Rural round-up

October 26, 2019

The deal’s done – Bryan Gibson:

Farmers now control their emissions destiny but industry leaders warn the hard work starts here.

The Government has adopted He Waka Eke Noa – the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment, which Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison said is a good outcome for farmers.

“I hope farmers understand the importance of today,” he said.

“This is a piece of work that empowers us as a sector to put the tools in place to measure the mitigations, the sequestrations against our liabilities. 

“That’s our goal and that will drive the right behaviours.”

But now the office work is done the farm work will start. . .

Water policy stymies green work :

Hill-Country farmers will be deterred from doing environmental protection and enhancement because of limits put on land use by the proposed Essential Freshwater policies, Tararua farmers Simon and Trudy Hales say.

They believe restrictions on farmers’ ability to realise the productive potential of their land will stymie investment in environmental protection.

The couple, this year’s Supreme Award winners in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region Ballance Farm Environment Awards, estimate over the past four years they have spent about $120,000 on environmental protection on their 970ha, 819ha effective, hill country farm. . .

Taranaki farming couple reap benefit after lifetime of responsible land management – Mike Watson:

When Norton and Coral Moller decided to plant trees on a bare coastal dairy farm south of New Plymouth, the response from neighbours was disbelief.

Nearly 50 years later the retired Oakura couple are reaping the benefits.

Last month they were among 17 Taranaki Environment Award winners, for environmental leadership in dairying. . .

New Zealand’s anti-science GMO laws need to change to tackle climate change – Mia Sutherland:

If this coalition government is serious about tackling climate change and ensuring future generations are left with a prosperous planet, GMO law reform must be considered.

A poignant aspect of making a difference to New Zealand’s carbon emissions is discontinuing ‘business as usual’, meaning that the lifestyles we have founded and the way our society operates now needs to change. It’s not sustainable, and doesn’t promise the 170,000 people who took to the streets on September 27 or their children an inhabitable future.

We need to be exploring new methods, changing the way we think, and reevaluating ideas we have while taking into consideration the increasingly fast development of science. We need to reform the law about genetically modified organisms. . .

Kiwifruit pushes onto dairy land – Alan WIlliams:

Two properties destined for conversion to kiwifruit are among the few dairy farms being sold.

The farms are in the Pukehina area, east of the main kiwifruit zone at Te Puke in Bay of Plenty.

It is fringe kiwifruit land away from the main post-harvest infrastructure and indications are the buyers are already in the industry with the knowledge to make the bare-land investment, Real Estate Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said.  . .

More Trades Academy places good news for primary sector:

The announcement of up to 4000 more trades training places in schools will help meet demand from students to learn about farming and horticulture, Primary ITO chief executive Nigel Philpott says.

The Government will fund 2000 more Trades Academy places, where secondary students combine full-time study with experience in the workplace, as well as up to 2000 Gateway places, where students have job placements along with classroom learning. The Trades Academies are across a number of sectors.

Primary ITO currently has New Zealand’s biggest Trades Academy, with approximately 830 students, and Mr Philpott says schools have asked for nearly 1100 Trades Academy places for next year. . .

Genetic engineering, CRISPR and food: What the ‘revolution’ will bring in the near future – Steven Cerier:

Humankind is on the verge of a genetic revolution that holds great promise and potential. It will change the ways food is grown, medicine is produced, animals are altered and will give rise to new ways of producing plastics, biofuels and chemicals.

Many object to the genetic revolution, insisting we should not be ‘playing God’ by tinkering with the building blocks of life; we should leave the genie in the bottle. This is the view held by many opponents of GMO foods But few transformative scientific advances are widely embraced at first. Once a discovery has been made and its impact widely felt it is impossible to stop despite the pleas of doubters and critics concerned about potential unintended consequences. Otherwise, science would not have experienced great leaps throughout history­­—and we would still be living a primitive existence


Working with better than against

October 25, 2019

The government has seen sense and is accepting the primary sector’s proposal on agricultural emissions.

The agreement means agriculture will not join the Emissions Trading Scheme but instead work with the Government to reduce emissions.

