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Myth busting – reducing agricultural emissions

Written By: - Date published: 9:31 am, August 8th, 2011 - 60 comments
Categories: ETS, farming - Tags:

Here was Agriculture Minister David Carter on Q+A yesterday on whether National would bring agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme:

CARTER  We’ve signalled that we’re doing it in 2015. We’ve signalled we’ll do a review prior to that to make sure that there are feasible technologies available for farmers to manage to bring agricultural gases into an emissions trading scheme, and you’ve got the Labour Party campaigning on bringing it in in 2013, with or without solutions.

GUYON         Well, isn’t that fair enough? Why should the rest of us subsidise the farmers? Cos someone has to pay, and at the moment we’re subsidising the farmers. Why is that fair?

MR CARTER  Because New Zealand relies on agriculture for our very survival, so what we need to do is work hard, both here in New Zealand with science and internationally to find solutions.

GUYON         Aren’t you asking a lot, though, Minister? Because you’re saying that farming and farmers are such a big part of the economy, therefore we have to accept that we pay higher prices for milk and cheese at home – oh, and also we have to subsidise them when it comes to the emissions trading scheme. I mean, isn’t there a point where other New Zealanders are going to say, “Well, come on, you should pay your fair share”?

MR CARTER  Yes, they should, and that’s when there are solutions available. So at the moment, as Andrew Ferrier just mentioned, Fonterra, through its processing, is under the emissions trading scheme. Every farmer purchasing energy, purchasing fuel is in an emissions trading scheme. What you’re talking about is making the farmer pay for methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Now, let science find some solutions, and when those solutions are available so that we can still carry on producing agricultural products to export to the world, then is the time to make the farmers pay.

Despite saying ‘yes, we are planning to bring agriculture in’, it’s clear that National is setting up a line of ‘we want to bring them in but there’s no way for them to reduce emissions, so it’s not fair to charge them’. Carter repeatedly states that there’s no scientific solutions to reducing farm emissions. But it’s just not true. Indeed, agriculture is already reducing its emissions, especially when you look at the comparison between economic output and greenhouse pollution. (sources: MFE and Stats)

So, there you have it. Agriculture already can reduce its emissions while increasing economic output. An ETS will further incentivise that, and mean the rest of us aren’t subsidising farmers as much.

If National doesn’t want to make farmers partially pay their own way, it needs a more credible excuse.

– Bright Red

60 comments on “Myth busting – reducing agricultural emissions”

  1. vto 1

    Well, it must just about be the case that the farmers of NZ are net receivers of taxpayers largesse.

    It was recently revealed that they don’t pay much tax and that the working classes in the cities pay the most per head and thus pay for the rural roads, the rural schools and the rural medical services.

    Add these subsidies and voila, it may well be that they receive more than they pay.

    What were the benfits to NZ of the rural sector again?

  2. cowbell 2

    Why would ‘science’ come up with solutions when there is no demand (created by the ETS) for them?

    • mik e 2.1

      Just in case someone pretends theirs no problem. Dung. Most farmers will be better of if they managed their farms better.Most farms I’ve been on thats lot of farms, are very poorly managed. The have poorly trained staff under paid and over worked because there is a shortage of farm workers and even less skilled workers. Farmers when they get these workers isolated in the country ,treat there workers like bonded labour.Dairy farmers are the worst. they treat animals just the same. so for those reasons listed it would not take much to lift farm productivity in the dairy sector very much at all.Making sure staff are trained properly looked after properly will ensure productivity is improved. Don’t hold your breath though these farmers Don’t care. Don’t see these problems.

  3. Andrei 3

    The ETS is moronic enough but bringing Agriculture intro is just insanity.

    Listen: Virtually everything you eat is produced by farmers – no farmers => empty bellys

    The overseas funds that are used to pay for your IPhones and other yuppie toys are earned for the most part by FARMERS and FARMING.

    Do you really want to transfer rewards of their enterprise and work into the pockets of parasites?

    Wake up

    • vto 3.1

      Stuid line #1: “Listen: Virtually everything you eat is produced by farmers – no farmers => empty bellys”

      Oh no, all the farmers disappear and we will starve to death! Ignoramus. Here’s a couple of similar ones for you Andrei;

      Listen: Virtually every house a farmer lives in is built by a builder – no builders => no house and death by hypothermia.

