Post 8 – Brainstorming possibilities for a design response to climate change

By Vicky Lam

In this Week 6, we brainstorm the possibilities for a design response to the issue of climate change. Climate change is a big and heated topic and the tutor reminded us to focus on one sector or aspect related to this issue when generating the problem statement. Through brainstorming in the tutorial and based on further secondary researches after the tutorial in Week 6, I narrow down the issue and identify a specific problem statement, namely, “Reduction in Australian Livestock Greenhouse gas emissions”. I chose this problem statement because the key stakeholders often overlook this issue, here I mean the general public including young generation (as meat/diary product consumers) and the farmers (as livestock, meat and dairy-product producers (of around 200,000 people employed in Australian livestock/red meat industry including on-farm production, processing and retail).

 

Australia is one of the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the world, talking around 27 tonnes of CO2 per capita, and the biggest emitter-states are Queensland, NSW and Victoria. In Australia, livestock sector is the third largest source of GHG emissions after the energy and transport sectors (electricity and transport contribute 35% and 14 % respectively), and about 15% of GHG emissions are generated from agriculture; and livestock emissions mostly from cattle and sheep account for about 70% of GHGs by the agricultural sector and 11% of total national GHG emissions (Sudmeyer 2016). Main GHGs emitted by livestock (especially ruminant livestock such as cattle and sheep) are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O). CH4 is created by digestion of cellulose in rumens of livestock and released through burping or breathing and N2O is released through nitrogen fertilizers and from urine and dung of livestock. CO2 is emitted from farms through energy consumption (burning of fossil fuels) in pasture management. Average air temperature in Australia has increased by around 0.9oC since 1910, based on CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology’s data in Australia (Young Carbon Farmers, viewed 9 September 2016). CH4 and N2O are both powerful GHG gases with 23 and 297 times the global warming potential of CO2 (Agriculture Victoria, viewed 9 September 2016). If the emissions are not controlled, we will see more extreme weather events to happen in Australia such as storms, heat waves, bushfires, decline in rainfall in southern Australia and higher regional temperature, which have adverse effect on the regional communities and the agricultural sector as a whole. Australia needs to achieve the 2020 target of reducing GHG emissions to 5% below the 2000 level (such as adoption of carbon farming in livestock producers and change our diet of eating less red meat as food consumers) in order to meet the Kyoto Protocol (2010-2020) of keeping global temperature rise within 2oC.

 

There is a conflict between the goal of reducing the carbon emissions from livestock industry and the goal of up-keeping the livestock industry in Australia for both domestic consumption and exports. It is important to understand the issue for getting win-win scenarios, that is getting improved pasture quality and livestock efficiency and hence improved productivity and also lower carbon emission intensity per unit of product produced. To address this issue, there are five possibilities/options: –

  1. Create a data-driven visualization to visually capture the data of Australian livestock industry and carbon emissions such as Australia’s overall GHG emissions as compared with other countries, source of Australian emissions including the agriculture sector, the cattle and sheep populations and distributions in various Australian states/territories, ranking of countries in beef consumption per person, trends of Australian’s appetite for major favourite meats (consumption per person), Australian exports of beef/sheep meat, live cattle/sheep and dairy products by destination, etc.
  2. Create a service design which provides an online website platform for the livestock producers to know the climate threats to Australian livestock industry and share the knowledge, technologies, views and experience in carbon farming, for the purpose of reducing carbon emissions and increasing productivity and efficiency and hence profitability in livestock industry.
  3. Create a service design in the form of a smart phone app to assist the meat and dairy product consumers in the communities to know the impacts and how the climate change and livestock industry are related to each other, and encourage them to change their diets of eating less red meat and consuming less dairy products in their daily life for reasons of health as well as reduction of carbon emissions.
  4. Create a service design in the form of a smartphone app to assist the consumers to calculate their meat/dairy products consumed per quarter or per annum.
  5. A combination of any of the above options.

 

I propose to do option 1 because it provides data visualization for easy apprehension of the issue by stakeholders.

 

Reference

  1. Sudmeyer R., “Carbon farming and livestock emissions”, Department of Agriculture and Food, Government of Western Australia, posted 17 March 2016, viewed 9 September 2016, <https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/climate-change/carbon-farming-and-livestock-emissions?nopaging=1 >
  2. “The Changing Climate”, Young Carbon Farmers, viewed 9 September 2016, <http://www.futurefarmers.com.au/young-carbon-farmers/the-changing-climate >
  3. “Methane research: Greenhouse emissions from Australian agriculture”, Agriculture Victoria, viewed 9 September 2016, <http://agriculture.vic.gov.au/agriculture/dairy/emissions-in-dairy/methane-research >