Not okay doomers

January 23, 2020

Sean Plunket has coined the term doomers for the people who are prophesying catastrophe as the result of climate change.

They are the ones who label anyone who questions their apocalyptic forecasts as deniers even though most of the changes they’re demanding of us are, as Bjørn Lomborg says, empty gestures which trivialises the challenge:

Switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, wash your clothes in cold water, eat less meat, recycle more, and buy an electric car: we are being bombarded with instructions from climate campaigners, environmentalists, and the media about the everyday steps we all must take to tackle climate change. Unfortunately, these appeals trivialize the challenge of global warming, and divert our attention from the huge technological and policy changes that are needed to combat it. . . 

For example, environmental activists emphasize the need to give up eating meat and driving fossil-fuel-powered cars. But, although I am a vegetarian and do not own a car, I believe we need to be honest about what such choices can achieve.

Going vegetarian actually is quite difficult: one large US survey indicates that 84% of people fail, most of them in less than a year. But a systematic peer-reviewed study has shown that even if they succeed, a vegetarian diet reduces individual CO2 emissions by the equivalent of 540 kilograms – or just 4.3% of the emissions of the average inhabitant of a developed country. Furthermore, there is a “rebound effect,” as money saved on cheaper vegetarian food is spent on goods and services that cause additional greenhouse-gas emissions. Once we account for this, going entirely vegetarian reduces a person’s total emissions by only 2%.

Likewise, electric cars are branded as environmentally friendly, but generating the electricity they require almost always involves burning fossil fuels. Moreover, producing energy-intensive batteries for these cars invariably generates significant CO2 emissions. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), an electric car with a range of 400 kilometers (249 miles) has a huge carbon deficit when it hits the road, and will start saving emissions only after being driven 60,000 kilometers. Yet, almost everywhere, people use an electric car as a second car, and drive it shorter distances than equivalent gasoline vehicles. . . 

Individual actions to tackle climate change, even when added together, achieve so little because cheap and reliable energy underpins human prosperity. Fossil fuels currently meet 81% of our global energy needs. And even if every promised climate policy in the 2015 Paris climate agreement is achieved by 2040, they will still deliver 74% of the total.

We already spend $129 billion per year subsidizing solar and wind energy to try to entice more people to use today’s inefficient technology, yet these sources meet just 1.1% of our global energy needs. The IEA estimates that by 2040 – after we have spent a whopping $3.5 trillion on additional subsidies – solar and wind will still meet less than 5% of our needs.

That’s pitiful. Significantly cutting CO2 emissions without reducing economic growth will require far more than individual actions. It is absurd for middle-class citizens in advanced economies to tell themselves that eating less steak or commuting in a Toyota Prius will rein in rising temperatures. To tackle global warming, we must make collective changes on an unprecedented scale.

By all means, anyone who wants to go vegetarian or buy an electric car should do so, for sound reasons such as killing fewer animals or reducing household energy bills. But such decisions will not solve the problem of global warming.

The one individual action that citizens could take that would make a difference would be to demand a vast increase in spending on green-energy research and development, so that these energy sources eventually become cheap enough to outcompete fossil fuels. That is the real way to help fight climate change.

The doomers are fixated on unrealistic and ineffective actions which would, if taken up as they demand, come at a high economic and social cost for little if any environmental gain.

That’s not okay, doomers.

Investment in research and development that will lead to innovation and technical advances would achieve far more without the economic and social sabotage the doomers’ prescription would inflict on us all.


Rural round-up

January 22, 2020

China deal gives US beef an edge over NZ producers – Pattrick Smellie:

A range of import restrictions affecting New Zealand beef exporters to China will be swept away for their American competitors as part of the new “phase one” US-China trade deal signed in Washington DC on Wednesday.

However, US producers will continue to face tariffs on beef as high as 47 per cent while New Zealand beef exports enter the Chinese market duty-free under the free trade agreement in place since 2008, according to initial analysis of the deal by the Meat Industry Association. Details were still emerging, but newly appointed MIA chief executive Sirma Karapeeva told BusinessDesk there was no suggestion “that I can see” that New Zealand lost its tariff advantage over US exporters to China. . . 

