Ireland day 0296. Thursday 21 July 2022- Enteric
|Today’s summary||Val was at work all day so I spent the morning joining an online discussion by the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about progress towards meeting greenhouse gas reduction targets. The summary is that emissions in all sectors except home were up in 2021 versus 2020 and most were also up vs 2019 (pre-pandemic) levels too. But economic activity is also substantially up. Walked down to Clare hall Tesco in the afternoon|
|Today’s weather||Dry and bright but not much sun. Light easterly breeze. About 19C|
|Today’s overview location
(The blue mark shows the location of my route)
(The green line shows where I walked)
(Click button below to download GPX of today’s walk as recorded, or see interactive map at bottom with elevations corrected):
Malahide Road and Clare hall
Most countries round the world are waking up to the fact that global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are rising and are linked to a strongly warming climate. So Ireland, like many other countries, has a series of targets for reducing emissions over the coming years, to try and keep temperature increases under control. It’s the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s job to track Ireland’s GHG emissions and report them to Government, so that remedial actions can be taken if needs be.
The EPA published its preliminary emissions estimates for 2021 today, and hosted a webinar to discuss its findings. As Val was away at work all day today, I decided to dial in and see what they had found. (By the way the full GHG report is available on the epa.ie website if you want to read the details)
It was an absolutely fascinating event. The headline message isn’t really good news, unfortunately. Emissions in all sectors, except “home”, were up in 2021 compared to 2020, and most were up compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic), too. Ireland’s emissions mix is different from almost all other countries in that the biggest emissions sector by some margin is agriculture (it’s bigger than emissions from transport and electricity generation combined). And specifically, within agriculture, “Enteric fermentation” is by far the biggest contributor. I discerned that this is basically code for “manure and cow farts* “.
The rise in enteric fermentation follows almost exactly the recent rise in milk production. Which makes me even more glad that we cut back on our milk consumption since watching the “Cow” film last year. (By the way in case you were wondering, cows of course produce methane not carbon dioxide – but methane has 28 times the greenhouse warming potential of CO2. The worst offender in this regard is sulphur hexafluoride, which has 28,000 times the warming potential of CO2. It is used in electrical switchgear and, up to 2006, was found in the soles of Nike “Air” trainer shoes.)
It was disappointing also to see that electricity generation from renewables was down in 2021 (because it wasn’t a very windy year) and the gap left through their intermittency had been filled by increased generation from oil and coal. I also found it interesting to see that forestry is now a net contributor to GHG emissions – because all the trees that were planted as carbon sinks 20 or 30 years ago are being harvested and the sequestered carbon released. I always though that the notion of planting trees to offset emissions was a bit misguided for this very reason, and the evidence seems slowly to be emerging to support this. On the bright side, though, emissions per unit of economic activity and per capita have declined dramatically in Ireland since 1990.
So all in all, it was a bit of mixed picture but on the current trajectory, Ireland won’t meet its emissions targets for 2030. I did ask whether carbon abatement technologies like carbon capture and storage were envisaged as helping in address the overshoot, but it’s clear that EPA’s job is just to report emissions; it is a Government responsibility to decide what changes in policy are needed. It will be interesting to see what if any actions do ensue – but in the midst of a cost of living crisis, the options for squaring the circle seem limited. Perhaps soaring energy prices as a result of recent international conflicts will work on their own to dampen fossil fuel demand without additional measures being needed. It seems a bit of a forlorn hope, though.
Anyway after this absolutely fascinating but somewhat sobering start to the day, I realised that we had run out of some of the basics of our existence, like porridge oats and crisps, so I decided that a trip to Tesco at Clare Hall was in order. Suddenly aware of the need to reduce my own carbon emissions I decided to walk down there and catch the bus back. At only €2 for the fare, it’s probably cheaper than driving there and back, too.
I enjoyed the walk down the Malahide Road to the supermarket – thankfully, quite a lot of the distance is covered in the Malahide castle demesne, which is a bit of an oasis of calm and tranquillity at this time of year. Even the walk down the busy road is moderately interesting – with a former Taoiseach’s house and St Doulagh’s Church (with the stone roof) to look at on the way down. And there is an abundance of brightly coloured flowering plants decorating the wayside too – like the striking Hypericum (St John’s Wort) in the banner image at the top of the blog.
Once I’d dragged myself round the supermarket and finished my shopping, I decided to splash out on a cup of tea and a biscuit in a nearby café (a mere €5.50) and enjoyed a few moments peace and quiet to get on with my book. But sadly my reverie was interrupted when the café closed so I pulled my things together and headed off to the bus stop to catch the no. 42 back to Malahide. I was soon back at the flat and I managed to pull dinner together quickly from the things I’d bought down at Tesco, and a casserole that I’d made yesterday from some half price meat that I’d bought at SuperValu yesterday.
And yes, before you ask, it was beef. Given all the foregoing, I don’t quite know how I’m square that with my conscience. Perhaps in the future we should substitute lentils for beef – though I do worry slightly that in this case I might just transfer the enteric fermentation problem from cows to me.
* (A friend of mine, who knows more about the chemistry of rumination than I do, has subsequently advised me that the cow methane might actually be burped rather than farted. I will take their word for, though, it as I really don’t fancy the idea of doing my own first hand research).
Today’s photos (click to enlarge)
(Elevations corrected at GPS Visualizer: Assign DEM elevation data to coordinates )
Max elevation: 38 m
Min elevation: 8 m
Total climbing: 116 m
Total descent: -99 m
Total time: 01:24:15