      Listen: Virtually every farmer’s health is suported by the health system – no health system => ill health and early death = no farmers.

      Listen: Virtually every farmer was taught to read and write by a teacher – no teacher => no ability to sell in todays modern world.

      Stupid line #2: “The overseas funds that are used to pay for your IPhones and other yuppie toys are earned for the most part by FARMERS and FARMING.”

      No they are not. Provide some proof to show how farming paid for my non-existant iphone.

      You live in Federated Farmers dreamland.

      • Andrei 3.1.1

        Listen: Virtually every house a farmer lives in is built by a builder – no builders => no house and death by hypothermia.

        If you live in the Kalahari desert you spend virtually all your waking hours finding enough food to feed yourself and those who depend on you. There is nothing left over to trade for something else.

        Hence no way of paying a builder to build you a house and no way of paying a school teacher to to teach your children etc. Thus life for those people is impoverished and short.

        However if you produce more food than you need then you can exchange the surplus for things you don’t have and others do e.g. Bricks to build your house and the skills and labour to build it.

        Or someone to educate your kids etc.

        Our whole civiliztion is based upon the fact that agriculture produces many fold times the food required by the people who produce it and thus can support other people to do other valuable things in addition to a parasite class – Guyon Espiner being an example of such as well as clueless

        • vto 3.1.1.1

          You just don’t get it do you. Agriculture has not provided those advances – each entire society has. Go read some history on how different societies have advanced at different rates and why those differences came about. It has virtually nothing to do with the person on the plough and virtually everything to do with society’s macro settings, which are set in the city. Wake up.

          • Lets be rational 3.1.1.1.1

            Side comment; I suggest you read Guns, Germas and Steel by Jared Diamond. Sure its only one point of view but he essentially reproves a well known point that society and civilization only developed after farming allowed such advances to take place.

            • Puddleglum 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Well, ‘yes’, but have a read of ‘Cities’ by John Reader and notice that there’s a theory that the first ‘city’ did not develop from agricultural surplus but from hunting and gathering surplus (e.g., from wild wheat) – which then allowed farming to happen after settlement.

              Farming, that is, resulted from ‘urbanisation’ and the advantages of that (e.g., having a local market big enough to make farming for a surplus worthwhile). Urban society, in that scenario, came first.
               

          • Andrei 3.1.1.1.2

            Where did the weetbix you had for breakfast come from? How did it get to your table?

            And the milk you put on it along with the sugar.

            And the butter you put on your toast and the coffee you washed it down with.

            All products of agriculture chum and if they stop coming how long would you last?

            A month maybe, not even that perhaps.

            Our focus on agriculture should be producing more and more cheaply at that – not on nonsense about “emissions”.

            Its not as though everybody gets enough to eat even in these enlightened times

            • vto 3.1.1.1.2.1

              Grow up fool. Again …

              How long would you last if you didn’t have a roof to sleep under tonight?

              dumb comment

              • Andrei

                Again having a roof over my head is predicated upon the fact that the people who built my house, myself in part, have enough to eat and are freed from the task of gathering, hunting, growing food etc for themselves.

                And are therefore able to do other and fundamentally useful things with their lives.

                Same goes for the people who make the electricity that keep it warm, the people who maintain the wires that deliver that electricity and so forth.

                And if the farmers cannot produce enough food to feed this whole army of people who keep the wheels of our world turning – well they stop turning and we end up back in the stone age – well the very few of us who haven’t starved to death do.

                • vto

                  you will die from hypothermia before i die from starvation so nyah nyah nyah

                  ffs

                  • terryg

                    Hey, I can play this stupid game. Andrei, you are missing the point entirely. we are only here because the strong nuclear force is not 2% stronger than its actual value. if it were, hydrogen would fuse into diprotons instead of deuterium and helium. This would prevent the formation of stars as we know them, thereby precluding the universe as we know it.

                    beat that 😀

                    • Andrei

                      Beyond silly – If you don’t eat you die – that is not speculation on what the Universe might look like if Plank’s constant took on a different value but a fact.

