September 16th is International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer – something, let’s face it, that should be a permanent fixture rather than merely an annual reminder.
This year, World Ozone Day will mark 35 years since the Montreal Protocol was agreed, a treaty which halted one of the biggest threats to humanity as a whole: the depletion of the ozone layer. News that ozone-depleting gases used in aerosols and cooling were creating a hole in the sky caused public condemnation which turned into global action. These gases were phased out and the ozone layer is reportedly healing, shielding humanity from the sun’s UV radiation.
This, states the United Nations, ‘allowed vital ecosystems to survive and thrive’ . . . ‘safeguarding life on Earth’, and ‘it slowed climate change’. The international organisation goes on to say that ‘if ozone-depleting chemicals had not been banned, we would be looking at a global temperature rise of an additional 2.5°C by the end of this century . . . a catastrophe’.
But we are far from out of the woods yet.
Now or never for Net Zero
A flagship UN report on climate change published earlier this year indicating that harmful carbon emissions from 2010-2019 have never been higher in human history. Scientists warned it’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, which can only be made possible by achieving ‘Net Zero’ targets by 2050.
The 2022 Circularity Gap Report highlights the harsh reality of climate change over the past five years, since the release of its first report. Between the time when the Paris Agreement was reached in December 2015, deemed historic, and COP26 held in Glasgow in 2021, more than half a trillion tonnes of virgin materials were consumed – unused raw material that has never been subjected to any processing other than for its production.
In the report, it has outlined a set of 21 circular strategies, enabling the world to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping it at 1.5-degrees of warming by 2032 by cutting emissions by 22.8 billion tonnes, a 39% reduction from 2019 levels.
Why food system emissions are still increasing
A third of EU Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions come from the food system, and according to comprehensive research published in 2021, food system emissions amounted to 18 Gt CO2 equivalent per year globally, representing 34% of total GHG emissions. At 71%, the largest contribution in GHG emissions comes from agriculture and land use/land-use change activities; half of the GHG emissions are CO2 (linked to land use change and energy) and one third is methane due to livestock, rice production and waste management, with most of the rest emitted as N2O from nitrogen fertilisers.
These figures show just how much the global food system is becoming more energy intensive as it requires materials and energy for processing, packaging, transporting and storage, with almost a third of food system emissions coming directly from energy-consumption. Even in comparison to industrial activities, which significantly impact on the atmosphere and biosphere, study findings back in 2010 emphasised what scientific research already showed, that “agricultural processes have an inherently low efficiency of resource use, which renders food, fibres and fuels from agriculture among the more polluting resources”.
How AgriTech addresses climate change
Now, new technology and innovation in agriculture are considered a vital part of the solution to our many problems, both environmentally and economically – climate damage, carbon emissions, food shortages, food security and not least of all, a rapidly growing global population.
AgriTech can reduce the impact on land, solve food supply, and make homegrown food more accessible. It also provides more control by only growing food when it is needed, therefore reducing waste. AgriTech also delivers a specific, measurable outcome, allowing farmers to make small adjustments which result in significant cost and energy savings, needed now more than ever in the face of record energy costs.
While we are fast running out of time – as well as land and other finite resources – the one viable solution is to invest now in a more sustainable method of farming, while we have the chance.