The University and climate change
Agriculture and being 'green' can go together. The University’s commitment to sustainability and climate change issues is apparent in much of its teaching and research, which focuses on mitigating the impact of agriculture on the planet. Our undergraduate students all take common courses that put their learning into a global context of the challenges facing the planet. A significant number of postgraduate students carry out environmental research related to climate change issues. Numerous graduates have gone on to work in New Zealand’s premiere environmental institutions – like in the Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment.
We carry out cutting edge research around climate change, asking questions about adaptation and evolution in changing environments and a changing climate. We engage in research seeking to minimise the impacts of agriculture, including with iwi such as Ngāi Tahu. In the last two years Lincoln has joined the Euroleague for Life Sciences and the Global Challenges University Alliance.
Here is a snapshot of our world-leading climate change research and educational initiatives, from detailed scientific studies on the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions to alternative fuels and climate-resilient tourism.
- Lincoln University is a partner in the NZ Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC). The NZAGRC is a partnership between the leading New Zealand research providers working in the agricultural greenhouse gas area. The NZAGRC is a ‘virtual’ Centre and the research that it funds is carried out by researchers working in their own organisations. The N2O greenhouse gas research programme focuses on manipulating some of the N inputs to reduce the quantity of N2O released and on manipulating the processes that form and release N2O. Nitrous oxide makes up around one-third of all greenhouse gas emissions from New Zealand agriculture.
- Lincoln University hosts the National Centre for Nitrous Oxide Measurement; which is part of the NZAGRC. The Centre has a capacity to process more than 1000 nitrous oxide samples a day, making it one of the best specialist facilities of its type in the world. Lincoln University researchers are working with multiple partners (AgResearch, Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research) to find ways to reduce the emissions of nitrous oxide from agricultural land, including dairy farm land, and thus reduce its impact on climate change.
- Climate Change Adaptation and its links to Disaster Risk Reduction are being explored by Lincoln researchers through a ten year MBIE funded multi-institution National Science Challenge - 'Resilience to Nature's Challenges' http://resiliencechallenge.nz/. Lincoln researchers are focused on the ways in which rural businesses and communities, especially transient communities (freedom campers, seasonal workers, tourists) and coastal communities (urban or rural) can be made more resilient to the risks of disaster that are exacerbated by climate change. In doing so they are drawing on research on research ranging from ecosystem services http://hdl.handle.net/10182/6521 to planning to adapt to climate change in such diverse settings as Nepali forest communities, Small Island Developing States (with the UNISDR) https://researcharchive.lincoln.ac.nz/handle/10182/5300, local rural lake and stream side communities and red zoned parts of Christchurch City. This is leading to recommendations for change in national legislation such as the Resource Management Act and new ways to create incentives for individual businesses to invest in reducing their risk exposure. The research directly informs and draws on student research at PhD and Master's levels.
- Lincoln University contributes to the Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases which has 46 member countries from all regions of the world. The Alliance is focused on research, development and extension of technologies and practices that will help deliver ways to grow more food (and more climate-resilient food systems) without growing greenhouse gas emissions.
- Lincoln University is involved in reducing greenhouse gas emissions on the farm by exploring the possibility of renewable fuel. The latest excitement is over Japanese grass Miscanthus x giganteus. Planted as shelter belts in open farmland, Miscanthus grows to 2.5m in the first year and 4m when ready for harvesting after two. Baled and fed into small-scale diesel processing plants, it is capable of producing 9000 litres of fuel per hectare. The fuel is a direct diesel substitute, or 'drop-in fuel', that doesn't need to be blended with mineral fuel like bio diesel. According to Peter Brown of Miscanthus NZ it is compatible with manufacturers' engine warranties and is even slightly better than the stuff we get from the pumps, with higher octane rating. It is also best harvested in winter, when the machinery needed is normally lying idle.
- Climate change has the potential to both increase New Zealand’s attractiveness to tourists and undermine some of its core attractions. Tourism in New Zealand is a highly weather and climate dependent industry with most of the popular attractions/activities enjoyed by international tourists based outdoors. Currently little is known about how sensitive the industry is to climatic events and the level of risk projected future changes pose; what the tourism industry’s adaptive capacity is and which adaptation measures could reduce the potential costs of climate change. Lincoln University is involved in research projects around protecting and growing the tourism industry and developing adaptation strategies.
- Lincoln University has established a Global Challenges Programme in response to the challenges facing the planet today. These Global Challenges include climate change, food production and security, depleting resources, urban sprawl, the loss of biodiversity, and pollution. The Global Challenges Programme is a nationwide project, designed to have a positive effect on students and the community. It draws on the content of Lincoln University courses and research, and specifically aligns them with secondary school curricula. Through outreach activities and events, the programme extends into the community; engaging a wide-range of groups with local-level activity aimed at helping solve the global challenges. Underpinning the Global Challenges Programme are the Global Challenges Scholarships – full tuition fee scholarships each year for 'new to Lincoln' students to participate in the programme.
- We host the Nitrous Oxide Sub-Centre within the New Zealand Agriculture Greenhouse Gas Research Centre and we co-host the Waterways Centre (with the University of Canterbury) dedicated to improving New Zealand’s waterways. Lincoln undertakes extensive research on Banks Peninsula and elsewhere with respect to species conservation, and we host New Zealand’s only Bio-Protection Research Centre.
- Lincoln University’s academic staff are actively involved in teaching, researching and publication around climate change issues, as well as being involved on committees and boards dedicated to exploring climate change. Some current research focuses on the molecular responses of plants to ultraviolet radiation and its application to industry in the context of climate change. https://colloque.inra.fr/climwine2016 and http://bit.ly/1HUBZTX