Tag Archives: Peat

Ireland’s peat is helping to fight climate chaos

A winning natural way to absorb greenhouse gases, Ireland’s peat is one route for the country to tackle the climate crisis.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

− From ‘Digging’, by Seamus Heaney

COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND, 2 February, 2021 − Ireland’s peat is offering the country a novel way to back the global effort to save the planet from overheating dangerously. It is helping to lock up the carbon emissions which are feeding the steady rise in the Earth’s temperature.

For generations its farmers have cut turf from the bog lands for fuel, and now their laborious, back-breaking work, seen as an integral part of Irish rural life, immortalised in songs, paintings – and picture postcard images − is earning them plaudits for protecting the atmosphere.

Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s most famous modern-day poet and winner of the Nobel prize in literature in 1995, wrote of turf-cutting rituals and the wild beauty of bog lands. In many rural areas the turf fire is still the centrepiece of home life. As part of the battle against climate chaos, though, old habits stretching back for centuries are having to change.

Carrownagappul is a 325-hectare area of bog land near the village of Mountbellew, in County Galway in the west of Ireland. Locals say the turf – also called peat – cut from the bog land is the best in Ireland.

Altogether, 100 families have what are called turbary rights to Carrownagappul, part of an old and complex system allowing certain people to cut and carry away turf from the area.

“There is no better, quicker or cheaper way for Ireland to reduce its carbon footprint than restoring peat lands”

Areas of peat or turf – formed by an accumulation of decayed vegetation – act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up and storing vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Peat lands around the world have been drained and destroyed at a great rate over the years: as a result large amounts of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere. Drought and rising temperatures have caused fires in many regions, drying out peat deposits. Nearly 20% of Ireland’s land is bog land, storing an estimated one billion tonnes of carbon.

Under a programme called The Living Bog – backed up with €5.4 million (£4.7m) of funds from the European Union – Ireland is now seeking to restore dozens of its bogs and make them able, once again, to store large amounts of carbon.

At Carrownagappul drains have been blocked to raise water levels and so re-wet the bog land: this encourages the growth of sphagnum moss, one of the main constituents of peat.

Ronan Casey is a spokesman for The Living Bog project. In an interview with the Irish Times Casey says it’s hard to overstate the importance of restoring Ireland’s peat lands as the country battles against climate chaos.

Paid to stop

“There is no better, quicker or cheaper way for Ireland to reduce its carbon footprint than restoring peat lands”, Casey tells the newspaper. “Peat lands are Ireland’s biggest carbon store; one-fifth of our soil is peat soil.

“Locking CO2 in is just as good as trying to plant trees somewhere else. They (peat bogs) store far more carbon dioxide than forests. A 15cm-thick peat layer contains more carbon per hectare than a tropical forest.”

Many of those who once cut turf at Carrownagappul have been given cash payments to stop their activities. The aim is to turn the area into a centre for tourism with an educational facility explaining the history and ecological importance of the bog.

A board walk is being built across the bog. Peat land is rich in flora and fauna. Casey refers to Ireland’s peat lands as the country’s coral reef.

As part of a scheme to encourage the local community to participate in the restoration work at Carrownagappul, a series of lectures and talks at schools is being arranged.

Not so green

At one stage the Irish government promoted the use of turf in order to achieve greater energy self-sufficiency. In the 1960s 40% of the country’s electricity was generated by turf-fired power plants. Most of these plants – chronically inefficient and heavily subsidised – are now being phased out: the government says all will be shut down by 2030 or sooner.

Work to restore peat lands is going on in several parts of the country. Bord na Mona, the semi-state company that once specialised in developing the country’s peat resources and running turf-powered power plants, has diversified into renewable energy projects and recycling; it is now spending €126 million restoring 80,000 hectares of bog.

But there has been resistance to bringing an end to the old turf-cutting ways, with people in some areas insisting on their ancient rights and saying that turf is still an important heating fuel, particularly in rural areas. The government is accused of being half-hearted about fighting climate change by allowing turf cutting to continue in some regions.

Despite its green and pastoral image, per head of population Ireland is one of the main emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases in Europe, due in large part to activities in the agricultural sector.

The burping and flatulence of the country’s seven million-strong cattle herd results in the emission of large amounts of methane gas. Fertilisers add to the country’s emissions. − Climate News Network

A winning natural way to absorb greenhouse gases, Ireland’s peat is one route for the country to tackle the climate crisis.

My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.

− From ‘Digging’, by Seamus Heaney

COUNTY MAYO, IRELAND, 2 February, 2021 − Ireland’s peat is offering the country a novel way to back the global effort to save the planet from overheating dangerously. It is helping to lock up the carbon emissions which are feeding the steady rise in the Earth’s temperature.

