web analytics

NRT: Climate change: Good news on agriculture

Written By: - Date published: 2:05 pm, April 28th, 2015 - 18 comments
Categories: climate change, farming, global warming, science, sustainability - Tags: , ,

no-right-turn-256Reposted from No Right Turn.

New Zealand’s policy on climate change has been one of inaction, justified by excuses and special pleading. A key plank in this is our emissions profile. Roughly 50% of our greenhouse gas emissions come from agriculture. We can’t do anything about them, so we don’t (and in practice we encourage farmers to convert land to dairy farms, increasing emissions even further, while turning our lakes and streams into toxic sewers).

But that excuse may not last for very long:

A team of AgResearch scientists has identified five compounds that reduce methane emissions from livestock by up to 90 percent in initial short-term trials, providing a technology that could significantly reduce New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions.

[…]

AgResearch principal scientist Peter Janssen, who co-ordinates the methane research programme, said the findings were the culmination of five years work, during which the team screened more than 100,000 compounds through computer-based searches and in laboratory experiments.

The screening process identified five compounds that have now been tested successfully in sheep, showing a significant reduction in methane production over a two-day period.

“The programme has been looking for new types of inhibitors of methane production from the rumen. This can be regarded as a first step in the process towards developing something that can be used on the farm.”

They expect to have a product within five years. Its great news, which promises to significantly reduce our agricultural emissions while improving farm productivity. To give an extent of the possible impact, last year enteric fermentation was responsible for 28.4 of the 81 million tons of emissions we produced. If they are as effective as suggested, then widespread use could knock 25 million tons off our national emissions, a cut of almost a third. In terms of targets, this is almost 40% of 1990 emissions, so when we’re aiming for a target cut of 50% by 2050, its a huge hit.

The problem, as always, is adoption. Because we’ve got a lot of technologies which would make a difference to our greenhouse gas emissions: biofuels, more fuel efficient vehicles, wind power and other renewables. And yet we haven’t adopted them on the scale that we need to. The market doesn’t work for this; from looking at uptake of energy efficiency, we know that polluters don’t adopt cleaner technology voluntarily even when its financially advantageous to do so. They need to be pushed (and pushed hard if we want rapid change). But our government and policy community are ideologically opposed to the sorts of policy tools which could do that. Hence why we’re still driving inefficient cars running on dead dinosaurs rather than wood waste, and why energy companies are still looking at building gas-fired power stations.

Our government spends money on climate change research. Now that that research has been successful, it needs to follow through by pushing for rapid adoption of the solutions it has found (and this time,ticking the food safety boxes properly). Anything less, and it will be clear that they were never really after solutions, but were just doing it as another PR exercise, a substitute for real action.

18 comments on “NRT: Climate change: Good news on agriculture ”

  1. Maui 1

    Seems a bit too good to be true to me like a magic potion, but maybe I’m being too cynical. Like technology can save us from consuming ourselves, which I think many people are also relying on.

    I wonder if the technology is easily transferrable to cows though.

    • Tracey 1.1

      I listened to that piece on RNZ yesterday afteroon.

      “They expect to have a product within five years.”

      They were asked when but I heard much more caution in the answer than the quoted bit suggests. They have to move on to see if there is a lasting impact or if the methane producing microbes move back in big numbers… to see if the quality of the animal is compromised, and if there is a negative impact on people eating the final product and so on.

      • dukeofurl 1.1.1

        In normal media terms this is called a “beatup”

        TVNZ is famous for its ‘cancer cure’ stories that we never hear from again.

        The usual reason why is people are too complex, and cows being mammals are too.

        Latest ‘bumpf’ story, is cows milked at night to provide a sort of sleeping potion for insomniacs.??

        How much you would have to take of this milk to achieve the necessary concentrations isnt said

        “The daily level of melatonin in the blood is about 20 to 70 pg/ml for young people (20-30 years old). It increases at night to about 125 pg/ml. “

  2. tinfoilhat 2

    Fantastic if it makes it from the laboratory to the farms around the world.

  3. Ennui 3

    So we cut methane from cows. Wow! Great.
    Then we leave as many or more cows creating the same huge pollution but this time with added compounds doing God only knows what down stream. Then we will deploy another techno fix to cure the first techno fix. Externalities unpaid. Profit for farming companies.

    • weka 3.1

      “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly…”

      I’m disappointed in such a BAU post from I/S.

    • Tracey 3.2

      Hence the testing is a long way off from producing a final product. I think I/S is slightly misrepresenting the speaker with “They expect to have a product within five years.”

  4. Corokia 4

    The emissions from dairying DON’T just come from the cows. Fossil fuel powered milk tankers drive over 80 million kms a year, Fonterra uses 5,500 gigawatts of, mostly fossil fuel, energy a year to make milk powder. The emissions from those will be huge, but will be counted in with transport and manufacturing. Dairy farming cheerleaders constantly claim that we must expand intensive dairying to ‘feed the world’ and that the emissions are worth it, but they hide the true figure of GHG emissions that are released by the industry as a whole.

  5. Murray Rawshark 5

    I think the falling price of milk products will do more to cut emissions from cows, and will have an effect sooner than five years.

  6. Richard Christie 6

    showing a significant reduction in methane production over a two-day period

    2 days? Does that mean the substance must be reintroduced into the animal every two days?

    • Tracey 6.1

      hence they are only a small way through their research. It’s worth a listen to the whole thing on RNZ (afternoon yesterday).

