I commend the Georgian Bluffs Climate Action Team for their column in the February 24th Sun Times in which they remind us that the choices we make daily affect our contribution to climate change. However, as an agriculturist I must note that the values they quote in the “Production” section grossly overstate the level of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from agriculture.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada, agricultural sources account for slightly over 8% of Canada’s total GHG emissions (C02 equivalent). (Source: National Inventory Report: Greenhouse gas sources and sinks: Executive Summary 2020 - available on ECCC’s website) This is a significant amount and there is certainly room for improvement. But the total for agriculture pales in comparison to the 44% released from static combustion (e.g. power generation, oil extraction and refining, heating) and the 30% from transportation. Indeed, ECCC estimates that Canadians produce almost as much GHG through heating buildings as from food production.

Of GHG emissions from agriculture, ruminant digestion accounted for 40.7% in the form of methane; GHGs released from soils amounted to 42.4% and waste (e.g. livestock manures) produced 13.5%. Thus, ruminant digestion contributed a little over 3% of total Canadian GHG emissions. And this figure does not include any credit for the beneficial effects on soil health and sustainability from the inclusion of the forage crops used to feed cattle, sheep and goats in crop rotations.

There was also a major aspect of our food decisions missing from the GB Climate Action Team’s column and that was the matter of food waste. Some studies estimate that as much as half of the food grown in Canada is wasted and that about half of the wastage occurs at the consumer level, much of which is avoidable. In addition to the considerations noted in the column, Canadians could do much to reduce GHG emissions by reducing the amount of food they waste.

David Morris
Georgian Bluffs