jm + climate-denialism   1

excellent letter to the editor of the Farmer's Journal regarding the IFA's climate-denialist stance
in full:
Dr Donal Murphy-Bokern M.Agr.Sc. (NUI), Kroge-Ehrendorf, Germany

Dear Sir: I've been involved in reseach on diet, sustainable agriculture and climate change for 25 years. Having followed the public debate across Europe in that time, I can only describe the current debate about diet and greenhouse gas emissions in Ireland as hysterical.

This hysteria started a year ago with the then Irish Farmers Association's president appearing to refer to the EAT Lancet Commission, which includes highly respected nutritionists from the Harvard School of Medicine, as "quacks masquerading as nutrition experts".

This was followed by his condemnation of the Taoiseach for answering a question about his carbon footprint by stating an intention to moderate his consumption of red meat. No vegan-led campaign could have better drawn public attention to the links between diet and environment than the IFA's boorish and ignorant reflex reactions.

The hysteria goes on. Now, just a year later, the IFA's chosen greenhouse gas "guru" reports that methane from farming should be treated differently to CO,, raising hopes of a get-out-of-jail card for cattle and sheep.

Self-description as a guru does not invite the confidence of scientific peers and Dr Mitloehner's presentation, published by the IFA, reveals why he is as controversial as is widely reported.

Methane's short-lived nature does not lead to the public policy outcomes that he implies it should with climate acquittal for ruminant production. He reduced discussion about the impact of livestock to one currency, which is carbon, and then misrepresented the valuation of that currency.

Despite being a native of Germany, where most land not suitable for arable crops is under forest, he argued that marginal land in Ireland cannot be used for anything other than for keeping cattle and sheep.

But what was most striking about the IFA's guru is how he worked the audience using rhetorical tricks more associated with demagogic politicians than science.

This science denial included using the strawman fallacy, raising and then countering several bogus opposing arguments. Listening to him, one could be forgiven for believing that vegans have been protesting on the streets of Dublin threatening to interfere with the nation's food supplies.

He used the classical conspiracy theory complete with a collective name for the conspirators: "destructors".

He then drew on popular images of Ireland ("green and lush" and "happy cows") to ingratiate himself with the audience while making wild and poorly informed assumptions about the scope for carbon sequestration on Irish grassland, displaying a poor understanding of basic soil science.

The IFA's stated purpose was the rebalancing of the public debate. Hosting a controversial US scientist who refers to those with views different to those of the IFA on these matters as "destructors" is hardly a promising way forward.

The IFA seems to continue to take pride in caring little for the concerns and expectations of the wider society upon which the real long-term interests of its members ultimately depend. Their faux-militancy might go down well with some members, but it now risks presenting Irish farmers as environmental and social pariahs.
letters  farmers-journal  farming  ifa  ireland  climate-change  climate-denialism 
6 weeks ago by jm

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