Agricultural climate change mitigation: Carbon calculators as a guide for decision making

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The dairy industry is receiving considerable attention in relation to both its significant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and it’s potential for reducing those emissions, contributing towards meeting national targets and driving the industry towards sustainable intensification. However, the extent to which improvements can be made is dependent on the decision making processes of individual producers, so there has been a proliferation of carbon accounting tools seeking to influence those processes. This paper evaluates the suitability of such tools for driving environmental change by influencing on-farm management decisions. Seven tools suitable for the European dairy industry were identified, their characteristics evaluated, and used to process data relating to six scenario farms, emulating process undertaken in real farm management situations. As a result of the range of approaches taken by the tools, there was limited agreement between them as to GHG emissions magnitude, and no consistent pattern as to which tools resulted in the highest/lowest results. Despite this it is argued, that as there was agreement as to the farm activities responsible for the greatest emissions, the more complex tools were still capable of performing a ‘decision support’ role, and guiding management decisions, whilst others could merely focus attention on key issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-661
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Agricultural Sustainability
Issue number6
Early online date9 Nov 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Nov 2017


  • carbon calculators
  • climate change mitigation
  • livestock agriculture
  • greenhouse gas emissions
  • decision support


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