Application for GMO ‘imitation blood’ raises concerns:

Foods Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has received an application seeking approval for the GE Imitation blood ingredient used in the Impossible Burger to enter the food chain.[1]

The application does not have the proper safety profile for approval of the bacterial ingredient, called leghemoglobin (SLH), derived from genetically engineered soy.

The “imitation Blood” ingredient used in the Impossible Burgers to make them “sizzle like blood” has been trialled in select meals on Air New Zealand flights from the USA. This circumnavigates NZ regulations, because the ingredient cannot be sold in this country. . . 

Drop in China meat prices not expected to last – Alan Barber:

It is difficult to see any real reason for panic over the sudden pre-Christmas reduction in demand for sheepmeat and beef from Chinese importers which has led to prices coming off their peak. Livestock suppliers will already have noticed a drop in schedules from the elevated levels processors had been paying over the first couple of months of the season. It’s tempting to fear the worst given past experience with high prices paid by meat processors which have inevitably been followed by a sudden crash and a long slow recovery. This time the situation really does seem to be different, if you look at the fundamental demand for product in China.

In discussion with AFFCO Group Sales & Marketing Manager, Mark de Lautour, he sees the current situation as more of a hiccup, with traders collectively liquidating inventory in advance of Chinese New Year and the need for cashflow to cover large shipments of South American beef on the water. . .

Hawke’s Bay deer farmers pay record $102,000 for stag – Blair Voorend:

Two Hawke’s Bay men have set a New Zealand record, paying more than $100,000 for a velvet stag at a recent sale in Southland.

At the Brock Deer Sire and Stag sale, Hawke’s Bay deer farmers Jeremy Dearden and Grant Charteris paid $102,000 for the prized velvet stag, $12,000 higher than the previous New Zealand record.

Elliot Brock, of Brock Deer, told Andy Thompson on The Muster radio show that they were over the moon with the haul but that they were expecting to get something in that region. . . 

Robotic technology is revolutionising farming– Mark Ross:

From weeding and spraying crops to taking care of cattle, digital technology is making its mark on agriculture.

Self-driven vehicles are picking and grading fruit as well as detecting and pollinating flowers. Now the latest technology involves detecting and managing disease – helping farmers to become more productive and sustainable. Modern agricultural machines take away some of the more time-consuming tasks and help to protect crops from disease with exact doses and targeted applications of products.

In the last decade, there has been an unprecedented growth in precision farming – with about 80 percent of new farm equipment using it. This advanced digital precision technology can help farmers to use land efficiently and maximise harvests while reducing costs and workloads. . .

Cheesemakers Encouraged to Enter NZ Champions of Cheese Awards

Entries are open for the NZ Champions of Cheese Awards 2020, which will for the first time have three Supreme Champions.

To ensure the Awards represent the all the country’s cheesemakers from boutique producers through to the very large cheese companies and every producer in between, three Supreme Champion Awards will be made this year. The Countdown Champion of Champions Commercial category for producers making more than 100 tonnes annually and Puhoi Valley Champion of Champions Boutique for companies making less than 10 tonnes per annum will be joined by the New World Champion of Champions Mid-sized category for producers who make between 10 and 99 tonnes annually. . .

 


Function keys

August 3, 2019

It’s more than 30 years since I got my first computer and I’ve only just learned this:

Hat tip: Brightside


Smartphone saves 444 watts

July 20, 2019

Our home has a lot of things that weren’t invented when I was a child and many of them use power.

But while we have a lot more electrical gadgets, the one that fits in our pocket or purse, has replaced lots of others.

 


Rural round-up

July 8, 2019

Katie Milne addresses national conference:

Kiwis can be proud of the rural women and men who produce the top quality food that arrives daily in supermarkets, and the extra which is shipped offshore as exports that help fuel our economy.  Over 65% of our exports come from agricultural food production and we produce it with a lower carbon footprint than any other country in the world.  

Biosecurity threats, geopolitics, alternative proteins, robotics, disruptors, food and environment sustainability…there’s no shortage of challenges and change confronting us. 

