A message for our anti-science government

Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, May 18th, 2016 - 37 comments
Categories: climate change, ETS, farming, global warming, national, science - Tags: , , , ,

In theory our government loves science (good for the economy you know). In practice it ignores or attacks science if the evidence is inconvenient to its ideology. Dita De Boni has a good piece on this today:

We love us some science (as long as it supports our vested interests)

Perhaps what I’m trying to say here is that frequently, research shows that handing over the control of our natural resources to large industries – industries that quite often have ministers on speed-dial – leads to a higher chance that natural resource will be exploited for profit, and that situation courts environmental disaster.

When said disaster eventuates, one of the most common reactions amongst both Government and lobbyists protecting said industries is to trash the science behind such findings.

Look, call me a conspiracy theorist if you want. Perhaps that’s true. It’s just that this week, when I read about the fact that half the fish caught in our waters go unrecorded – either not declared or dumped out to sea – and that reports done within the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) had stated the same thing (and never seen the light of day), I thought to myself, “oooh, here comes a good science trashing by seafood industry lobbyists and the Government!”

I was not disappointed. The Government’s Nathan Guy questioned the science, as you’d expect, calling himself “sceptical” of the claims and stating New Zealand had the best marine management system in the world.

Just to clarify, he’s sceptical of claims made by a collaboration of 400 international and local researchers over 15 years using stock assessment reports, peer-reviewed literature, unpublished reports, and information obtained under the Official Information Act, as well as 308 confidential interviews with industry experts and personnel with first-hand knowledge of fishing and reporting practices – combined with official catch data.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen before so it should not come as too much of a surprise. We were told that scientists warning of our polluted waterways were full of baloney, essentially, as well as being politically motivated. That the country’s top scientists working as the Royal Society of New Zealand to produce reports on climate change, warning of serious problems if we do not move to a low carbon economy, provided merely a “useful resource” upon which to move at some imaginary future date. …

Here’s some more science for the government to hate on:

Paris climate agreement cannot be met without emissions reduction target for agriculture

New study finds current interventions only achieve 21-40 percent of goal

Scientists have calculated, for the first time, the extent to which agricultural emissions must be reduced to meet the Paris climate agreement’s plan to limit warming to 2 degrees Celsius in 2100. They estimate that farming must reduce non-CO2 emissions by 1 gigaton per year in 2030. The analysis also revealed a major gap between the existing mitigation options for the agriculture sector and the reductions needed: current interventions would only deliver 21-40 percent of mitigation required.

The authors warn that emission reductions in other sectors such as energy and transport will be insufficient to meet the new climate agreement. They argue that agriculture must also play its part, proposing that the global institutions concerned with agriculture and food security set a sectoral target linked to the 2°C warming limit to guide more ambitious mitigation and track progress toward goals. …

This is an important message which the Nats will do their utmost to ignore (if they can) or attack (if they must). You will recall of course that they have left agriculture out of their review of the emissions trading scheme. Not that it matters much I guess, since our actions under the scheme have been largely fraudulent anyway.

we cheated cheats emissions listener cover

37 comments on “A message for our anti-science government”

  1. shorts 1

    its not just a message to the govt… but to all of us – we’ve got to start changing what we eat

    • Draco T Bastard 1.1

      We’ve also got to stop trying to feed the world. All the food produced in NZ needs to be sold in NZ.

      We need to do this to protect our own environment and to decrease ghg emissions.

      • b waghorn 1.1.1

        Unless you plan to build a dome over nz to control our climate you’ll have to except that we are all in this together and xenophobia will achieve sfa,.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1

          Nothing about xenophobia – just reality.

          • Outdoor 1.1.1.1.1

            Nothing realistic about it, NZ produces far more food than we consume which is why it is exported. All(?) the plant based food is good for the environment & the health of people eating it. The environment & peoples health suffer negative effects from the animal food produced. Various groups have different ideas on the degrees of harm or health benefits from diet choices & the nanny state diet idea would not be popular. The majority of farmland in NZ is most suited for pastoral farming & we don’t have the population to support intensive horticulture’s labor requirements which would have had a better environment impact. Climate change is a world wide problem & needs world wide action.