                      One that is self evident and sadly on display right now in East Africa

                    • vto

                      If you don’t shit you die. If you don’t sleep under a roof you die. If you don’t get medical help in an emergency you die. If you don’t breathe you die. If you don’t have modern medical help at birth you more often die.

                      If you can’t read or write you can’t sell shit. If you can’t drive a ship or plane you can’t export. If you don’t have two hands you can’t drive a tractor. If you don’t have lawyers you can’t sell properly. If you don’t have oil imports you can’t grow your particular types of food to sell. If the city taxpayers don’t pay for your roads you can’t export. If you have don’t have laws and enforcers you don’t have society and can’t sell.

                      Really Andrei, what is your point, cause I aint seen one yet.

                • John D

                  ETS on agriculture is insane because:
                  (a) NZ the only country in the world doing it
                  (b) Methane levels not increasing much, if at all, globally.
                  (c) Methane from cattle etc part of the natural carbon cycle
                  (d) The following are also big natural emitters of methane – termites, rice paddy fields, the Amazonian rainforest. All much bigger than NZ agriculture
                  (e) We are getting screwed on the ETS because crown forests are not included. If they were, we would be a net carbon sink.

                  If NZ introduces this, it will cripple its primary industry, make food expensive for every NZer, and line the pockets of rich corporates.

                  Anyone who thinks this is a good idea is either a moron, a thief, or both.

                  • millsy

                    Do you like swimming in shitty rivers then?

                    • John D

                      Water polution completely separate issue. I agree that this is a problem, but the ETS is not the solution to this.

                      Actually, some better farm management would be a better idea – e.g fences around rivers so cows don’t crap in streams.

                      Deal with this, not the non-issue of ruminant methane

                    • Andrei

                      The ETS has nothing to do with the cleanliness or otherwise of rivers.

                      And if you want to see shitty rivers go to Africa where the hippos shit in them

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Hey Andrei, which countries in Africa have a million cows…I mean hippos, shitting in rivers?

                  • (c) Methane from cattle etc part of the natural carbon cycle
                    (d) The following are also big natural emitters of methane – termites, rice paddy fields, the Amazonian rainforest. All much bigger than NZ agriculture

                    Don’t these two points actually miss the point? That climate change is happening (now) because of the recent use of fossil fuels and intensive agricultural practices is, so far as I’m aware, conclusively shown by current research. That means that it is those activities over which we have control that have been responsible (not the Amazon doing what it’s always done, termites doing what they’ve always done, etc.). Rice paddy fields (if you’re correct), intensive dairying, the tendency to farm ruminants in general, are all practices which we have the ability to alter by changing the economic processes of production. Surely that’s sensible?

                    I’m no expert on an ETS vs. a carbon tax vs. some other measure to reduce carbon emissions, but it seems to me that any means by which we can alter human behaviour and practices in this regard should be encouraged to limit carbon emissions. 

                    Your point about methane being part of the natural carbon cycle is no doubt true but, once again, it’s the extra amounts that arise from our modern way of farming that we can control. I don’t think anyone has plans to plug every volcano, kill every antelope and wildebeest on the serengetti or pave over the amazon to limit ‘natural’ carbon and methane emissions just to preserve our industrial and agricultural practices – or are they?

                  • drum

                    Finally someone with some facts and sense.
                    NZ is a primal producing country that has to play in the world market to settle its debts.
                    All the ETS will do is force up our prices nationally and internationally.
                    We are not going to be followed up this path by developing nations who are our future competitors or by any other nation that has the need to export at the level we do.
                    By adding this cost onto our primary production it will filter right through our entire economy as we are consumers .
                    When we want to be smart and produce products that are good for the environment (say packaging) it to will have an added ETS component so when NZ business’s driven by economics look for the cheapest option they more than likely will go to asian markets for the product to package with to export (remember what pays the bills so we can have social services, health, eduction, etc etc)
                    Asian producers are not ETS and since we are heading more and more into relying on their trade for survival we need to be able to compete in their back yard as well.
                    Today the consumer is feed by price, China is the largest consumer on the planet followed very quickly behind by the USA and India chasing up behind. None of these countries have looked at ETS as an option.
                    It’s not a case of wake up but more about catching a dose of reality.

