NFU SCOTLAND hopes to set the record straight on facts regarding agriculture and climate change, with a ground-breaking fellowship which will pull together scientific evidence to counter what it calls ‘misinformation’.

A researcher at Scotland’s Rural College, Dr Gemma Miller, has recently been appointed a Fellow with NFUS, where she will put together materials that provide clear and scientifically backed facts around agriculture and climate change.

Over the coming months, she will be writing a series of blogs which will focus in on ground-breaking research being undertaken across the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes which include SRUC, Moredun, the James Hutton Institute, BioSS, the Rowett Institute and the Royal Botanic Gardens.

Dr Miller commented on her new appointment: “The purpose of the Fellowship will be to pull together the scientific evidence around greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon sequestration in agriculture and its impact on climate change – particularly focusing on the distinct role of agriculture in Scotland.

“I have a background in researching GHGs and carbon sequestration within the agriculture and land-use sector (ruminant livestock production, agricultural soils, peatlands and forestry), which puts me in a good position to help bring clarity to some of the more contentious issues within the industry.”

Scottish agriculture is under increasing pressure to reduce GHG emissions, to meet national and international targets. At the end of September, the Scottish Government passed amendments to the Scottish Climate Change Bill which set ambitious new targets to reduce GHG emissions by 75%, by 2030, as it moves towards its goal to be nett-zero by 2045 – five years ahead of the UK target.

Dr Miller continued: “The debate surrounding the impact of agriculture on climate change often becomes bogged down by opposing claims, misinterpretation of facts and repetition of myths.

“If the agricultural industry in Scotland, as a whole, can agree on what the current state of play is regarding agricultural emissions and environmental impact, it has a much better chance of moving forward in taking action to further reduce GHG emissions and in improving the image of Scottish agriculture.

“Science plays a role in defining the role of agriculture in climate change in terms of emissions and sequestration. Scientists both physically measure GHGs in the field and build computer models which can accurately predict GHG emissions and sequestration from agriculture under current and changing conditions,” she explained.

“There are lots of different methods that are applied to achieve this, and these vary from study to study.”

Scottish farmers and crofters have been calling for official statistics to properly account for and measure carbon sequestration for some time. Dr Miller said she will be developing content that can support farmers in their arguments with scientific evidence at the fore.

“I’ll be creating some materials which will provide a clear and concise summary of the facts, how these are backed up by scientific evidence, and the level of confidence we have that the values reported are accurate.

“Science is shaping the response to climate change through development of agri-tech solutions, developing and rigorously testing GHG mitigation strategies, leading research in soil science, agronomy, animal nutrition and health; informing policy through economic analysis and behavioural science and understanding the wider impacts through ecological and environmental science,” she concluded.