When they’re not polluting our rivers or fighting animal welfare laws, our farmers, the ‘guardians of the land’, are opposing having to pay for their greenhouse emissions. Now, with the Earth having just clocked up its warmest 12 months since records began, farmers are scratching their heads at the early start to the summer drought.
If it weren’t so important, it would be amusing to watch the farmers struggle to understand what’s happening. ‘Why has summer come two months early?’ asks Federated Farmers Auckland President Wendy Clarke with farms getting only half the normal rainfall in October and a third in November during some of the hottest weather on record. Soil moisture is already at low levels and a long dry summer will leave them buggered well into next year. BNZ has slashed their dairy output prediction by 5%.
Major droughts knock about 0.5% of GDP and this is coming just three years after the previous big one, which (with the oil shock and the sub-prime crisis) helped push New Zealand into recession. If surging oil prices, the earthquake, international debt dominoes, and a do nothing government that is leaving workers out to dry isn’t enough to send the economy into reverse again then a major drought will be.
Smaller regional droughts are now happening nearly every year and major droughts more and more regularly. Could this be that there climate change starting to make its impact felt?
A farm is a very long-term business. Even if you’re just farming in the hope of capital gain, like many farmers nowadays, you need the long-term productive capacity of your land to be intact or that capital value will wilt away. So why is it that farmers are so relentlessly short-termist when it comes to the environment that supports their industry?
Is it just too hard? Or are they really just greedy little capitalists like the rest of the rightwing elite who want to maximise production now and shift the costs on to everyone else, including their children?
In a sane world, the farmers would be the most vocal champions of tackling climate change because they’re the ones who are already getting walloped by it the hardest.
(oh and, btw, yes the UK is having a cold winter but the world as a whole is warmer and a colder UK is actually one outcome predicted by climate change models – the Gulf Stream supplies as much energy to the UK and Ireland during winter as the sun, making them much warmer than the European continent at the same latitudes, climate change is predicted to weaken this energy flow significantly)