For generations its farmers have cut turf from the bog lands for fuel, and now their laborious, back-breaking work, seen as an integral part of Irish rural life, immortalised in songs, paintings – and picture postcard images − is earning them plaudits for protecting the atmosphere.

Seamus Heaney, Ireland’s most famous modern-day poet and winner of the Nobel prize in literature in 1995, wrote of turf-cutting rituals and the wild beauty of bog lands. In many rural areas the turf fire is still the centrepiece of home life. As part of the battle against climate chaos, though, old habits stretching back for centuries are having to change.

Carrownagappul is a 325-hectare area of bog land near the village of Mountbellew, in County Galway in the west of Ireland. Locals say the turf – also called peat – cut from the bog land is the best in Ireland.

Altogether, 100 families have what are called turbary rights to Carrownagappul, part of an old and complex system allowing certain people to cut and carry away turf from the area.

“There is no better, quicker or cheaper way for Ireland to reduce its carbon footprint than restoring peat lands”

Areas of peat or turf – formed by an accumulation of decayed vegetation – act as a vital carbon sink, soaking up and storing vast amounts of climate-changing greenhouse gases.

Peat lands around the world have been drained and destroyed at a great rate over the years: as a result large amounts of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere. Drought and rising temperatures have caused fires in many regions, drying out peat deposits. Nearly 20% of Ireland’s land is bog land, storing an estimated one billion tonnes of carbon.

Under a programme called The Living Bog – backed up with €5.4 million (£4.7m) of funds from the European Union – Ireland is now seeking to restore dozens of its bogs and make them able, once again, to store large amounts of carbon.

At Carrownagappul drains have been blocked to raise water levels and so re-wet the bog land: this encourages the growth of sphagnum moss, one of the main constituents of peat.

Ronan Casey is a spokesman for The Living Bog project. In an interview with the Irish Times Casey says it’s hard to overstate the importance of restoring Ireland’s peat lands as the country battles against climate chaos.

Paid to stop

“There is no better, quicker or cheaper way for Ireland to reduce its carbon footprint than restoring peat lands”, Casey tells the newspaper. “Peat lands are Ireland’s biggest carbon store; one-fifth of our soil is peat soil.

“Locking CO2 in is just as good as trying to plant trees somewhere else. They (peat bogs) store far more carbon dioxide than forests. A 15cm-thick peat layer contains more carbon per hectare than a tropical forest.”

Many of those who once cut turf at Carrownagappul have been given cash payments to stop their activities. The aim is to turn the area into a centre for tourism with an educational facility explaining the history and ecological importance of the bog.

A board walk is being built across the bog. Peat land is rich in flora and fauna. Casey refers to Ireland’s peat lands as the country’s coral reef.

As part of a scheme to encourage the local community to participate in the restoration work at Carrownagappul, a series of lectures and talks at schools is being arranged.

Not so green

At one stage the Irish government promoted the use of turf in order to achieve greater energy self-sufficiency. In the 1960s 40% of the country’s electricity was generated by turf-fired power plants. Most of these plants – chronically inefficient and heavily subsidised – are now being phased out: the government says all will be shut down by 2030 or sooner.

Work to restore peat lands is going on in several parts of the country. Bord na Mona, the semi-state company that once specialised in developing the country’s peat resources and running turf-powered power plants, has diversified into renewable energy projects and recycling; it is now spending €126 million restoring 80,000 hectares of bog.

But there has been resistance to bringing an end to the old turf-cutting ways, with people in some areas insisting on their ancient rights and saying that turf is still an important heating fuel, particularly in rural areas. The government is accused of being half-hearted about fighting climate change by allowing turf cutting to continue in some regions.

Despite its green and pastoral image, per head of population Ireland is one of the main emitters of climate-changing greenhouse gases in Europe, due in large part to activities in the agricultural sector.

The burping and flatulence of the country’s seven million-strong cattle herd results in the emission of large amounts of methane gas. Fertilisers add to the country’s emissions. − Climate News Network

Ireland’s turf war plan is 'bad news for climate'

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ireland’s farmers have been battling against environmental laws which restrict the cutting of turf  – used as fuel – on the country’s bog lands. A proposed Government compromise has been attacked by environmentalists who say it ignores the vital role the peat bogs play in storing greenhouse gases.

LONDON, 29 January – The cutting of turf or peat is one of the traditional images of life in Ireland. Many Irish households, particularly in rural areas, still rely on turf cut from the country’s bog lands for fuel – especially in these times of rising energy prices.

Environmentalists have long argued that these turf bogs or peat lands should be preserved. The bogs are not only home to a wide variety of flora and fauna: they also soak up excess water and are valuable carbon sinks, absorbing large quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) and so curtailing climate change.

The European Union agrees and has threatened to impose large fines on Ireland unless it acts to preserve its bog lands, which are categorised as special areas of conservation.