There will be no processor levy from 2020 to 2025 as initially proposed but farmers and growers will have to implement farm plans and calculate their emissions and offsets at the farmgate from 2025.

A processor level would have penalised more efficient farmers and given no-one an incentive to improve.

Such a tax would have taken money from farmers, leaving them with less to invest in on-farm solutions.

Progress will be reviewed in 2022 and if the Government is unhappy it will revert to the original legislation.

That threat will hang over the sector but at least there’s breathing space.

We are pleased that the Government has recognised that it does not make sense to bring agriculture into the ETS and that we have a pathway to work with the Government to develop a more appropriate framework,” the sector said in a joint statement.

“We welcome this pragmatic and sensible decision by the Government to work in partnership with industry to achieve tangible on-farm change and hope that it might provide a blueprint for the way we work together to solve environmental challenges in the future.”

Would it be too much to hope a similar approach could be taken to water policy?

The 11-member primary sector group has committed $25m over five years to achieve these goals.

That group is Apiculture NZ, Beef + Lamb, DairyNZ, Dairy Companies Association, Deer Industry NZ, Federation of Maori Authorities, Foundation for Arable Research, Federated Farmers, Horticulture NZ, Irrigation NZ and the Meat Industry Association. . .

This shows the importance of unity and what can be achieved when working together.

It also shows the sense of government working with the sector instead of trying to impose impossible goals on it.

Federated Farmers’ response is here.

DairyNZ’s response is here.

 


Focus on right solutions

October 23, 2019

Stephen Franks explains why he supports climate change investment:

An article in Forbes magazine reports on George Shultz recounting how Ronald Reagan gained a consensus to support the Montreal Protocol to combat the fluorocarbons that were thought to be creating the hole in the ozone layer. He refers to the problem of persuading people who felt there was too much uncertainty in the science.

“And then he [Reagan] did something that nobody ever does anymore,” Shultz said. “He went to the scientists who didn’t agree and put his arm around them and said, ‘We respect you, but you do agree that if it happens it’s a catastrophe, so let’s take out an insurance policy.’”

For 20 years I’ve used the same analogy in trying to counsel people who trap themselves into claiming more confidence in the “denialist” case than they can possibly justify, just because they can’t stomach the religious fervour and anti-human callousness of many climate campaigners.

I see precautionary investment against climate change as equivalent in political decision-making, to expenditure on defence. Both require spending for highly uncertain benefit. No one can know whether we genuinely have an enemy who will attack. No one can know if our precautions will be effective. Hopefully the investment will be untested. We can’t know until afterwards whether it is wasted. Yet it is rational to try, because the catastrophe could be so overwhelming if the risk matures without resilience or mitigation precautions.

But such investment remains foolish if it is unlikely reduce CO2 levels materially, or to improve New Zealand’s ability to cope if change happens nevertheless. Given NZ’s inability to affect the first, an insurance investment should focus primarily on resilience. . .

Proposed measures do the opposite.

And so we have in NZ a closing of ranks against climate “denialism”. Our elite hunts for heretics. We should instead respect those who are suspicious of compulsory ‘scientific consensus’ but ask them to join in working out what is likely to be most efficient (given we are going to spend on ‘insurance’ anyway).

It is wicked to take steps just for expansive show. The Zero Carbon Bill approach will actually increase world CO2 emissions, just not here.  So we are posturing to an indifferent global class, impoverishing ourselves (reducing resilience) and achieving as much against climate change as the Summer Palace did for the Qing dynasty and China.

It is frustrating that climate evangelists insist we accept the science on climate change but don’t follow the science on mitigation and solutions.

In doing so they are ignoring the high economic and social costs for at best little environmental gain and too often losses.

Bjorn Lomborg also writes about the need to focus on the right solutions:

As it is becoming obvious that political responses to global warming such as the Paris treaty are not working, environmentalists are urging us to consider the climate impact of our personal actions. Don’t eat meat, don’t drive a gasoline-powered car and don’t fly, they say. But these individual actions won’t make a substantial difference to our planet, and such demands divert attention away from the solutions that are needed.