            • millsy 3.1.1.1.2.2

              So you think that farmers should be able to just pour what they want into our rivers, and pollute pollute pollute then? Intergenerational thieves, the lot of them.

              • felix

                Yes, because if it weren’t for the farmers we’d all be living in the Kalahari desert. Andrei the midget told me that.

                This “thank you farmers for our daily bread” line is so much bullshit. It presupposes that the people currently making massive amounts of money from intensive dairying are the only people who could possibly produce food from the land.

                It’s the same as the landlord’s argument that “If I didn’t own all the houses, you’d have nowhere to live”.

                Pure bullshit.

                • RedLogix

                  It’s the same as the landlord’s argument that “If I didn’t own all the houses, you’d have nowhere to live”.

                  Heh felix… bastard landlord I may be… but that’s priceless 🙂

                  Well before the industrial revolution around 90% of any population was pretty much directly engaged in primary production… in effect we were all farmers. It’s only the intensification that cheap carbon fuels and technology have brought which has brought about the enormous transition of people from the rural to the urban workforce.

                  Yes agriculture is an essential and important activity, but that only argues in favour of ensuring that we insist on the highest standards and the most sustainable approaches to it.

                  It’s absolutely no use making a quick buck this week, it the price of it is disaster the next.

    • bbfloyd 3.2

      wake up yourself andrei the alien…. i can’t imagine you will last long on this site with that kind of obvious hatred for humanity….which is why i’m assuming no-one here has bothered to show you the error of your ways… and neither will i waste my time overloading an all ready overburdoned intellect with reality…

      so just fuck off back to your cave..

  4. tc 4

    Country calendar piece saturday where a dairy farmer recycles all his waste and effectively stated any farmer who loses soil and nutrients is simply missing the point and wasting their most valuable resource.

    Farmers get it, especially generational ones who look around and see the damage of over intensive use….the nat’s don’t care as long as fed farmers etc keep writing out the cheques and carter has vested interests in farming so it’s another biased perspective from a govt ministser…surprise surprise.

    • John D 4.1

      How does that relate to pinging farmers to pay for rich corporate forestry owners?

  5. Lets be rational 5

    “that they don’t pay much tax”

    Only 30% of earners pay tax, the long list of benfits has many tax positive. The fact that they pay tax at all has them in front of many. Also, let me remind you to compare the weekly effort the average urban worker puts in each week compared to the average farmer… I think you’ll find that farmers will be working 30hours more per week. They would be NZ’s hardest working, and its not at all surprising that most NZers refuse to acknowledge that. They do a service to NZ.

    Secondly, the graph is completely misleading, try give it a bit more context. The price that farmers are receiving for their exports has been rising with the commodities boom over the past two years. Their emmisions have unlikely been falling.

    It is a well known fact that NZ is under taking an export lead recovery, why then are we trying to crucify the people leading the charge? National is not saying there is no way to do it, they are simply admitting that farmers would need time to implement, no to mention time for science & tech to develop the means. Lets be rational here!

    • vto 5.1

      Oh yes, all hail the great farmer. Bow down.

      Honestly, you lot live in bloody dreamland. You have no idea of the place farming takes in moderns society, or its historical context. You don’t even understand how an economy works. You have just got big heads and you need to stop believing the sort of dumbo shit that past president of Fed Farmers Don Nicholson spouts.

      • Lets be rational 5.1.1

        So lets say I accept your premise of; “lets tax more from the farmers cos they’re just bastards” – the enduring result is that this would make farming a less attractive prospect. The farmers in NZ see that it is slightly less financially viable and for many its simply no longer an option. This leaves a a hole in the market and guess who fills it?? Foreign investors! But i’m sure your categorically against that as well. So in short, you dont want our farmers making money, but you cant have the chinese making a go of it either.

        Options left are few and far between.. Why are you against the prospect of giving time to resolve issues in a manner that does not financial disturb many?

        • vto 5.1.1.1

          “So lets say I accept your premise of; “lets tax more from the farmers cos they’re just bastards”

          I didn’t say that and don’t think that. Silly assumptions don’t help.