Government attempts to stop turf cutting in many areas have failed: turf farmers insist on their right to cut turf, as generations before them have done. A leader of the turf cutters has been elected to the Dail, the Irish Parliament.

Now the Dublin Government has come up with a draft peat lands strategy which it hopes will bring peace to the bogs and head off the EU’s financial penalties: the strategy, while restricting turf cutting in some areas, allows it to continue on 45 bogs around the country.

‘Fantasy’ compromise

The plan, says the Government, is to meet national conservation targets while at the same time addressing the needs of affected communities. The strategy talks about the need to conserve environmental sites but says very little about the role of bogs in preventing climate change.

An Taisce, Ireland’s natural trust and the country’s oldest environmental body, has condemned the government’s plan as “the stuff of fantasy”.

“Bogs are a vital store of carbon and burning turf releases far more climate-altering gases than coal”, says An Taisce.

The strategy, it says, is inconsistent with both international and domestic scientific advice on carbon management. “Of all fuels, turf is the worst in terms of negatively affecting the climate.”

Other groups accuse the Government, by allowing turf cutting on a large number of bogs, of pandering to a powerful farming lobby and playing politics rather than attacking the issue of GHG emissions.

Massive emissions threat

In 2011 the Government’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report on the country’s bog lands which said that peat land degradation and burning resulted in 10 million tonnes of GHG emissions each year – equivalent to Ireland’s annual car emissions.

Peat bogs are formed over thousands of years, the result of the rotting down in flooded hollows in the land of reeds, sedges, moss and other vegetation.

Pollen grains locked away in peat bogs not only form a botanical record of the past but can also be used to provide evidence of how the climate has changed – much like ice cores in polar regions yield details of historical atmospheric levels of CO2.

Traditionally, turf was cut by hand, using a spade or slane. In the 1950s much of Ireland’s turf cutting became mechanized with the creation of a  state-owned turf company. Now only about 15% of Ireland’s raised peat lands are still intact. – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ireland’s farmers have been battling against environmental laws which restrict the cutting of turf  – used as fuel – on the country’s bog lands. A proposed Government compromise has been attacked by environmentalists who say it ignores the vital role the peat bogs play in storing greenhouse gases.

LONDON, 29 January – The cutting of turf or peat is one of the traditional images of life in Ireland. Many Irish households, particularly in rural areas, still rely on turf cut from the country’s bog lands for fuel – especially in these times of rising energy prices.

Environmentalists have long argued that these turf bogs or peat lands should be preserved. The bogs are not only home to a wide variety of flora and fauna: they also soak up excess water and are valuable carbon sinks, absorbing large quantities of greenhouse gases (GHG) and so curtailing climate change.

The European Union agrees and has threatened to impose large fines on Ireland unless it acts to preserve its bog lands, which are categorised as special areas of conservation.

Government attempts to stop turf cutting in many areas have failed: turf farmers insist on their right to cut turf, as generations before them have done. A leader of the turf cutters has been elected to the Dail, the Irish Parliament.

Now the Dublin Government has come up with a draft peat lands strategy which it hopes will bring peace to the bogs and head off the EU’s financial penalties: the strategy, while restricting turf cutting in some areas, allows it to continue on 45 bogs around the country.

‘Fantasy’ compromise

The plan, says the Government, is to meet national conservation targets while at the same time addressing the needs of affected communities. The strategy talks about the need to conserve environmental sites but says very little about the role of bogs in preventing climate change.

An Taisce, Ireland’s natural trust and the country’s oldest environmental body, has condemned the government’s plan as “the stuff of fantasy”.

“Bogs are a vital store of carbon and burning turf releases far more climate-altering gases than coal”, says An Taisce.

The strategy, it says, is inconsistent with both international and domestic scientific advice on carbon management. “Of all fuels, turf is the worst in terms of negatively affecting the climate.”

Other groups accuse the Government, by allowing turf cutting on a large number of bogs, of pandering to a powerful farming lobby and playing politics rather than attacking the issue of GHG emissions.

Massive emissions threat

In 2011 the Government’s own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a report on the country’s bog lands which said that peat land degradation and burning resulted in 10 million tonnes of GHG emissions each year – equivalent to Ireland’s annual car emissions.

Peat bogs are formed over thousands of years, the result of the rotting down in flooded hollows in the land of reeds, sedges, moss and other vegetation.

Pollen grains locked away in peat bogs not only form a botanical record of the past but can also be used to provide evidence of how the climate has changed – much like ice cores in polar regions yield details of historical atmospheric levels of CO2.

Traditionally, turf was cut by hand, using a spade or slane. In the 1950s much of Ireland’s turf cutting became mechanized with the creation of a  state-owned turf company. Now only about 15% of Ireland’s raised peat lands are still intact. – Climate News Network