Climate scientists have vehemently denied claims from the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) that methane emissions from cattle are not as harmful to the atmosphere as previously thought.
Peter Thorne, Maynooth University's director of the ICARUS climate research centre and the Irish coordinating lead author on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), tweeted that such an interpretation is a “pretty atrocious selective view” on what the IPCC report said regarding methane.
“The IPCC report states that strong, rapid and sustained methane reductions are required...Overall, the IPCC report is clear that rapid methane reductions are essential to keep us below 2C warming.
“They clearly, however, cannot be used as an excuse to dally on carbon dioxide emissions, which absolutely must reach net zero. Selective reporting, however, helps nobody,” Prof. Thorne tweeted.
The IFA claimed the IPCC report “clearly confirms that biogenic methane from cattle should be accounted for differently as it only stays in the atmosphere for a relatively short period of time”.
Prof. Thorne, who was backed up by a wide range of scientists, wrote it was not to “demonise in any way Irish farmers”.
He added: “40 years of EU and national policy has encouraged intensification and farmers, have, naturally responded. It is the policy that needs to change first and foremost.
"And there are a huge number of reasons beyond climate why a diversified and resilient agricultural sector would be desirable. But, if any sector needs the just transition to work, it is the agricultural sector."
Policy can't turn around having incentivised farmers and then pull the rug, he said.
Just transition is the term used to describe making sure employment opportunities and societal benefits are present for those who may live and work in communities tied to legacy energy industries, such as coal mining or peat extraction.
Scientists and environmental campaigners who are advocating changes in agricultural practices say those involved in the industry must be given opportunities to flourish in new ways.
Prof. Thorne was backed up by climate scientists and some farmers after he was accused of "lobbying" by a Cork-based farmer.
UCC lecturer in sustainable energy and energy systems, Dr Hannah Daly, tweeted: "To be clear, beef and dairy production will probably always be part of Irish agriculture and industry, climate change academics are not attacking farmers. But the first step is to tell the truth about the global scientific and political consensus on climate change."
Kildare-based scientist and farmer Emma Carroll said on Twitter in response that Irish agricultural leaders can adapt to the changes coming.
"Farmers are doing themselves a disservice denying the obvious...Our future productivity is slipping away while we fight against drivers of innovation...Farmers are a fantastic bunch of people, and I've no doubt that agri leadership have farmers interests at heart. However, where climate is concerned, we need to (and can!) do better.
"We have the tools. We have the brains. So let's make it better," she tweeted.