            • Draco T Bastard 1.1.1.1.1.1

              Nothing realistic about it, NZ produces far more food than we consume which is why it is exported.

              Which is neither realistic nor sustainable.

              All(?) the plant based food is good for the environment & the health of people eating it.

              Bullshit. Complete and utter codswallop.

              One of the major problems we face from farming is the reduction in bio-diversity and water availability which helping push the 6th extinction.

              The majority of farmland in NZ is most suited for pastoral farming & we don’t have the population to support intensive horticulture’s labor requirements which would have had a better environment impact.

              And that, too, is a load of bollocks. It doesn’t actually matter what our population is as it only takes a couple of percent of it to provide food for all of us. This actually applies across the world.

              As it is, intensive horticulture is a major part of the problem and is completely unsustainable.

              As I said, reality. What you’re spouting is the delusion that is our present economic system.

            • Psycho Milt 1.1.1.1.1.2

              …the plant based food is good for the environment & the health of people eating it. The environment & peoples health suffer negative effects from the animal food produced.

              Hilarious that this comment should appear under a post accusing the government of being anti-science – apparently it’s no more anti-science than some of its opponents.

            • Lloyd 1.1.1.1.1.3

              Since climate is changing drastically, food production potential in many countries will change drastically over the next few years, mainly negatively, so expecting every country to be able to produce all its own food is probably fantasy.
              New Zealand has the potential to be a food supplier in the long term as the likely climate changes we will suffer are not likely to be as drastic as much of the world due to the surrounding ocean smoothing out some of the worst effects.
              Our agriculture is likely to cause less new damage to the atmosphere compared with many countries trying to now ramp up their agriculture to produce all their own food. We burned much of our forest in the late 1800’s whilst most other potential new agricultural areas in the world will involve destruction of natural habitat, forest burning etc.
              Lower carbon producing agricultural techniques with more mixed farming would need more flexible farming techniques than many NZ farmers currently use. Research into low carbon farming is where the government should invest in science and technology. Our food export product will probably change and become more varied. Trees grow as well as grass in New Zealand. I keep wondering why we import walnuts…….

              The winds of the southern ocean mean that sailing ships will be able to carry that food around the world with very little carbon dioxide production, as they did in the 1800’s.

              Withdrawing New Zealand from international food exporting would be a stupid move at many levels. Continuing intensive pastoral farming with its high methane production would also be stupid. Change is necessary but we don’t have to be Donald Trump stupid about agriculture to reduce our global warming emissions from agriculture.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Since climate is changing drastically, food production potential in many countries will change drastically over the next few years, mainly negatively, so expecting every country to be able to produce all its own food is probably fantasy.

                No it’s not. It’s the only way for the world to get back to being sustainable.

                New Zealand has the potential to be a food supplier in the long term as the likely climate changes we will suffer are not likely to be as drastic as much of the world due to the surrounding ocean smoothing out some of the worst effects.

                Actually, the changes to NZ look to be putting the whole country into near drought conditions. And, really, we’re a tiny land mass and our ability to produce food is already well beyond sustainable. Estimates are that we produce enough calories to feed ~20 million. We really can’t feed the world from here.

                Our agriculture is likely to cause less new damage to the atmosphere compared with many countries trying to now ramp up their agriculture to produce all their own food.

                The problem with that BS is that we need to repair our environment. That means replanting a lot of the native forest that got burned down.

                Withdrawing New Zealand from international food exporting would be a stupid move at many levels.

                No, maintaining our present level of food production is stupid because it’s unsustainable. Moving to sustainability will probably mean that we won’t be producing enough to export. Basic economics: You can have sustainability or high production but not both.

      • dukeofurl 1.1.2

        Thats ridiculous. You would be re indroducing famine if food exports were replaced by ‘local only’ on a global scale.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.1.2.1

          Only if it’s done wrong.

          And here’s the thing – a country dependent upon food imports isn’t going to survive the next few decades without that famine happening. We cannot sustain food exports on the scale that we have them today and so they won’t be maintained.

          It’s either work constructively to wean the world off of food exports/imports or nature will do it later and Nature doesn’t negotiate and doesn’t take prisoners.