          As for foreign investment, I just so happened to post on that this morning, copied below. Foreign investment is ok, foreign ownership of land is a completely different thing and is just dumb…

          “I see Agriculture Minister David Carter is still getting away with equating foreign investment with foreign land ownership.

          The two things are entirely different. Foreign investment can still flow into all manner of business, including farming, without having to own the land beneath. The land beneath must only be owned by the people who live on it. This applies right across the entire globe and has nothing to do with race. In fact David Carter should take note of how the Chinese deal with this issue …. go on Carter, show some intellectual honesty and tell the public why the Chinese don’t let foreigners own their land.”

          The main problem with the farming sector is their lack of honesty over various issues. Pretending that farming hasn’t stuffed our waterways. Pretending that farmers pay a lot of tax to support wider society. Pretending that they are the true heroes of NZ. The sector will get nowhere until it stands up like a man and squarely faces its issues.

        • felix 5.1.1.2

          “So lets say I accept your premise of; “lets tax more from the farmers cos they’re just bastards””

          Jeez, if that’s the depth of your comprehensive abilities you need to pick a new handle.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.3

          And, due to the damage that farming is doing to the environment, we should be making it less attractive. We should produce enough food to feed ourselves and no more.

          It’s called being rational which you aren’t.

    • bbfloyd 5.2

      recovery? what recovery? things are getting really scary when the tories are using fantasy as a debating tool.

      • Draco T Bastard 5.2.1

        They’ve always used fantasy as a debating tool. What’s changed is that it’s becoming more and more apparent is that everything they say is a fantasy.

  6. grumpy 6

    Maybe we should import some of those high tech cows that they have in China that do not have any emissions (at least not taxable ones). We could also bring in some of their magic chimneys, trucks, boats and factories which also do not produce taxable emissions.

    I know, let’s not make anything in NZ and bring it all in from China – oh wait…………………………..

  7. insider 7

    Bright Red

    Interesting numbers but nothing on the underlying mechanisms. The one that springs to mind instantly is ‘intensification’. Are you calling for more of that?

  8. gareth 8

    We really missed the boat with the useless cycle way, that money should have been spent fencing and then planting a riparian zone down every waterway possible in dairy counrty.

    It would have provided heaps of jobs, plant growing, planters, fencers, weed clearance and at the end we will have done something of significant benefit to our water quality, native bird/fish life, enhanced our clean green image. It would benefit farmers through less erosion and kept our harbours and lakes clean through reduced run off.

    All all the muppets in charge could come up with was a useless as f**k cycleway…..

  9. Macro 9

    Back on the subject…..
    This post relates well to the current tour by Jim Salinger, Rod Oram, and Carol Saunders.
    For those who have take the time to attend, and it is well worth the effort, they will learn that there are real opportunities to be had in farming by moving towards more sustainable practices and farming with an eye to Carbon footprints. Europe in particular is particularly conscious of the effects of AGW, and our products are at risk should we fail to recognise this fact. But just as important is the simple good business practice of managing a business that cuts external costs as well as managing internal costs. Farmers are no different from any other business in this regard.
    We hear constantly from the right the cry that regulation stifles business and is simply an extra cost. Business as Usual however is not a stimulus for innovation and improvement of practice – on the contrary where a deregulated market exists the market will tend towards the least common denominator, the least (internal) cost alternative as the competitors strive towards maximizing profit. Regulation – vis California’s Clean Air Act results in innovation, improved practices, and without losses of production or profit.

  10. Afewknowthetruth 10

    The entire industrialised agricultural system is predicated on the consumption of huge quatities of fossil fuels and forced over-production via the application of imported fertilisers, and in many cases the use of irrigation. None of it is by any stretch of the imagination sustainable.

    Once depletion reaches a critical point -probably around 2015- the whole system is going to collapse.

    • Macro 10.1

      I tend to agree with your analysis as a whole Afktt. I’m firmly of the opinion that unless drastic efforts are made to reduce CO2 to 350ppm in the immediate future we are toast. We (I mean the human race here) have a strictly limited budget if you like of FF left – and we need to spend it wisely. Unfortunately I doubt that as a species we have the collective will or intelligence to do that. As a species humans are too self-indulgent for their own good. There is hope that the possible collapse of the free markets and a wide-spread Depression will give time for reflection and a reversal of current economic thinking – but like you I doubt it.

