass migration, produce electricity and maintain basic manufacturing.
Islands in a temperate climate are considered best suited, hence Ireland joins New Zealand, Iceland, Tasmania and Britain as the best suited to function.
Obviously, there is no desire to ever reach this Armageddon, but there is a reminder in what is really essential and, furthermore, what the natural resources of a temperate island are best suited to producing.
Food in its many forms is part of this and, in the case of a temperate island, there will be large areas of grassland.
The only way that grassland can be converted to food that humans can consume is through livestock in the form of either meat or dairy.
One-size-fits-all approach isn’t best for climate
This is why a one-size-fits-all approach for emissions reduction targets doesn’t deliver the best global outcome.
The reason that such a high proportion of Irish emissions come from agriculture is simply because Ireland’s climate dictates that livestock farming is the most natural fit for our land use.
It is why Ireland is the most efficient for dairy
Not only is there grass to provide animal feed, but there is also an abundance of water, an essential for livestock. It is why Ireland is the most efficient for dairy and at the top end of efficiency per kilo of output in the world.
Contrast this with parts of the world that don’t have an abundance of grassland or water.
Many parts of the world have to keep livestock in sheds, fed with imported grain and water sourced from deep drilling wells.
In extreme temperature regions, ventilation may have to be supplemented by air conditioning, a further stress on energy demands.
Demand for the produce will continue
The glib retort when presented with this reality is often that people will just have to either eliminate or dramatically reduce their consumption of animal-based products.
This is already happening in many parts of the developed world, but the reality is that demand from the fast developing economies of Asia, and to a lesser extent (so far) Africa, means that overall global demand for meat and dairy products will increase over this decade, not decrease.
There will be a 13% or 44m tonnes increase in meat production by the end of this decade
This is reflected in the most recent OECD/FAO report on agricultural food markets, trends and prospects. It identifies that there will be a 13% or 44m tonnes increase in meat production by the end of this decade.
Half of this will come from the poultry sector, with beef and sheepmeat contributing an extra 4m tonnes and 3m tonnes each.
The fastest-growing sector will be dairy, where milk production is forecast to increase by 22%, concentrated in India and Pakistan.
Much of this increased production will occur close to these markets, with environmental constraints likely to curtail expansion in Europe, the US and New Zealand.
However, the point remains that the world will require more livestock-based produce in 2030 than it does today.
It makes little sense to curtail livestock in areas of natural pasture with abundant water resources, such as Ireland and New Zealand, and transfer it to less suitable producing regions.
What livestock agriculture has to do is to bring forward and adopt measures that minimise emissions and real progress can be made here.