For as long as we have existed we have questioned the assertion that agricultural emissions of methane contribute to global warming. For it to do so an emission of enteric methane has to alter the composition of the atmosphere. That is the requirement for an activity to contribute to global warming as set out by the UNFCC definition of climate change. That is the definition used and accepted by the IPCC as well.
No evidence exists in the world that enteric methane from all sources including steady state and emissions from increased agricultural production does this. In fact the only evidence that does exist demonstrates that most if not all enteric methane does not alter the composition of the atmosphere. We set up PFCR to raise the funds to commission research to ascertain once and for all what impact enteric methane has on the composition of the atmosphere, but so far support from NZ farmers has not been sufficient for us to do this. As an alternative we have asked that the Government commission such research. The finding would have huge importance for New Zealand and would be a prudent step for a Government that is going to spend taxpayer’s money on mitigation research that we believe is unnecessary. Such research would determine whether they are justified in spending that money. The Government has refused our request.
Dr Smith is satisfied that the most reliable information is that provided by the IPCC. He believes the IPCC assessment reports involve “rigorous and open review processes and are audited by thousands of scientists and representatives of 194 governments”. His faith in the IPCC blinds him to the contradiction by the IPCC which claims that enteric methane contributes to global warming despite it not meeting the criteria as set out in their own definition.
How could such a contradiction exist in an organisation like the IPCC? Very easily it seems. The Himalayan glacier debacle demonstrates how lacking in common sense the organisation is and how such a basic mistake can occur. Despite the supposedly rigorous review of the fourth assessment report not one of the thousands picked up the lack of peer review and in fact any evidence at all for its statement that the glaciers would melt by 2035. No one picked up that the report claimed the glaciers would melt from an area of 500,000 square kms to 100,000 yet the glaciers only cover 33,000 square kms in the first place. These are fairly basic errors and paint a different picture of the IPCC than the one championed by Dr Smith.
What Dr Smith and the Government need to be aware of is that when they make decisions about spending taxpayer’s money and in levying taxes from agriculture they have to be able to justify them. The IPCC has no responsibility to the NZ taxpayer or the NZ farmer or anyone really and the Government can not abdicate its responsibility because they were acting on information from the IPCC. If they incur expense or levy farmers based on information that is subsequently proved to be another IPCC inaccuracy then it is the NZ Government that has failed in its duty not the IPCC.
The other worrying aspect of it is that the IPCC were warned in 2006 that the information they had put out about these glaciers was wrong. From this point on it has not been about an error or a disregard of due process it has been about a cover up.
David Wratt from NIWA and Jim Salinger were two of the New Zealanders who reviewed the assessment report that contained these inaccuracies. Jim Salinger definitely has a closed mind on the issue and that might be why he missed it. David Wratt is held in high regard by Dr Smith and knows a bit about glaciers.
The IPCC claims about enteric methane are as non commonsensical as were the claims about the Himalayan glaciers, our Government would be well advised to start questioning the information from the IPCC more robustly; blind faith is not the responsible option here.