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.


No electric sheep

July 19, 2019

The government reckons it is on the same page as farmers when it comes to countering climate change.

Farmers beg to differ:

The ‘Action on Agricultural Emissions’ discussion paper is a positive first step as farmers and the government hammer out a practical path to reduce livestock greenhouse gas emissions, Federated Farmers says.

“We are agreed that a priority is to find a workable and affordable way that farmers can measure emissions and sinks at the farm level, and to adopt practices and any new technologies that will help drive down methane and nitrous oxide emissions,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard says.

But there’s a but:

“Where we differ is that the Government keeps emphasising pricing as the predominant tool.  Federated Farmers does not agree with universal pricing of methane.  The ETS has failed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport – in fact, transport emissions have near doubled since 1990.  Universal pricing of methane will be similarly unsuccessful.”

If it was successful it would reduce production at a significant economic and social cost with no global environmental gain.

If New Zealand was the only country to tax animal emissions and production here decreased as a result it would increase in other countries where production is far less efficient.

What Federated Farmers has committed to is working with the government to design a pricing mechanism where any price is part of a broader framework to support on-farm practice change.  Such pricing would be set at the margin – that is, only applying to methane emissions over the 0.3% per annum reductions that science tells us is enough to ensure methane no longer adds to global warming.

The government can’t tell us to accept the science on climate change then not accept the science on ways to counter it.

New Zealand farmers are proud to be among the most efficient producers in world and, unlike many of their overseas competitors essentially stand on their own two feet, as their animals stand on their own four feet. Farmers here are largely unsubsidised by consumers (by way of inflated prices) or taxpayers, and that has been so for over 30 years, Hoggard says.

If New Zealand’s milk and meat export volumes reduce as a result of lower on-farm production, the gap will be filled by less efficient producers. This is known as “emissions leakage” and will ultimately increase global emissions and food costs.

“So any pricing should only be a tool to incentivise farmers into taking up economically viable opportunities to cut methane, just as the Government might use incentives or a nudge to encourage people to switch to an electric vehicle.

“Unlike for a fossil-fuel powered vehicle, there is no ‘electric sheep’ equivalent for farmers.  But there is the potential for methane inhibitors or a vaccine, albeit some years away from proof and coming to market,” Hoggard says.

Breeding low-emission animals and selecting low-emission feeds are options being explored meantime.

The agriculture sector has committed to work with the government and iwi/Maori to design a practical and cost-effective system for reducing emissions at farm level – including a pricing mechanism as part of the broad framework – by 2025.

Meanwhile, the sector’s proposed 5-year programme of action is aimed at ensuring farmers and growers are equipped with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver emissions reductions while maintaining profitability.

Education and tools will do far more good and a lot less harm than the government’s plan which is not just another tax but a tax which is  counter to the science.


Averaging punishes good, insulates bad

April 15, 2019

The threat of an emissions tax on farmers is growing:

Livestock farmers could face an initial greenhouse gas emissions tax of $50 million a year rising to $1 billion, Interim Climate Change Committee David Prentice says. . .

The $50m is subsidised by the Government allocating units equivalent to 95% of emissions to the primary sector to help it transition and is calculated on a carbon price of $25 a tonne.

However, the tax might rise to $1b at an indeterminate time in the future.

The figures are in a discussion document delivered to the Agricultural Climate Change Conference in Palmerston North by Prentice. . . 

The document, on the committee’s website, reveals the committee’s thinking on charges farmers will face as the Government moves the economy to be carbon neutral by 2020.

Adding insult to the financial injury is the government’s blanket refusal to allow genetic engineering which could provide at least part of the answer to reduced emissions.

It says an emission tax levied at farm level could be implemented from 2025. In the interim it could be collected by processors from next year. 

That will give certainty to the primary sector, respond to calls for agriculture to meet its emissions’ obligations and raise awareness with farmers who will see the deduction on kill sheets and milk receipts.

This would average the cost.

That would reduce the incentive to take action, punishe farmers who have lower emissions and insulate those with higher ones from the consequences of their actions, or inaction.

Money raised will be used to introduction the policy but also to help rural communities cope with the likely loss of jobs and services such as schools as farming families leave areas when farmland is planted in trees to offset emissions.

The committee is investigating the impact on rural communities. . . 

The committee only needs to look at what happened to rural communities during and after the ag-sag of the 1980s.

Jobs were lost, people moved in search of work, businesses which serviced and supplied farmers failed, adult children left for education or jobs and didn’t return . . .

