The response I have received from MAF to my last query leaves me gob smacked for two reasons.
Firstly it is an admission that I thought they would never make and it is exciting because it finally confirms what we have been saying.
WE ARE RIGHT YIPEE!
Secondly the conclusions they make demonstrate how little thought has gone into the area of agricultural emissions. Assumptions have just been made on the basis of flawed reasoning, assumptions that have never been tested, and when questioned on them they are found wanting because the whole premise on which they base their claims about agricultural emissions is false.
MAF and Dr Nick Smith have maintained until now that livestock contribute to global warming because they turn carbon dioxide to methane and methane is more potent as a greenhouse gas therefore global warming. The ‘therefore’ was never tested though.
I have questioned them because this assumption they make is not backed by evidence. To contribute to global warming an activity has to bring about a change in the composition of the atmosphere that can lead to global warming. (That is the official UN definition) eg raised methane levels. They assumed the conversion of CO2 to CH4 did that, but there is no evidence of this in the form of increased methane levels. If they were right there would be.
This is because given a stable supply of methane; the methane breaks down as fast as it is produced so the level in the atmosphere remains constant. The activity of converting CO2 to CH4 simply maintains current levels of methane and therefore keeps the globe at current temperatures. MAF now admit this, and this is exciting because it brings down the central pillar of their argument.
The activity of converting CO2 to CH4 by livestock does not change the composition of the atmosphere as they have up until now thought and on which they base their entire argument.
I told them that what they were in effect arguing was that all that livestock were guilty of was of maintaining methane levels. The argument that methane levels would drop if livestock did not exist is valid but nothing to do with global warming, because for an activity to contribute to global warming it has to change the composition of the atmosphere. An activity that maintains something and does not drop methane levels is not by definition anything to do with global warming.
They now admit this but instead of saying sorry we were wrong they still try to blame livestock with the argument that if the livestock did not exist the CO2 would remain as CO2, the methane levels would then drop and the planet would cool.
What they are trying to do here is blame livestock for not dropping methane levels and cooling the planet. This is a change of the definition of global warming to say that any activity that does not cool the planet (reducing methane by shooting all our livestock) is contributing to global warming. They can not do this and the fact they are trying to do this demonstrates two things;
They are amateurs and don’t know what they are doing.
They are so hell bent on making agriculture guilty of something they forget they are supposed to be working for the truth. They are NIWA, MAF, MOE, Government. All conspirators and all need to be called to account.
This is what I have received from MAF
- (1) Animal agriculture results in higher quantities of CH4 being emitted to the atmosphere than if animal agriculture did not exist. They therefore have contributed to and, if emissions from animal agriculture are increasing, continue to contribute to any increases in atmospheric CH4 concentration. Animal agriculture has therefore altered the atmospheric concentration of GHG’s
They are admitting that the all animal agriculture is doing is causing CH4 levels to be higher than if animal agriculture did not exist. Thus they are only maintaining levels and therefore not guilty. To try and say that this means they have contributed to altered atmospheric concentrations and this is somehow causing continuing global warming is stupid and they should think about it a bit more.
They are right when they say if emissions are increasing they continue to contribute to any increases in CH4.
The issue here is one I raised with them; agricultural production that is stable has no effect on methane levels. If production increases the levels do increase. Likewise if production decreases levels drop. If they differentiated between enteric methane from these different production scenarios all would be good. Most production would incur no liability, an increase would incur a liability and a decrease would get a credit. But they do not differentiate and all methane is assumed to contribute to an increase.
- (2) Increased greenhouse gas concentrations are thought to be the drivers of climate change. These concentrations have been increasing for over two centuries and human induced climate change is thought to have been going on for much of the 20th century. Therefore past increases in atmospheric GHG concentrations are contributing to current and future climate change.
Are they for real? Past increases are outside the definition and where is the evidence? They are making untested assumptions here again; amateurs!
- (3) Animal agriculture therefore contributes to current and future climate change either from its past activities (which have increased concentrations above what they would be without animal agriculture) and from its current activities if emissions are increasing.
I won’t comment on this paragraph it does not deserve comment. I did ask MAF one more question and I am waiting for the reply. They argue that livestock are contributing to global warming by maintaining emissions because of “past activities” and present activities if emissions increase. So I asked does that mean a farm that reduces production is contributing to the lowering of methane levels in the atmosphere.
If they answer yes (and they have to really) this will be proof enough that a farm can still produce methane and cool the planet at the same time. This proves that methane can not be assumed a GHG causing global warming unless a differentiation is made for the different production circumstances on each farm. This will make assessing any liability at the farm gate a nightmare. That will serve them right for being amateurs
I have put in a request for more information, a very short reply came back which did not answer the question, so I submitted another request which has not been responded to. I have now written to David Carter the Minister because he will have to answer the question MAF do not want to admit to which is to confirm that enteric methane does not alter the composition of the atmosphere and therefore does not contribute to global warming.
I will let you know what he says.
One thing I can tell you is that it is rewarding watching MAF and NIWA squirming trying to justify assumptions they have made and trumpeted for some time now. They are fighting for their credibility and I don’t fancy their chances.