Indicator: A-45 Greenhouse - agricultural sector carbon dioxide equivalent emissions


Trends in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the agricultural sector, 1990-2004

Trends in carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from the agricultural sector, 1990-2004

Source: Australian Greenhouse Office 2006, National Greenhouse Gas Inventory, DEH.

The CSIRO/University of Sydney Triple Bottom Line Analysis of the Australian Economy, provides a whole of life analysis of the greenhouse gas emissions of all aspects of Australian industry, including agricultural industries. Emissions are shown in the following table. Meat products, dairy products and clothing are also shown because much of greenhouse gas emitted in growing farm animals is ultimately embodied in these products. To avoid misinterpretation, it is essential that these figures be read with an understanding of what they actually represent (see below, “What the data mean”.)

Greenhouse gas emissions by agricultural industry (kt)
In supplying industry Total
Sugar cane 520 0
Cotton 1,222 -
Vegetables and fruit 3,369 4,055
Barley 1,058 487
Rice 716 14
Wheat and other grains 2,088 1,414
Beef 122,527 18,234
Dairy cattle and milk 8,801 627
Pigs 1,302 17
Poultry and eggs 579 666
Sheep and shorn wool 23,899 14,373
Meat products 680 91,478
Dairy products 594 10,340
Flour and cereal foods 354 1,752
Bakery products 252 2,833
Confectionary 158 883
Clothing 83 2,950

Source: Foran,B; Lenzen, M and Dey,C. 2005, Balancing Act: A triple bottom line of the Australian economy, DEH, Canberra.

What the data mean

The data shows a slight increase in carbon equivalent emissions from the agricultural sector over the reporting period, 1990-2003. Sixty percent of emissions from the agricultural sector come from enteric fermentation in livestock. These are emissions associated with microbial fermentation during digestion of feed by ruminant (mostly cattle and sheep) and some non-ruminant domestic livestock. Emissions associated with agricultural soils (e.g. disturbance of land by cropping, improved pastures and the application of fertilisers and animal wastes) and prescribed burning of savannas also account for a significant proportion of net emissions.

The Balancing Act report gives two figures for greenhouse gas emissions by industry: “in supplying industry” and “total”. The “in supplying industry” figures include the greenhouse gas emitted within the industry itself. In the case of an extensive farm growing farm animals, this includes the emissions that occur on the farm, in growing and managing the pasture to feed the animals. However, in the case of an intensive animal production facility, such as a piggery, beef feedlot or poultry establishment, it excludes any greenhouse emissions from the production of the feed for the animals. Since cattle are primarily grown extensively in Australia and pigs and poultry are primarily grown intensively, this accounts for the relatively low “in supplying industry” greenhouse emissions figures for “pigs” and “poultry and eggs” and the very high figures for “beef”.

The second figure in the table derived from the Balancing Act analysis is “total” greenhouse gas emissions and represents the emissions from the whole life cycle of the product at the point where it reaches the final consumer. Cotton, sugar cane and pigs all show relatively low “total” emissions because relatively little raw cotton, sugar cane, pigs or fowls find their way to final consumer in these forms. The final greenhouse emissions from these products are attributed to the industries in which they are processed for final consumption, such as confectionary, clothing and meat products. In order to give some perspective to these figures, Table 5 includes the total emissions embodied in some of the final products derived from agricultural sources.

Data Limitations

Nil known.

Issues for which this is an indicator and why

Atmosphere — Climate variability and change - Greenhouse 

The agricultural sector accounts for around 19 percent of Australia’s net emissions and therefore, is one of the major drivers in our level of net greenhouse emissions. Emissions from the agriculture sector is a direct indicator for this issue.

Other indicators for this issue:

Land — Contributions and pressures between the land and the atmosphere - Climate 

Greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural land use are a significant contributor to Australia’s total greenhouse emissions. Global greenhouse emissions are considered to be contributing to global warming.

Other indicators for this issue:

Further Information