Irish farmers and New Zealand farmers share a great deal besides the love of rugby, including being among the most efficient pasture-based operators in the world. While we compete in the market, at farm level we have so much in common, it is fair to ask why we don’t interact more.

An area of mutual concern is ruminant methane taxing and restrictions. New Zealand farmers are keen to join in an international effort to bring sound current science and basic common sense back into the debate.

“We hope that Irish farmers will work with us to produce a strong international front to push back against unscientific and illogical efforts to tax farmers on something harmless and not causing warming,” said Owen Jennings, manager of the Methane Science Accord, former national president of Federated Farmers and former member of Parliament.

New Zealand farmers have set up the Methane Science Accord to bring together organisations with over 100,000 members, to oppose the previous government’s efforts to reduce methane emissions in accordance with the various UN demands on climate change.

The Accord has researched ruminant methane in depth and has arrived at a set of conclusions that it is taking to the recently elected coalition government. Farmers are cautiously optimistic that its more sympathetic approach will be helpful. Irish farmers may be interested in the Methane Science Accord’s position statement.

Dairy Farms, New zealand, 2018.

Five-point position

  • 1. Ruminant methane is too miniscule and insignificant to tax or curtail. All methane constitutes 0.00019%, or 1.9 parts per million, of the atmosphere. Of that very minor amount 10-14% is attributed to all ruminants. That reduces the amount of methane produced by all ruminants to 0.0000252%, or two parts per 10m, of the atmosphere. New Zealand’s lead climate scientist says New Zealand farmers have been responsible for shifting temperature by one, one thousandth degree Celsius per 100 years, or one/10 millionth of a degree Celsius per year.
  • 2. Detailed analysis of the atmosphere’s electromagnetic spectrum shows that methane in the atmosphere operates in two very weak wavelengths, one in a band area where the earth emits very little energy, so virtually no absorption occurs, and one in a weak wavelength, where there is limited absorption. Water vapour dominates the spectrum at this wavelength, severely limiting methane’s radiation absorbing capacity. See diagram Figure 1.
  • 3. Ruminants are unique greenhouse gas emitters in that they are reliant on feed produced by using significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere in the photosynthesis process.
  • 4. Article 2 (b) of the 2015 Paris Agreement requires countries to avoid measures that “threaten” food production. New Zealand feeds 40m people.
  • 5. New Zealand has the lowest “so-called’ carbon footprint of any food-producing nation by a margin of 40%, indicating “leakage” would occur if New Zealand’s food production was reduced. The Accord asserts there is no need for any action against ruminant methane, but points out to those who mistakenly do demand taxing, that measures that merely relocate a source of emissions from one country to another are dangerous and counterproductive.
  • Accord’s demands/requirements

  • 1. No further regulatory action be taken to tax or curtail ruminant methane emissions.
  • 2. Research and all public expenditure on farm measurements and reporting relating to ruminant methane emissions be phased out.
  • 3. The New Zealand government to join with Federated Farmers and industry bodies, to urgently build an international constituency to counter any moves to tax or curtail ruminant methane. Such a constituency would be with countries where ruminant methane emissions are high and developing countries who are building an agricultural industry based on ruminants.
  • Figure 1: Thermal radiation absorption bands for water vapour and methane. Methane is a poor absorber of thermal radiation.

    Sources of Science

  • The Impact of CO2, H2O and Other Greenhouse Gases on Equilibrium Earth Temperatures’ – Coe, Fabinski, Wiegleb (2021).
  • Radiative Forcing of Carbon Dioxide, Methane and Nitrous Oxide: A Significant Revision of the Methane Radiative Forcing, M. Etminan, G. Myhre, E. J. Highwood and K. P. Shine (2016).
  • Dependence of Earth’s Thermal Radiation on Five Most Abundant Greenhouse Gases. W. A. van Wijngaarden and W. Happer.
  • Improved calculation of warming-equivalent emissions for short-lived climate pollutants. Michelle Cain, John Lynch, Myles R. Allen, Jan S. Fuglestvedt, David J. Frame and Adrian H Macey.
  • Greenhouse gases absorb thermal radiation or heat. They form a blanket around the earth’s atmosphere. This blanket stops heat from leaving the planet and contributes to global warming. These scientists say that methane is a poor absorber of thermal radiation.