        • xanthe 1.1.2.2

          would it create a famine were we to stop importing onions from california so that we could export ours to japan
          I actually believe that it would be quite possible for california, new zealand , and japan to grow sufficient onions for their own use.

          Stand on state highway 1 and count the truckloads of 4X2 going south
          also count the truckloads of 4X2 going north!

          do the maths.

    • b waghorn 1.2

      https://homepaddock.wordpress.com/2016/04/13/grass-is-green-but/

      Or we could trust these scientists and change what we feed the cows.

      • Corokia 1.2.1

        What about the GHGs required to resow all the paddocks?

        • weka 1.2.1.1

          And the carbon released from plouging.

        • b waghorn 1.2.1.2

          Most dairy farmers and a lot of dry stock farmers are resowing a % of their land every year any way.

          • Corokia 1.2.1.2.1

            Yet another example of the type of farming practices that need to change.

            Farmers in my district either plough up the soil to resow, or spray the paddock with weed killer and direct drill. (BTW we see them leave stock on paddocks that they have sprayed until days after the grass has died. The stock are clearly ingesting the weedkiller)

            • b waghorn 1.2.1.2.1.1

              Usually the stock are put in to graze the sprayed paddock a few days after spraying , glyphosphate breaks down rapidly, or so they tell us.

      • weka 1.2.2

        No to GE. What will happen is that they will use any reductions to keep on with the industrial, export, highly polluting model of farming. It has to stop. Genetically modifying grain crops is rearranging the deck chairs (and causing damage in the process).

        Science is good for examining what is going on and designing high tech solutions. Not so good at making ethical and sustainable decisions about what those solutions should be though, and it’s pretty crap at sustainabile solutions (which is fine, that’s not what science is for).

        • Draco T Bastard 1.2.2.1

          and it’s pretty crap at sustainabile solutions (which is fine, that’s not what science is for).

          It’s great at producing sustainable solutions and is, in fact, what it should be used for.

          It’s also great at producing non-sustainable solutions in the present system if some rich pricks think it will produce a good profit.

          The first question, IMO, that scientists need to ask when doing bio-research is: Is what we’re doing going to be sustainable or contribute sustainable practices?

        • b waghorn 1.2.2.2

          “. What will happen is that they will use any reductions to keep on with the industrial, export, highly polluting model of farming. It has to stop.”

          That’s a governance thing ,as the post points out we have a government that only listens to scientists when it suits them.
          For years we’ve been hearing from the greens that nz should be riding the green technology wave, well this grass sounds like green tech to me

          • weka 1.2.2.2.1

            Green tech isn’t the same as sustainable. The underlying principles of GP policy is sustainability. So yes, green tech, but GE rye to support BAU polluting dairying is not sustainable. It can’t be by definition (even without the GE rye).

          • Corokia 1.2.2.2.2

            A rye grass monoculture (GE or not) ain’t ‘green’

            • b waghorn 1.2.2.2.2.1

              I would assume that there would be some clover mixed into the brew at the very least, as its nitrogen fixing abilities drive grass production.

              • weka

                You still have to plough every year right? Which releases carbon and destroys soil microbia, so you then have to add artificial fertiliser (which has its own carbon footprint).

                • Outdoor

                  You don’t plough the same paddock every year. depending on a few variables on most cultivatable pastoral farms between 5 to 10 years would be the time between cultivation. With good management & favourable weather 20-50 years is possible between pasture renewal. All farms add fertilizer, I am not sure what your problem with fertilizer is, you say artificial but concentrated might be a better term, compost, manures have the same minerals although include organic matter which should help soil health. Both types of fertilizer need to be limited as overuse will cause environmental problems.

                  • Gristle

                    You should talk to my neighbour who does dairy support. He plowed his paddocks 4 times in the last two years. Compaction is a real problem but then so is lack of rain.

                    Anyway, I am downwind of his farm and get gifted all this nice top soil every time it blows and I can’t work out where it comes from. I wonder if there is a correlation between his plowing and my free topsoil?

                    • weka

                      Where I live a lot of it is crop support for dairying. You can see the dust clouds for miles when the ploughing is happening.