Even if all 4.5 billion flights this year were stopped from taking off, and the same happened every year until 2100, temperatures would be reduced by just 0.054 degrees, using mainstream climate models — equivalent to delaying climate change by less than one year by 2100.

Nor will we solve global warming by giving up meat. Going vegetarian is difficult — one US survey shows 84 percent fail, most in less than a year. Those who succeed will only reduce their personal emissions by about 2 percent.

And electric cars are not the answer. Globally, there are just 5 million fully electric cars on the road. Even if this climbs massively to 130 million in 11 years, the International Energy Agency finds CO₂ equivalent emissions would be reduced by a mere 0.4 percent globally.

Put simply: The solution to climate change cannot be found in personal changes in the homes of the middle classes of rich countries. . .

If these changes won’t work, what will?

We must look at how we solved past major challenges — through innovation. The starvation catastrophes in developing nations in the 1960s to ’80s weren’t fixed by asking people to consume less food but through the Green Revolution in which innovation developed higher-yielding varieties that produced more plentiful food.

Similarly, the climate challenge will not be solved by asking people to use less (and more expensive) green energy. Instead, we should dramatically ramp up spending on research and development into green energy.

The Copenhagen Consensus Center asked 27 of the world’s top climate economists to examine policy options for responding to climate change. This analysis showed that the best investment is in green-energy R&D. For every dollar spent, $11 of climate damages would be avoided.

This would bring forward the day when green-energy alternatives are cheaper and more attractive than fossil fuels not just for the elite but for the entire world.

Right now, despite all the rhetoric about the importance of global warming, we are not ramping up this spending. On the sidelines of the 2015 Paris climate summit, more than 20 world leaders made a promise to double green-energy research and development by 2020. But spending has only inched up from $16 billion in 2015 to $17 billion in 2018. This is a broken promise that matters.

After 30 years of pursuing the wrong solution to climate change, we need to change the script.

The predominant script is a red one not a green one. It’s driven by an anti-capitalist political agenda.

We need to write a new one directing efforts towards research and innovation that will save the earth without imposing huge costs on the world.

 


Rural round-up

October 1, 2019

The climate change blame-game:

In spite of the abuse heaped on farmers by urbanites, the causes of climate change are a town and country problem.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern undersold New Zealand when she told the United Nations’ Climate Action Summit in New York that we were “determined to show that we can be the most sustainable food producers in the world”.

By most key measures, and even counting food miles for our exports, we already are. But that message needs amplifying.

Never mind the world stage – farmers need defending at home against the current fashion for demonising them as the prime culprits for greenhouse-gas emissions and water pollution. . . 

Farmers’ inner-city BBQs aim to boost urban connections, mental health – Maja Burry:

A farming group is hosting barbecues in cities around the country to try to strengthen the relationship between rural and city people.

Ag Proud, a group formed by Southland farmers, aims to promote positive farm practices and raise awareness around mental health in the farming-sector.

Dairy farmer and Ag Proud co-founder, Jon Pemberton, said a recent winter grazing campaign by environmentalists in his region and some of the stress that had created among farmers sparked the group’s formation. . . 

Celebrity chef Al Brown pledges support for NZ farmers, takes swipe at ‘urban keyboard warriors’ – Angie Skerrett:

Celebrity chef Al Brown has taken a swipe at “urban keyboard warriors” he claims criticise farmers unnecessarily.

Brown posted a message on his Facebook page pledging his support for New Zealand farmers and calling on city-dwellers to stop bagging them.

“I just want to say thank you to our farmers of New Zealand,” the Depot owner wrote.  . .

‘M. bovis’ costs $203m to date – Brent Melville:

The costs of Mycoplasma bovis to the agricultural sector continue to stack up.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) says the eradication programme has cost more than $203million to date – excluding compensation to farmers.

In that respect MPI has received a total of 1450 claims with a value of $109.9million and has so far completed 1100 of those, cutting cheques to farmers valued at about $96.5million.