  11. Afewknowthetruth 11

    On the matter of emissions, MED (which drives all government policy) is trying to pull a scam connected with methane.

    Methane is not the major problem. Methane is oxised to carbon dioxide in the atmpshere, and the higher the level of methane in the air, the faster to rate of conversion to CO2. Besides which, the quanty of methane emitted by cattle etc,. is miniscule compared to the quuanty released by the oil industry and via the melting of the permafrost etc. The methane/CO2 emitted by cattle is directly equivalent to the quantity removed from the air via photosynthesis.

    The REAL problem is CO2 released when fossil fuels are burned, when iron ore is reduced and when lime is made from limestone.

    • lprent 11.1

      The residence time of methane is quite short in geological terms compared to the thousands of years of CO2, but it is still measured in decades. It also has an greenhouse effect that is something like 70x that of CO2. So small amounts of methane are very significant over this century.

      The issue with methane is that it has been increasing rapidly, and as far as I’m aware you’re incorrect about it oxidising faster as the concentration rises – at least in atmospheric concentrations. Reducing it is actually easier than for CO2 because it is just a by-product of other processes rather than an intrinsic result of the process when burning hydrocarbons. Reducing it may keep us from hitting a feedback tipping point before we find it the hard way.

      So it is worth while. And in NZ terms, I suspect that reducing methane will actually make us more efficient in the industries that produce it.

      • Afewknowthetruth 11.1.1

        I only have a BSc Honour in Chemistry and have written four books on the topic, so what would I know.

        If you do the research you will see that the level of methane in the atmopshere has been levelling off. However, the amount that COULD be released if we trigger further meltdown of permafrost is humungous and the amount that could be released from methane ice clathrates would aguably raise the temperature of the Earth by several degrees and render the Earth largely uninhabitable in a matter of decades.

        Methane has approximately 20 times as the global warming effect of CO2, not the 70 times you suggest.

        The world is awash with misiniformation.

        I still maintain that CO2 is THE problem -especially since CO2 is [chemically] causing the death of the oceans (something methane is not capable of doing), another matter of course, but one which is being almost u niversally ignored.

        • lprent 11.1.1.1

          Just shows why chemists aren’t that good at looking at complex systems.

          Methane has approximately 20 times as the global warming effect of CO2, not the 70 times you suggest.

          It is – but only if you look at the longer term, ie centuries. The effect within the decades of its atmospheric ‘lifetime’ is about 70x that of carbon dioxide. Umm looking up a basic summary on wikipedia

          Atmospheric lifetime and GWP relative to CO2 at different time horizon for various greenhouse gases.
          Gas name Chemical
          formula
          Lifetime
          (years)
          Global warming potential (GWP) for given time horizon
          20-yr 100-yr 500-yr
          Carbon dioxide CO2 See above 1 1 1
          Methane CH4 12 72 25 7.6
          Nitrous oxide N2O 114 289 298 153
          CFC-12 CCl2F2 100 11 000 10 900 5 200
          HCFC-22 CHClF2 12 5 160 1 810 549
          Tetrafluoromethane CF4 50 000 5 210 7 390 11 200
          Hexafluoroethane C2F6 10 000 8 630 12 200 18 200
          Sulphur hexafluoride SF6 3 200 16 300 22 800 32 600
          Nitrogen trifluoride NF3 740 12 300 17 200 20 700

          Furthermore methane is a lot easier to release as evidenced by out ability to raise and get large quantities into the atmosphere faster – even pre-industrial. From pre industrial times it has more than doubled while CO2 has increased a lot less.

          Gas Preindustrial level Current level Increase since 1750 Radiative forcing(W/m2)
          Carbon dioxide 280 ppm  388 ppm 108 ppm 1.46
          Methane 700 ppb 1745 ppb 1045 ppb 0.48
          Nitrous oxide 270 ppb  314 ppb  44 ppb 0.15
          CFC-12 0  533 ppt 533 ppt 0.17

          As you point out, methane is stored in cold systems and is likely to cause rapid pulses when it releases. We’re on course to get to those types of required tempature levels in the oceans and permafrost regions to cause methane releases sooner rather than later this century regardless of what is done to curb CO2.