                  • weka

                    Oh, right, perennial. Thanks.

                    “All farms add fertilizer, I am not sure what your problem with fertilizer is, you say artificial but concentrated might be a better term, compost, manures have the same minerals although include organic matter which should help soil health. Both types of fertilizer need to be limited as overuse will cause environmental problems.”

                    No, I meant artificial. Compared to organic. Yes, loose terms, but there is are significant differences in how something is produced and what effect it has on the soil, as well as the overarching approaches used in different kinds of farming that manage fertillity in different ways. Whatever other problems there are, climate change suggests that fertiliser that relies overly on fossil fuels for production, transport and application is a dead end.

      • Draco T Bastard 1.2.3

        I’ll trust the research – once they’ve done it in controlled environments so as to protect the real environments. In the mean time we should be cutting back on farming.

        And even once it becomes available we should probably cut back on farming.

        The answer to: How do we make our society sustainable? isn’t more farming.

  2. Gristle 2

    RNZ National Morning Report 23 November 2015.
    Mr Key maintains that his scientists saying that “we’ll have a solution to agricultural emissions in 3-4 years. ”

    So when Key et al will trash one bunch of scientists, they have backed those with a bit of good news. The problem is that nobody has been able to find what out what are these solutions that are going to solve the world’s agricultural emission problems.

    A possible maximum 30% reduction helps but it is not solving agricultural emmissions which is the claim.

  3. Wonderful stuff. Sad but true. Pick and choose your expertise when it suits. I wasted three hours today trying to convey a similar message, only for it to be barely a tenth as good as De Boni’s above. Ended up deleting it. I’m rather miffed that I didn’t see the above first, would have saved me a lot of hassle and heartache. Oh well, at least I can forward a link now.

  4. Bill 4

    The authors warn that emission reductions in other sectors such as energy and transport will be insufficient to meet the new climate agreement.

    Some questions come immediately to mind.

    1. When the report talks about emission reductions in other sectors being insufficient to meet the new climate agreement, are they talking about the Nationally Determined Contributions being insufficient to limit warming 2 degrees C? From the quoted text, it appears so. But we knew that!

    Recapping. Paris ‘agreed’ to 2 degrees C (and efforts for 1.5 degrees C), but the NDCs, if implemented in full are a recipe for 3.5 degrees to 4 degrees. And every fucking NDC scenario assumes carbon capture and storage sucking CO2 from the air, which, even if possible, is still magical thinking when the logistics are considered.

    2. Why separate agriculture from land use and energy from transport etc? That allows fudges to be developed between energy and other sectors ( The dangerous, stupid game becomes reducing something in ag and using that as an excuse to not reduce in energy). And since, if we dispel with the magical thinking of CCS, we need…there is absolutely no disagreement on this in the scientific community as far as I know…to have achieved zero from fossil by, at the latest, 2050 on a global basis, we can’t play silly buggers. There are different zero dates for Annex 1 and Annex 2 countries. We’re Annex 1. We need to hit zero from energy in about 15 years time – 2030 or thereabouts.

    I’ll come back on this when I’ve had time to look at the actual report, but for now I’m calling bullshit on it. Note. I’m not saying that land use emissions aren’t important and shouldn’t be reduced as much as possible, but we can’t allow them to be played off against reductions in energy emissions. And at first blush, this report is trying to open up that very ‘game’ space.

    • Bill 4.1

      Found it.

      It’s published as an opinion piece. It runs scenarios against RCP 2.6…a Representative Concentration Pathway that assumes a global peak in GHG emissions occurring sometime between 2010 and 2020.

      And all three Impact Assessment Models they use include BECCS (Bio-energy + carbon capture and storage).

      They also (I need to double check this when I’m more awake) seem to be stacking their argument against those inadequate, politically motivated NDCs and not the requirements as set out by science.

      So a global peak in emissions about now or in the past, and a magicians hat that’s got BECCS in it, and (maybe or arguably) a false comparison.

      Not worth bog-paper if you want to be getting real about stuff. Nice if you’re just looking for a cop-out 😉 Here’s the link for anyone who’s interested anyway.

      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/gcb.13340/epdf

  5. save nz 5

    Great post!

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