My mother has returned from visiting my brothers who live in England. To make that trip, she was responsible for contributing more than three tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere.

After finding this out, my mother who is a farmer, is feeling pretty outraged that in New Zealand, farmers are the ones under attack for climate change.

She is vowing to fly less and write letters of concern - why is the New Zealand Government so focused on agriculture while tourism flies under the radar - so to speak.


My mother has a point, according to data analysed by Dr Frank Mitloehner, a professor of air quality at the University of California, Davis.

Climate change - are farmers being asked to do the lion's share?

He has reviewed the full carbon life cycle of livestock products and transportation and has published in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

According to an interview in the AgFunder, ''when it comes to some consumers' recent decisions to go vegetarian or vegan in an effort to save the planet, Dr Mitloehner wishes they had a more realistic understanding of the environmental impact that their personal diet actually has on the environment''.

''If you decide to start being a vegan in 2019, the carbon savings and greenhouse gas savings that you would create for that year equate to the greenhouse gases emitted for a one-way flight from the United States to Germany. This is not nothing, but it is not as much as the media wants us to believe.

"It's not fair and it's not getting us where we need to go, which is finding ways to reduce emissions from fossil fuel.''

Sobering indeed, and such data has led to a movement ''flygskam,'' or ''flight shame''. Originating from Sweden, flygskam is the feeling of being embarrassed or ashamed to take the plane because of the environmental impact.

The movement is changing the way Swedes travel: Swedish Railways have found that 37 per cent of survey respondents are choosing to travel by rail instead of air, compared with 26 per cent last autumn and 20 per cent in early 2018.


Swedish airlines is seeing a concurrent reduction in travellers and numbers were down 15 per cent last April (World Economic Forum). This movement is not confined to Sweden.

Atmosfair is a German public interest group that recommends limiting your air travel to about 3100 miles a year if you live in Los Angeles, that's one round-trip flight to Mexico City. For a New Zealander, that equates to 4989 kilometres.

Last week, when I travelled to Melbourne and back, I almost used this annual allowance.

Perhaps Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon has seen the writing on the wall and has timed his exit nicely? With data like this, what is the future of New Zealand's tourism industry?

Transport operators are working on alternative fuels to reduce the carbon load of air travel, but it does beg the question - why are so many New Zealanders laying so much of the climate change blame at farmers' doors?

I have just come back from Australia, working with Australian agriculturists. Australian agriculture is under serious climatic challenge already. As a country they have heat and water challenges which are truly frightening.

Every time I visit Australia, I am stunned by the amount of support their farmers have in the community and in the media. They are valued as food producers and they are supported financially through science, research and development to work through environmental challenges.

New Zealand farmers know they have improvements to make and many of them are doing all that they can to make them. Yet many farmers feel constantly under attack and isolated by the New Zealand media, governments and urban populations. Why is there such a difference in how we treat farmers, compared to the Australians?

Perhaps it's time we all had a look in the mirror. It is likely that day by day, there is nothing we do that contributes more to climate change than flying.

Farmers are asking for some perspective and it's time for us to start listening.

-Anna Campbell is managing director of AbacusBio Ltd, a Dunedin based agri-technology company.

- This opinion piece was first published in the Otago Daily Times.