Add costs to production with an emissions tax, replace stock with trees and there will be a similar impact.

It will have a detrimental economic and social impact, increase the cost of food and won’t do anything for the environment because loss of production here will be replaced by an increase in other countries whose methods are far less efficient than hours.

 

 

 


Science when it suits

April 8, 2019

Anyone who dares to challenge the politically accepted view on climate change  is told to accept the science.

But  during Question Time last week, Climate Change Minister James Shaw, showed again he is prepared to accept only the science that suits:

. . . Todd Muller: Does he stand by his statement made on 4 March during an interview on Q+A that when it comes to the application of GE technology in New Zealand, he—and I quote—”will be led by the science on it.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Yes.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the former Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who said—and I quote—”I’ll go as far as to say that I cannot see a way that agriculture in New Zealand will be sustainable over the long run in the face of environmental change and consumer preferences without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: Does he agree with the then Prime Minister’s chief scientist, Sir Peter Gluckman, who also said at the time—and I quote—”There is no way that we will get a reduction in methane production, and I can see no way that we will see an economic advantage for farmers as we shift to more plant-based foods, without using gene editing.”?

Hon JAMES SHAW: No.

Todd Muller: When he said he would be—and I quote—”led by the science”, did he mean all science or just the science that fits his political narrative?

Hon JAMES SHAW: If the member looks at the previous supplementary questions, he’ll see that what Sir Peter Gluckman was saying is that he didn’t see any other ways than GE to achieve those outcomes. I do see other ways.

Todd Muller: What are the other ways of addressing agriculture emission reduction that he thinks the chief scientist has not captured in his assessment?

Hon JAMES SHAW: I can’t comment on what the former Chief Science Advisor included in his assessment, but if the member’s interested, I would advise him to read the report of the Biological Emissions Reference Group that the previous Government set up. It took a number of years looking at a range of options for how agricultural emissions could be reduced and found that, actually, with a high degree of confidence, agriculture would be able to reduce emissions by at least 10 percent by 2030, and found with a similarly high degree of confidence that it would be able to reduce it by at least 30 percent by 2050.

Todd Muller: A final supplementary: does he consider climate change to be a sufficiently serious global issue that all science and innovations, including GE, need to be considered, or does he just think it is a pick and choose menu?

Hon JAMES SHAW: Well, I think that policy makers always have options in front of them about what choices to make, but I certainly do believe that climate change is not just the greatest challenge of our time but, potentially, the greatest challenge of all time. . .

If he wants us to accept that climate change is such a challenge and take the need for action seriously, how can he shut the door on technology that could address at least some of the contributors?

Federated Farmers correctly points out his closed mind is unhelpful:

The Green Party’s apparent unwillingness to even have a discussion on the potential of genetic engineering to provide solutions to some of our most pressing environmental issues is extremely disappointing, Federated Farmers says.

“Terse answers from Climate Change Minister James Shaw to Parliamentary questions this week indicate the Greens find the GE topic too hot to handle. But discussions on pragmatic and science-based policies should not be held to ransom by merely trying to keep a vocal section of your political party’s membership happy,” Federated Farmers climate change spokesperson Andrew Hoggard says.

There have been plenty of media reports about a ryegrass developed by NZ AgResearch using gene editing. It can substantially reduce methane emissions from cattle which eat it. Under our current laws the grass cannot be grown in New Zealand, and field trials are having to take place in the United States. . . 

“Mr Shaw didn’t have to agree with Sir Peter Gluckman but we do hope he won’t be so quick to shut down discussion of GE’s potential in talks with groups such as Federated Farmers and others,” Andrew says.

“We’ve already had Green MP and Conservation Minister  tell Predator-free NZ not to pursue the option of GE technologies as an answer to eradication of possums, rats and other pests.

“Farmers are being called on to make deep cuts in emissions from their livestock. Just about the only way were going to be able to do that, without crippling the viability of many farms, are breakthrough technologies still being worked on.

“Federated Farmers’ position is that we should at least be open to the potential of GE, and we need to continue scientific and field research on its advantages and disadvantages, at the same time as having an open-minded and rational debate with all New Zealanders.”

James Shaw is playing to his political supporters and putting their opposition to GE, which is based far more on emotion than science, ahead of his ministerial responsibility.

In doing so he is denying New Zealanders tools which could reduce greenhouse gases and increase the pace of the journey towards a predator-free country, both of which ought to appeal to those of a green persuasion, but sadly not enough who are Greens.