According to the latest figures from MPI more than 116,526 cattle and cows have been culled in just over two years since the M. bovis eradication programme was launched.

That’s getting close to initial estimates that around 126,000 animals would be culled during the course of a multi-year surveillance and eradication strategy, or around 1% of New Zealand’s cattle population. . . 

New dehorning rules are here :

New rules will require pain relief when dehorning and disbudding cattle.

From tomorrow, new rules require people working with cattle to use local anaesthetic when dehorning and disbudding.

Veterinarian and director animal health and welfare Dr Chris Rodwell says removing horns or horn buds is necessary on the farm to keep animals safe from each other, as well as for human safety.

“These regulations highlight that removal is painful and those carrying it out need to reduce the pain experienced. . . 

Wool price rebounds after dip :

After an extremely turbulent few weeks, fine-mid wool growers are breathing a sigh of relief that prices are on the mend.

The US-China trade war has been affecting demand, with factories in China feeling reluctant to buy wool to make garments they might struggle to sell.

PGG Wrightson South Island sales manager for wool Dave Burridge said at its peak three weeks ago mid-fine wool prices in New Zealand were down 50 percent compared to the same time last year, but they had now made a notable recovery, sitting about 25 percent back on 2018 levels. . .

 


Eco-anxiety exacerbated by emotion not facts

September 25, 2019

Parents are being told not to terrify children over climate change:

Rising numbers of children are being treated for “eco-anxiety”, experts have said, as they warn parents against “terrifying” their youngsters with talk of climate catastrophe.

Protests by groups such as Extinction Rebellion, the recent fires in the Amazon and apocalyptic warnings by the teenage activist Greta Thunberg have prompted a “tsunami” of young people seeking help. . .

The Cold War and spectre of nuclear obliteration hung over my generation but I don’t recall being terrified by apocalyptic reporting like that which we’re getting on climate change.

A group of psychologists working with the University of Bath says it is receiving a growing volume of enquiries from teachers, doctors and therapists unable to cope.

The Climate Psychology Alliance (CPA) told The Daily Telegraph some children complaining of eco-anxiety have even been given psychiatric drugs.

The body is campaigning for anxiety specifically caused by fear for the future of the planet to be recognised as a psychological phenomenon.

However, they do not want it classed as a mental illness because, unlike standard anxiety, the cause of the worry is “rational”. . .

Is it rational or is the problem that a lot of the reporting in mainstream media and more so what’s spread by social media is more emotion than science?

Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg rose to global fame this year as she supported the protests by Extinction Rebellion, which brought parts of central London to a standstill.

Thurnberg argues that the EU must cut its carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2030 to avoid an existential crisis – double the target set by the Paris Accord – while Extinction Rebellion demands the UK achieve net-zero emissions by 2025. . .

What’s the science behind those claims and more importantly where’s the science in response?

The CPA recommends a four-stage approach to explaining responsibly climate change to children without scaring them.

Parents should first gradually introduce them to the known facts, then ask them how they feel, before acknowledging that the ultimate outcome is uncertain.

Finally, parents should agree practical steps to make a difference, such as by cutting down on non-recyclable waste and choosing food with a better climate footprint. . .

Where’s the science that proves recyclable is any better than non-recyclable?

Where’s the promotion of nutrient density in the carbon footprint equation for food that, for example, proves real milk is far better than the highly processed pretenders and that New Zealand Milk is best of all?

Where’s the promotion of practices that would make a real difference?

But how can we blame psychologists for spouting solutions based on emotion not science when our own Prime Minister is making promises contradicted by her government’s policies?

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has told world leaders at the UN Climate Action Summit that New Zealand is “determined” to be the most sustainable food producer in the world. . .

“We are determined that New Zealand can and will play our part in the global effort,” Ms Ardern said. . .

New Zealand farming is already the most sustainable in the world.

When the Prime Minister told the United Nations (UN) she was determined for New Zealand to be the most sustainable food producer in the world, she should have realised that we already are, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.