But you should also know – especially if you’ve been fortunate enough to catch some of the keynote addresses and panel discussions of the inaugural Primary Industries Summit that Federated Farmers organised and has hosted Monday and Tuesday – that New Zealand also has a wealth of ideas, talent and drive to deal with these big issues coming at us. . .

Tougher bank capital rules could slice 10% from dairy profits – Rabo NZ – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Stricter bank capital requirements would severely dent dairy farm profits if the Reserve Bank goes ahead as planned, warn dairy interests in submissions on the contentious proposals.

“Our initial estimates are that the proposals could – at least in the short term – result in approximately a 10 percent decrease in profit for the agriculture sector,” Rabobank New Zealand said in its submission. . .

Trees replace top cattle – Annette Scott:

As far north as sale yards get in New Zealand the Broadwood selling centre in Northland hosted one of the country’s more notable capital stock clearing sales last week.

On behalf of Mark and Michelle Hammond of Herekino, Carrfields Livestock held the sale of a Hereford beef herd that put 50 years of top-quality genetics under the hammer, the animals’ grazing land destined for pine trees. . .

Ruapehu rural reading scheme spells out a winning idea  –  Katie Doyle:

A pair of librarians from the central North Island town of Taumarunui are bringing a love of reading to rural school children.

Fiona Thomas and Libby Ogle have started their very own mobile library – each month ferrying a load of books to two isolated primary schools in the Ruapehu District.

The idea came to life eighteen months ago when Mrs Thomas realised some kids in the region couldn’t access the library because they lived too away. . .

Blue Sky reports best result in 8 years – Rebecca Howard:

(BusinessDesk) – Southland meat processor and marketer Blue Sky Meats says the year to March was its best result in eight years as a strategic plan bore fruit.

The company, which is due to release its annual report shortly, said the March financial year ended with revenue up by 34 percent to a record $140 million. Pre-tax profit was up 36 percent at $5 million. . .

Overseas investors fined almost $3 million for illegal purchase of Auckland properties:

The High Court yesterday ordered the overseas owners of two rural properties at Warkworth, north of Auckland, to pay $2.95 million to the Crown after an Overseas Investment Office (OIO) investigation found they were bought without consent. The properties were bought in 2012 and 2014.

The court ordered the owners to sell the properties and pay penalties, costs and the gain made on the investment.

The overseas owners – Chinese businessmen Zhongliang Hong and Xueli Ke, and IRL Investment Limited and Grand Energetic Company Limited – should have applied to the OIO for consent to buy both properties because they are rural land of more than five hectares. . .

Latest technology to be demonstrated at the Horticulture Conference 2019:

Technology that will help fruit and vegetable growers now and in the future will be demonstrated at Our Food Future, the Horticulture Conference 2019 between 31 July and 2 August at Mystery Creek, Hamilton.   

‘We’ve gone all out to ensure that this year’s conference features demonstrations of technology that can help growers tackle some of the challenges that they face,’ says Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Mike Chapman. 

‘From biological control products for crop protection to robots for asparagus harvesting and greenhouse spraying, they will all be demonstrated during the morning of second day of the conference.  . .

Ben Richards becomes Bayer Marlborough Young Viticulturist of Year 2019:

Ben Richards from Indevinbecame the Bayer MarlboroughYoung Viticulturist of the Year 2019 on 4 July following the competition held at Constellation’s Drylands Vineyard.

Congratulations also to Jaimee Whitehead from Constellation for coming second and Dan Warman also from Constellation for coming third. . 


Ag part of the tech boom

July 5, 2019

Politik discusses Knowledge Wave Mark Two which seeks to boost the tech sector and quotes Helen Clark from the original Knowledge Wave conference:

Our export profile resembles that of developing countries, not that of a developed one.

Our export profile is unique among developed countries for the volume and value of primary produce and the large part that plays in our economy.

But the quote, and some policies from this government, send the message that there’s something wrong with that.

They ignore the fact that primary production does so well in New Zealand not just because of our natural advantages – the climate and soils – but because of the investment in, and application of, research and technology.