  7. Sable 7

    Bad news is we have a government that don’t give a shit about the environment. Labour are little better, just look at their indifference to the plight of our rivers.

  8. saveNZ 8

    Totally true, we have the technology, the problem is adoption and willingness to do that.

    Big business is keeping innovation at bay so they can keep their profits (or losses in the case of Solid Energy/Pike River Mine) going with zero scrutiny. And the government is cheering them on.

  9. Adrian 9

    It all sounds like wishful thinking. I’m not an expert but I thought the Laws of Physics says that there can be no loss of energy so if the methane is not exhaled or farted ( and exhalation far exceeds farting ) then the methane must be transferred through the microbial activity to a bound state in shit or somesuch.
    Or of course the grass is not eaten but is left to rot or die and decompose and release methane etc, the same way as the shit and the microbe do eventually.

  10. Of course. Our systemic choices aren’t the problem, the animals are broken. Fix them with technology. Then we won’t have to change. Voila!

    Seriously?

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Fast-tracked Northland water project will accelerate economic recovery
    The Government has welcomed the decision to approve a new water storage reservoir in Northland, the first of a number of infrastructure projects earmarked for a speedy consenting process that aims to accelerate New Zealand’s economic recovery from Covid-19.  The Matawii Water Storage Reservoir will provide drinking water for Kaikohe, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    13 hours ago
  • Tokelau Language Week reminds us to stay united and strong
    Staying strong in the face of challenges and being true to our heritage and languages are key to preserving our cultural identity and wellbeing, is the focus of the 2020 Tokelau Language Week. Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says this year’s theme, ‘Apoapo tau foe, i nā tāfea ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • NZ announces a third P-3 deployment in support of UN sanctions
    The Government has deployed a Royal New Zealand Air Force P-3K2 Orion (P-3) maritime patrol aircraft to support the implementation of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions imposing sanctions against North Korea, announced Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters and Minister of Defence Ron Mark. “New Zealand has long supported ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Pacific trade and development agreement a reality
    Pacific regional trade and development agreement PACER Plus will enter into force in 60 days now that the required eight countries have ratified it. Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker welcomed the announcement that the Cook Islands is the eighth nation to ratify this landmark agreement. “The agreement represents ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Securing a pipeline of teachers
    The Government is changing its approach to teacher recruitment as COVID-19 travel restrictions continue, by boosting a range of initiatives to get more Kiwis into teaching. “When we came into Government, we were faced with a teacher supply crisis,” Education Minister Chris Hipkins said. “Over the past three years, we ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Border exceptions for a small number of international students with visas
    The Government has established a new category that will allow 250 international PhD and postgraduate students to enter New Zealand and continue their studies, in the latest set of border exceptions. “The health, safety and wellbeing of people in New Zealand remains the Government’s top priority. Tight border restrictions remain ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • First COVID-19 vaccine purchase agreement signed
    The Government has signed an agreement to purchase 1.5 million COVID-19 vaccines – enough for 750,000 people – from Pfizer and BioNTech, subject to the vaccine successfully completing all clinical trials and passing regulatory approvals in New Zealand, say Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Health Minister Chris Hipkins. ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • International statement – End-to-end encryption and public safety
    We, the undersigned, support strong encryption, which plays a crucial role in protecting personal data, privacy, intellectual property, trade secrets and cyber security.  It also serves a vital purpose in repressive states to protect journalists, human rights defenders and other vulnerable people, as stated in the 2017 resolution of the ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Ministry of Defence Biodefence Assessment released
    The Ministry of Defence has today released a Defence Assessment examining Defence’s role across the spectrum of biological hazards and threats facing New Zealand. Biodefence: Preparing for a New Era of Biological Hazards and Threats looks at how the NZDF supports other agencies’ biodefence activities, and considers the context of ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020
    New Approaches to Economic Challenges: Confronting Planetary Emergencies: OECD 9 October 2020 Hon David Parker’s response following Thomas Piketty and Esther Duflo. Good morning, good afternoon, and good evening, wherever in the world you might be. I first acknowledge the excellent thought provoking speeches of Thomas Piketty and Esther ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Kaipara Moana restoration takes next step
    A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed today at Waihāua Marae between the Crown, local iwi and councils to protect, restore and enhance the mauri of Kaipara Moana in Northland. Environment Minister David Parker signed the document on behalf of the Crown along with representatives from Ngā Maunga Whakahī, Ngāti ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions
    Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.  The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • 3100 jobs created through marae upgrades
    Hundreds of marae throughout the country will be upgraded through investments from the Provincial Growth Fund’s refocused post COVID-19 funding to create jobs and put money into the pockets of local tradespeople and businesses, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced. “A total ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Health volunteers recognised in annual awards
    Health Minister Chris Hipkins has announced 9 teams and 14 individuals are the recipients of this year’s Minister of Health Volunteer Awards.  “The health volunteer awards celebrate and recognise the thousands of dedicated health sector volunteers who give many hours of their time to help other New Zealanders,” Mr Hipkins ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago
  • Community COVID-19 Fund supports Pacific recovery
    The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio says a total of 264 groups and individuals have successfully applied for the Pacific Aotearoa Community COVID-19 Recovery Fund, that will support Pacific communities drive their own COVID-19 recovery strategies, initiatives, and actions. “I am keen to see this Fund support Pacific ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 weeks ago