“The Prime Minister told the UN Climate Summit that ‘We are determined to show that New Zealand can and will be the most sustainable food producer in the world.’ When really she should have been promoting the fact that our primary sector is already the most sustainable food producer by some margin.

“New Zealand farmers have made massive gains over recent decades and continue to stay ahead of the pack in terms of efficiency and sustainability. In the last 30 years we’ve managed to produce more sheep meat from 32 per cent fewer sheep due to improvements with enhanced breeding mixes and enhanced lambing percentages.

“Our dairy products are so much more sustainable that a litre of New Zealand milk shipped to Ireland, the next most efficient producer, would still have a lower emissions profile than Irish milk produced locally.

“If the Prime Minister supported lowering emissions she would be promoting our primary sector on the world stage, and encouraging people to eat New Zealand produced food.” . . .

Playing our part in the global effort would be encouraging more food production here, not decreasing it by encouraging forestry on land best suited to pasture and other policies which would decimate farming at a high environmental, economic and social cost.

Playing our part would be following the Paris Accord’s stipulation that climate change mitigation would not come at the expense of food production.

Playing our part would be backing science not exacerbating ‘eco-anxiety’ with words and policies based on emotion not facts.


Contradictions fuel frustration

September 5, 2019

Climate change is supposed to be this government’s nuclear moment.

More renewable energy generation  is consistent with that.

But the government has killed off the Waitaha River hydro scheme even though it had sign-off from the Conservation Department, Iwi, and local councils.

The government wants farmers to reduce methane emissions but the   National Environment Standard on Freshwater Management and rewritten National Policy Statement want more wetlands and wetlands produce methane.

The policy also wants to reduce E.coli in rivers but that pollution in several waterways, including the Kakanui River from which we get our drinking water is caused by seagulls. Those birds are protected and so can’t be moved.

Farmers are very concerned about today’s announcements and contradictory messages sent by measures like these fuel their frustrations.

 


Science isn’t settled on response

July 22, 2019

Bjorn Lomborg accepts that climate change is a real, man-made problem but he says trillions of dollars will be wasted on ineffective policies:

Climate campaigners want to convince us that not only should we maintain these staggering costs, but that we should spend a fortune more on climate change, since our very survival is allegedly at stake. But they are mostly wrong, and we’re likely to end up wasting trillions during the coming decades. . . 

Global warming is a real, man-made problem — but it is just one of many challenges facing humanity. We shouldn’t base our policy decisions on Hollywood movies or on scare scenarios but on the facts. According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, even if we did absolutely nothing to respond to global warming, the total impact by the 2070s will be the equivalent to a 0.2 per cent to 2 per cent loss in average income. That’s a challenge that requires our attention — but it’s far from the end of the world.

Over-the-top environmental activists are not only out of synch with the science but they also are out of touch with mainstream concerns. A global poll by the UN of nearly 10 million people found that climate change was the lowest priority of all 16 challenges considered. At the very top, unsurprisingly, are issues such as better education, better healthcare and access to nutritious food. We need to address climate change effectively — but we should remember that there are many other issues that people want fixed more urgently. . .

Climate change, like many issues which become politicised, is generally a pre-occupation of educated, healthy, people with more than enough to eat and generally with middle or upper incomes.

Many of them while wanting “something “ to be done are unaware of how costly, ineffective and unsustainable most of the “somethings” being promoted are.

The present approach to climate change isn’t working. If fully implemented, analysis of the leading climate-economic models shows that the Paris Agreement will cost $US1 trillion to $US2 trillion every year in slowed economic growth. Our response to climate change is so expensive because alternative energy sources remain expensive and inefficient in most scenarios. It is still very expensive to switch from fossil fuels — hence the fortune being spent on subsidies, to little overall effect.

Despite costing a fortune, the Paris Agreement will have virtually no impact on global temperatures. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change has estimated that even if every country makes every single carbon cut suggested in the Paris treaty to the fullest extent, CO2 emissions would be cut by only 1 per cent of what would be needed to keep temperature rises under 2C. Incurring an annual $US1 trillion cost while failing to rein in temperature rises is a very poor idea.

