Peak Food Author John Gossop in Yorkshire Post

February 28, 2009 · Filed Under Peak Food in the News · 2 Comments 

Today the Yorkshire Post printed the article below about Peak Food author, John Gossop.

Peak Food Author John Gossop in the Yorkshire Post
Modernisation is the key to sustainability in farming
Published Date: 28 February 2009

FARMERS must modernise their methods to contend with the twin threats of climate change and depleted fossil fuel supplies, a leading Yorkshire campaigner has warned.
In more than 40 years as a farmer in the East Riding, John Gossop has seen the industry respond to a wide range of difficult challenges.

But he considers global warming and farming’s reliance on non-renewable energy to be the greatest problems yet, and has written a book and several articles to illustrate how severe their combined impact may be.

Farmers and academics have turned to Mr Gossop’s book Famine in the West and Peakfood website for his views on how the industry will look in the future.

Now his theories are likely to reach an even wider audience after he was nominated for the Climate Change category in the inaugural Yorkshire Post Environment Awards.

The award category recognises those who show innovative, imaginative and strategic thinking in tackling or adapting to climate change.

Mr Gossop, of Swinefleet, near Goole, said: “With climate change, one of the worries is it is going to make production less reliable.

“The other thing is farming itself and the food production system is dependent on the fuels that are causing the greenhouse gas problem. We are going to have to come up with a better way of using solar energy.”

Mr Gossop believes the industry could help protect the environment by embracing changes to the conventional system of farming.

Current farming practices for these crops involve using a combine harvester to separate the seed from the stem in the field.

The seed is dried using fossil energy so that it can be stored safely in bulk, while the straw is either chopped and incorporated into the soil or baled and transported for animal bedding.

Mr Gossop said: “The present system has revolved around cheap fossil fuels but, some time in the future, if fuel becomes more expensive and scarce then food itself will become more expensive and scarce.

“We need to have a farming system that makes use of the whole crop in a sustainable way. We are so wasteful in everything that we do. If we are going to continue to support a world population using so much fossil fuels, the system must change.

“I would take the crop to a biorefinery or a processing plant which extracts all the energy from the food.

“There is as much energy in the straw as there is in the seed; by collecting the straw as well and possibly turning that into cellulosic ethanol, we would be producing enough energy to ensure the farming is self-sufficient.

“In the past we have not had to worry that we are wasting so much energy, but the system that we are proposing is about trying to get around that.

“We want to fuel farming from its own resources – as it always was.”

For more information about the Yorkshire Post Environment Awards see www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/environmentawards

Biogas from Waste

February 21, 2009 · Filed Under climate change · Comment 

Has the government at last realised that it is crazy not to extract value from so called waste?

At the moment the UK produces over 12 million tons of food waste each year, most of which ends up in expensive landfill. In addition, animal manures are often treated as a nuisance at intesive livestock units.

Speaking at the National Farmers Union conference last week, Farming Minister Jane Kennedy announced plans to use manure, food waste, and slurry to create heat, power and fuel for transport, using anaerobic digestion.

A biogas task force is being set up to build upon the NFU’s vision of 1,000 biogas plants on farms by 2020. Ms Kennedy said that waste material could produce enough heat and power to run more than two million homes – helping to prevent dangerous climate change by providing a renewable energy source as well as reducing our relience on landfill.

Climate Change Pace exceeds Estimates

February 15, 2009 · Filed Under climate change · Comment 

Christopher Field, founding director of the Carnegie Institution’s Departtment of Global Ecology at Stanford University and a member of the IPCC, speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science said, “We are basically looking now at a future climate that’s beyond anything we’ve considered seriosly in climate model simulations.”

He went on to explain that emissions from burning fossil fuels since 2000 have lagely outpaced the estimates used in the U.N. panel’s 2007 reports, due largely to the increased burning of coal in developing countries.

Unexpectedly large amounts of carbon dioxide are being released into the atmosphere as the result of “feedback loops” that are speeding up natural processes.

Speaking about the melting of arctic permafrost, Field said, “It’s a vicious cycle of feedback where warming causes the release of carbon from permafrost, which causes more warming, which causes more release from permafrost.”

He also noted that evidence is also accumulating that terrestial and marine ecosystems cannot remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as earlier estimates suggested.

Climate change is just one of the factors that will cause Peak Food.

Food v fuel debate – biorefineries can give us both

February 14, 2009 · Filed Under competition from biofuels · Comment 

There has been much heated debate about using good cropland to grow biofuel . Many people believe that this will push up the price of food while others believe that it is essential for the west to grow biofuels to make us less dependent on imported oil and also to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

So far as reducing emissions, some biofuels are much better than others. Ethanol made from sugar cane in sunny Brazil with the waste being used as the process heat source compares very favourably with Ethanol made from Corn in Iowa where coal or gas is used for heat. When the energy used to grow and transport the crop is taken into account, the energy gain is not very high and without subsidies, this would not be economical.

However, just because some poor systems have evolved, we shouldn’t forget that plants are by far the most important collectors of solar energy and well planned and executed systems could provide plenty of food as well as lots of fuel. As the fossil energy needed to grow our food will inevitably become scarce and unreliable at some time it is crucial that such systems are developed quickly.

At the recent National Non-Food Crops Centre conference, Prof. Bruce Dale of Michigan State University pointed out that in the main we don’t grow food for humans, we grow feed for livestock, whose calorie and protein demands are, respectively, 6 and 10 times those of humans.

Advances in technology can allow that animal feed to be produced more efficiently in bio refineries making biofuel.

Studies at MSU’s Biomass Conversion Research Laboratory show that the area needed to generate large amounts of fuel from biomass-and the overall cost- can be significantly reduced by recovering protein.

Gulf Stream at risk from Climate Change

February 10, 2009 · Filed Under termninology · 4 Comments 

Part of the ‘Global Ocean Conveyor Belt’, a series of giant ocean currents that flow around the earth, the Gulf stream carries vast quantities of warm Atlantic water northward giving Europe and parts of North America a temperate climate. The amount of heat involved is phenomenal, estimated by Stephen Rahmstorf, an oceanographer at Germany’s Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, as equivalent to one million powerplants.

Without the Gulf stream, Northern Europe would be hardly habitable, certainly not by the present dense population.

The Gulf stream is powered by the weight of the dense, salty water of the northern part of the current which sinks, pulling the current behind it. Scientists are extremely worried that fresh water pouring into the northern ocean from melting glaciers will mix with the salt water of the current making it lighter and unable to sink. It is disturbing that from measurements taken in the last few years there is already a decline in the vigour of the circulation and studies indicate that unlike other climate changes, ocean currents can shift or stop in just a few years.

The effects of such a shut-down would push Northern Europe into semi-Arctic weather conditions, a change so profound that most people don’t even want to think about it.