Jeanette Fitzsimons asked this question in Parliament last week. It was heartening and it was to Dr Nick Smith, Minister of Climate Change Issues.
Jeanette Fitzsimons: What plans does the Minister have to counter the misinformation repeatedly published in the rural papers, which has led many farmers to honestly believe that cows are carbon neutral and emit no greenhouse gases, that climate change is not human-induced, and that agriculture should be exempt because the world needs our butter and meat, and if he does not have any such plans, how will he set a target that will be supported by both town and country?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The Government, as part of the consultation on the 2020 target, has been quite upfront with the farming community about the fact that agricultural emissions are contributing to human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and to global warming. Equally so, I would say that the major players in the industry—and I include both the meat industry and the dairy industry—are actively and quite constructively engaging to see how the agricultural industry can constructively contribute to a solution. I say that we need to be cautious, though. Those who are promoting very bold targets need to recognise that the technological challenges around reducing emissions from agriculture are quite difficult for New Zealand.
This sweet old lady displays the typical arrogence of the left. Information that disagrees with her information must be misinformation. “It is true because I believe it to be so” is their honest belief. What this deluded women forgets is that belief is not fact and also that nothing in the information the Government uses is factual. The Government information sounds grand because they use terms such as “political consensus” and “internationally sanctioned” to give their statements credibility but this only works for the gullible. A political consensus has to be about as far from a fact as you can get. It is a negotiated position determined by power, compromise, expediency, self interest and fear of political ramifications.
One such political consensus is the use of global warming potential GWP. It was decided it would be useful to compare the different greenhouse gases. The comparison takes into account radiative forcing and residence time. Methane has a GWP of 21 rising to 25 shortly. This means a molecule is 21 times more effective as a greenhouse gas over a 100 year period. The methane itself is well gone before the 100 years are up but the effect the methane has over the 10 years it is in the atmosphere before it breaks down is spread over 100 years. This results in a figure of 21 which is what causes all the problems for agriculture and New Zealand.
This figure of 21 though is not factual. A different political consensus could agree on a different residence time. It could as easily be 200 years, 50 years or a 1000 years. There is no reason 100 years is the right time to use as a measure of GWP. A different residence time gives a totally different GWP figure for methane. It could be 45, o, or any number you like, it is just a case of changing residence time to suit what the political consensus wants.
Even the use of GWP is a political consensus. If agricultural emissions were measured on a gas by gas basis it would be factual that the concentration of each gas it emits would be constant in the atmosphere. The methane concentration in the atmosphere can not be increased by a farm animal on a farm that is not increasing stock numbers. The only increase possible would be from increasing stock numbers and that would only be a one off. If a dairy farm increased stock numbers by 20 head one year an extra 2000 kg of methane (42000 kg CO2 equivqalents) would enter the atmosphere and at a price of $25 per tonne carbon that would equate to a one off payment of $1050. Equally if a farmer reduced stock numbers they should get a credit. A farmer with constant stock numbers has no liability when emissions are measured on a gas by gas basis. There is no reason they can’t or should not be measured in this way
The liability the Government claim exists for agriculture is for a CO2 equivalent. But no such thing exists, it is only a unit of measure that exists because they decided to use GWP’s to compare different gases and they decided a residence time of 100 years. Both these decisions were agreed by political consensus, they are not facts and therefore neither is the CO2e that they use factual.
Jeanette is concerned about the misinformation in the rural papers and I take some of the credit for that but what she should do, if she wants to counter it, is to put up some facts herself. So far all we have had from her and the Government is information resulting from political consensus. Internationally sanctioned is the other term they use to give their information credibility. All this means is that the IPCC said it which is no more evidence of fact than if Mary next door said it. Also the IPCC are blatantly biased and their self interest in this matter has to be remembered. So Jeanette give us the facts and nothing but the facts if you can. Until you do we will continue to question anything that is a “political consensus” or “internationally sanctioned” because we are not gullible.
As for Dr Smith, it is disappointing that he can not see that the information that attributes these greenhouse gas emissions to agriculture is not factual and he should require a higher level of proof than he currently does. Mind you it is a bit like playing rugby with a bad referee. If one side benefits from his bad decisions so too should the other side be able to exploit his inability. (A lesson we didn’t learn against the French that day) not that I am suggesting Dr Smith is a bad minister, just a bit gullible maybe. We should be able to exploit that somehow. If you have any suggestions send in a comment.