A realistic and credible response to global warming needs to bring China and India on board. They are not going to slow their economies and imperil the fossil-fuel-driven growth that is lifting millions out of poverty.

When 27 of the world’s top climate economists and three Nobel laureates looked at the gamut of potential climate solutions for my think tank, Copenhagen Consensus, they found that the current approach, which tries to make fossil-fuel energy as expensive as possible, is very inefficient. Moreover, it is likely to fail since citizens in most countries are unlikely to accept the steep energy price hikes that these policies require. We can look to France’s “yellow vest” protests or to the elections in The Philippines, the US and Australia of politicians who loudly reject these policies to see that voters are making their choices heard. . .

Price increases would have to be prohibitively high to slow people’s use of fossil fuels and that would come at a very high political cost.

What’s needed instead, is much more research to find the green technologies that will replace fossil fuels. Lomborg says that would leave money to fix other problems.

His suggestions for those fixes include access to contraception; better nutrition for pregnant women and infants; and more investment in agricultural research:

This will make farmers able to produce more nutritious, reliable crops, especially in developing and fragile countries. We can generate extra yield increases by investing in agricultural R&D and by boosting the use of better (sometimes genetically modified) seeds, which give farmers more resilience and ability to withstand climate shocks, while lifting the poorest out of hunger. For a cost of $US2.5bn a year, we can produce benefits worth $US85bn. Each dollar spent will help generate more food security, reduced food prices and other social benefits worth $US35. . .

He also recommends treating TB which is still a scourge in poor countries.

Then he comes to trade:

The most powerful thing governments could do to transform lives would cost next to nothing at all: embrace freer trade. During the past 25 years, China lifted 680 million people out of poverty through trade, and there are similar stories from Indonesia, Chile and others. Genuine, global free trade would have benefits that would reach every single country. Far more than any aid dished out by donor countries, lowering trade barriers is the most powerful way to reduce extreme poverty. A completed global Doha trade deal would make the world $US11 trillion richer each and every year by 2030 according to research considered by the Nobel laureates. . .

This is such a simple solution that would help the poorest people most but it needs the political will to achieve it.

In developing nations, the increased wealth from the Doha deal would be equivalent to an extra $US1000 for every single person, every single year by 2030. This alone would cut the number of people living in poverty by 145 million in just 11 years. The annual cost would be $US20bn in pay-offs to those sectors (such as farmers in wealthy countries) who would lose out, and who politically are holding up the deals.

The list goes on. We could halve malaria infections for $US500m annually, save a million children’s lives through $US1bn of increased immunisation, triple preschool access in Africa for $US6bn and get every child in Africa through primary school for $US9bn. We could halve global coral reef loss for $US3bn, and save two million babies from death every year for $US14bn through policies such as providing expecting mothers with nutrients and protection from disease, having nurses and clean facilities at birth and ensuring best practice childcare afterwards.

All of these amazing policies will cost in total $US78bn. Together with the $US84bn for green energy R&D, the total comes to $US162bn — or what we’ll spend on subsidising inefficient renewables this year.

The total benefit to humanity from achieving this total list of policies will be around $US42 trillion. This would be the same as increasing the average income in the world by 50 per cent, and the benefits would mostly help the world’s poorest.

Of course, we also can spend 10 times as much on the Paris Agreement and generate about a thousand times fewer benefits from slightly reduced temperatures.

The choice really is clear. Do we want to be remembered in the future for being the generation that overreacted and spent a fortune feeling good about ourselves but doing very little, subsidising inefficient solar panels and promising slight carbon cuts — or do we want to be remembered for fundamentally helping to fix both climate and all the other challenges facing the world?

Whether or not the science on climate change is settled the science on the response is not.

One reason for that is the response is driven by politics and bureaucracy rather than science.

But Lomborg’s prescription would not only be more effective, it would be a lot more politically palatable than any of the current ones which will add huge costs with little if any benefit.

You can read more from him at lomborg.com  and you’ll find the think tank he heads, the Copenhagen Consensus, here.


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