          If we have dropped the atmospheric methane levels down closer to pre-industrial levels then there is more buffering in the climate system to handle the inevitable pulse releases of methane. That is something that can be done with methane and HCFC-22, and with virtually no other major greenhouse gases because of their low residence times.

          The effect of reducing atmospheric methane over decades will be markedly increase the atmospheres ability to handle methane pulses in the short term mostly caused by CO2.

          That is why a reduction in CH4 is highly advantageous, not just because of the effect on climate over the long term. But also because it frees atmospheric buffers and allows the climate system to adjust more slowly to the steady rise in temperatures that will happen over the coming centuries. The last thing that would be wanted is (for instance) to get a release of methane from the permafrost followed by a rapid rise in temperatures cause the deep and rapid oxidation of the carbon stored in those regions.

          Oh, and my first degree was a BSc in earth sciences.

          The world is awash with misiniformation.

          There have been a number of good discussions over at Real Climate on the effects of CH4, CO2 and other greenhouse gases and the relative benefits about which to prioritize on. I’d suggest that you hunt them down.

      • John D 11.1.2

        but it is still measured in decades

        8-12 years I believe

        • lprent 11.1.2.1

          Yeah.

          For some reason I keep thinking of the 72x CO2 over 20 years, rather than the more values of the lifetime formulation. But the persistence is more like a radioactive half life – it is there forever – just less of an effect over time. 

  12. Andrei 12

    I still maintain that CO2 is THE problem -especially since CO2 is [chemically] causing the death of the oceans

    I wouldn’t worry about the death of the oceans if I were you. At the time of the Cambrian explosion the atmospheric levels of CO2 was about 4500ppm (as opposed to 380ppm today) and life in the oceans just thrived – it took off in fact, hence the name Cambrian explosion

    • RedLogix 12.1

      Yeah and sea levels were around 90m higher than now. There’s little point in making comparisons with era’s over 500m years ago, for a start the continents were in totally different locations, for another there was little to no life on land.

      And certainly none of the higher mammals.

      The planet will certainly survive our depradations, that was always apparent and never in contention. The question always was, would we?

    • Puddleglum 12.2

      Which species that took part in the ‘Cambrian explosion’ are still around in todays rather less CO2 rich oceans?

      While many of today’s marine phyla originated in the Cambrian, you won’t find many species around that were here in the Cambrian. As the link puts it:

      This does not mean that life in the Cambrian seas would have been perfectly familiar to a modern-day scuba diver! Although almost all of the living marine phyla were present, most were represented by classes that have since gone extinct or faded in importance.

      And,

      A few localities around the world that preserve soft-bodied fossils of the Cambrian show that the “Cambrian radiation” generated many unusual forms not easily comparable with anything today.

       

      • vto 12.2.1

        “Which species that took part in the ‘Cambrian explosion’ are still around … ?”

        Don Brash?

        • Puddleglum 12.2.1.1

          🙂

          Edit: It’s bit worrying then if CO2 levels are once again rising … an explosion of Brashes is imminent.

          • Colonial Viper 12.2.1.1.1

            A single implosion of Brash would be satisfactory actually 🙂

            • McFlock 12.2.1.1.1.1

              I dunno – the precursor would probably be a massive release of bullshit into the environment that will take us irreversibly beyond a carbon tipping point, followed by a sudden collapse into a non-maorified whitey hole.

    • Afewknowthetruth 12.3

      At the time of the Cambrian ‘explosion of life ‘ there was no life to speak of on land, and the oceans were populated with invertebrates.

      If you are happy to return the Earth to those kinds of conditions via the burning of fossil fuels I would personally categorise you as severely mentally ill if not completely insane.

  13. Reality Bytes 13

    “Because New Zealand relies on agriculture for our very survival…”

    ^ this might be a problem.

    Perhaps we should try and not rely so much on a single skill-set ‘for our very survival’.

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