There is some comfort in David Parker’s statement:

“The agritech sector has been chosen as a key focus because it brings together two of New Zealand’s key competitive advantages – our expertise in agriculture and horticulture with our well-educated workforce,” he said.

This focus is already being undermined by government policy which incentivises forestry over food production.

Economic growth,  a broader based export economy and technological innovation are all worthy goals but none should be achieved by dragging down or devaluing primary production.

Our export profile does resemble that of a third world country, but primary production in New Zealand is very much a first-world business and already part of the tech boom.

When climate change could threaten food security, our ability to produce highly nutritious food in a very efficient manner is of even more importance.

 

 


Rural round-up

March 28, 2019

Capital Gains Tax: What it means for farmers – Andrea Fox:

Status quo:

Farms are currently not subject to a capital gains tax (CGT) when they sell. However if someone buys a property that is not their home they are taxed on its sale if they keep it less than five years.

Farmers pay GST on all purchases and company tax of 28 per cent. If they use a trust structure, any profit is subject to 33 per cent tax.

What’s proposed:

The Tax Working Group (TWG) has recommended land be subject to a CGT.

The farm’s family home would be exempt but any home site area over 4500sqm would be subject to a CGT. Increases in livestock herd value would be subject to tax.

Environmental taxes on water uptake and discharge, and pollution. . . 

Developing climate change resilient crops ‘a race against time’:

Scientists trying to develop crops more resilient to climate change say they’re increasingly in a race against time.

Breeding plants with more resilient genes – such as, a greater tolerance of saltwater, resilience to drought, or greater yields – has been long touted as a saviour as climate change intensified.

Olivier Panaud, from the University of Perpignan, works mostly with rice crops, but has also been experimenting with crops in tropical areas like the Pacific. . . 

Cottage cheese is the new Greek yoghurt –  Robin Tricoles:

Cottage cheese faced a problem: After World War II, batches of the soft, lumpy dairy concoction developed a propensity to take on a rancid odor and a bitter taste. That changed in 1951, when dairy researchers identified the culprits, three bacterial miscreants that produced this “slimy curd defect.” To prevent the condition, researchers advised cheesemakers to keep these bacteria from entering their manufacturing facilities in the first place. Thus ended the scourge. . . * Hat tip: Inquiring Mind

T&G in apple robot first – Carl Collen:

New Zealand agricultural giant T&G Global has carried out what it has described as a ‘world first’, in using a robotic harvester for a commercial apple harvest.

According to the the fresh produce grower, packer, shipper and marketer, the move marks the culmination of four years of working with US-based technology partner Abundant Robotics, which T&G’s parent company BayWa AG invested in two years ago as part of its strategy to expand digitisation across its agribusiness, and reflects the company’s commitment to innovation-led growth.

T&G global chief operating officer Peter Landon-Lane said the company was delighted to have reached a significant milestone in the evolution of the global apple industry, and for T&G’s home operations in New Zealand to be at the forefront. . . 

First mainstream hemp products in Kiwi supermarkets:

The first mainstream food product containing hemp seed is on supermarket shelves today, launched by one of New Zealand’s leading bread manufacturers, Wairarapa-based Breadcraft under its new brand ‘Rebel Bakehouse’.

Hemp seed was regulated for food use in late 2018, and Rebel Bakehouse’s new hemp seed wraps are the first of a new generation of food that consumers can expect to see made using hemp. Rebel Bakehouse is also introducing cricket protein to Kiwis, with its new cricket flour wrap:

Why transitioning a farm from one generation to the next is trickier than ever – Beth Hoffman:

At the end of December 2005, Margie and Dan First were at the movies when Dan began to feel ill, really ill. His head pounded, then he vomited. A friend recommended they call an ambulance immediately. Dan was rushed to the hospital, where they learned that he had suffered a brain aneurysm.

The events of that day, traumatic as they were, were much more life-changing for the family than anyone in the First clan could have predicted. Like many people, Dan, a 60-year-old Michigan dairy farmer, had never really thought about his own demise. And while his 15-year-old son Josh had dreamed of taking over the family’s farm, the rough plan had been for him to go to college first before deciding if running the dairy was in his cards. Now, suddenly, things were different. . . 


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