It’s a pity they and the Minister, can’t, or won’t, accept the science that shows the very low risks and high potential benefits of GE.


We need green not greenwash

January 14, 2019

Danyl Mclauchlan says the political process isn’t working and people don’t care about climate change.

He is right that the political process isn’t working. In many cases is making matters worse.

He’s wrong in saying people don’t care about the environment including climate change.

But they also care about people and the economic and social impact of policies which might or might not save the planet, and will come at a high human and financial cost.

This is why National Party climate change spokesman, Todd Muller, is looking for not only a bi-partisan approach but one which isn’t blinded by green ideology:

We are not a party of “climate villains” dragging our feet as they would paint, but rather a party of economic and environmental pragmatists who are taking a principled approach to climate change: allowing science to paint the picture, with technology leading the way, pacing ourselves at the pace of our competitors, and being relentlessly honest about the economic implications of the transition. . . 

National takes climate change seriously. That’s why have I been working behind the scenes with James Shaw negotiating a framework for an Independent Climate Change Commission to take the short-term politics out of what is a very long-term issue and guide the response of successive future governments.

Generation Zero is trying to paint climate change as a partisan issue, with the Labour and Green Party in one corner, and National in the other.

We are seeking to move climate change beyond partisan politics to provide stability to this issue. National is proud of its record on climate issues, but those who are dead set on New Zealand always moving harder and faster no matter the cost, often under the guise of “ambition”, will never let the truth get in the way of a good story. . .

That cost isn’t only a financial and social one. It would be an environmental one if, for example, the dark green calls for drastic reductions in stock numbers here led to increases in other countries where farming practices are far less efficient.

Another example of policy on the hoof leading to more emissions, not less, is the oil and gas ban.

The key difference in policy has been the Labour Government’s ban on oil and gas exploration – a change of direction that the National Party continues to oppose vigorously. This decision was pure politics with the Government’s own officials advising that banning oil and gas would cost our economy billions of dollars and likely lead to an increase in global emissions.

The people of Taranaki don’t need a “safe space” to “grieve the change of identity”. What the people of Taranaki need is economic certainty and a Government that isn’t blinded by Green ideology.

National is ambitious when it comes to climate action. We are also ambitious for New Zealand. It is absolutely critical that we move – but let’s not move at a pace that leaves businesses and communities behind and puts our economy at a competitive disadvantage with the rest of the world.

Modelling provided to the Minister for Climate Change by NZIER indicated that achieving an all-gases zero emissions target by 2050 would reduce New Zealand wages by 60 per cent and GDP by 40 per cent. This may be palatable to Generation Zero, but I doubt the rest of New Zealand would agree.

It’s sadly ironical that some of the people calling loudest for reducing poverty are also calling loudest for radical environmental policies that will hit the poor hardest.

New Zealand is already a low-wage economy with at best modest growth in GDP. A 60% drop in wages and a 40% fall in GDP would be devastating for us all.

When our total emissions account for 0.17 per cent of total global emissions, leadership isn’t being first, fast and famous.

Leadership is taking what we already do well, food production, and doing it even better over time by investing in innovation and technology.

The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases, is an example of putting money into science to reduce emissions without reducing production and making food more expensive.

While all parties are working together to support New Zealand playing its part on climate change, we can’t ignore the reality that, ultimately, it will be decisions made in Washington, Beijing, Moscow and New Delhi – not Wellington – that will determine the level of warming we will see over coming centuries.

Future generations will thank us for working with, and at the pace of, global partners.

A cleaner, greener world requires us all to think globally and act locally but the thinking and acting must be based on science not politics.

That is the only way to get green policies, not greenwash.

 


Can’t be green when in the red

December 17, 2018

National’s Climate Change spokesman Todd Muller understands the problem:

Any government which sabotages its country’s economy and its people’s standard of living is doomed.

No matter how seriously a government takes climate change, it won’t survive to act on its concerns if can’t take the people with it and it won’t take the people with it if they feel they, and the country, are going backwards.

Economic growth and environmental stewardship aren’t mutually exclusive.

Furthermore, unless we’re prepared to regress to a subsistence existence, economic health is required for environmental improvements.

It’s no coincidence that more successful enterprises and wealthier countries have better environmental standards.

Whether you’re an individual, a business or a country, you can’t be green if you’re in the red.


%d bloggers like this: