Agriculture is a major part of what separates human society from its prehistoric past and has become a major influence on our daily lives. It's important that we evaluate existing structures in order to recognise their weaknesses so we can gain insight into potential solutions. In the case of agriculture we need to look at its impact on global warming through transport and methane emissions.
Silent But Deadly
While it might be humorous to consider, cows and other livestock do significantly contribute to global warming through their emissions (that is farts). Methane is a gas which contributes to global warming through the greenhouse effect. As most of us are aware, the greenhouse effect is what happens when insulating gasses are trapped in the earth’s atmosphere. Gasses like methane will allow light to enter the planet, warming it up, but will prevent the heat from escaping and cause it to heat up. Because we have bred cows to be large, they eat more and are generally larger which means that they will be producing more methane than their earlier counterparts, making them a further detriment to our ecological survival.
In bygone days, everyone in a town/village had to be involved in producing food to live. This is no longer the case. Modern agriculture has advanced to the point that only 26% of the world population now works in agriculture. And this is why we now have computers, airplanes and medicine, etc. As a result, with modern food production becoming ever more efficient due to technological advances, it is natural to see a centralisation in where food is produced and then stored before being distributed globally, in many cases. Agriculture, as it is now, is leading to an increase in our foods’ air miles as produce needs to travel from the areas which have specialised in producing that kind of produce to other areas which have specialised in producing other goods/services. Agriculture contributes to global warming by causing an increased amount of transportation to be done which burns more fossil fuels and supplies the greenhouse effect.
Agricultural Land vs Heat Islands
Agriculture, like most human endeavors, has had a negative impact on global warming. But the news is not all bad! As most people who have visited or live in large cities can testify, it is much hotter there. This effect has come to be known as ‘Urban Heat Islands’ . This theory looks at the surface temperature of the land and has made a definite correlation between rising surface temperatures and the increase of urban areas. In-fact, deforestation also contributes to these rising surface temperatures. However, land deforested for agricultural purposes are the only areas which don't see net increases in surface temperature. This is good, as currently 70% of land in the UK is devoted to agriculture, a trend which continues worldwide.