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NZ emissions disaster in The Herald!

Written By: - Date published: 3:21 pm, April 11th, 2015 - 112 comments
Categories: climate change, global warming, International - Tags: , , , ,

Well knock me over with a feather. The disaster that is NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions has broken out of the ghetto of Twitter and Parliament TV, and made it on the front page of the (digital) Herald this morning:

NZ’s greenhouse gas emissions soar

Rise raises doubts about Govt target of 5% reduction from 1990 levels by 2020

New Zealand’s net emissions of greenhouse gases climbed 42 per cent between 1990 and 2013.

The figures were released yesterday in the Ministry for the Environment’s latest greenhouse gas inventory and raise doubts about the Government’s target of a 5 per cent reduction from 1990 levels by 2020.

It doesn’t “raise doubts” about the target, it proves both that the target is impossible. Furthermore, there is no political will to meet it. Simplistically, we have five years left to achieve what is now a 47% reduction, and no plan or process to achieve reductions.

Instead we get lies from Tim Groser. He repeatedly claims that we are “on track” to meet our emissions target, when it is clear that we are not. He “mistakenly” claims that we are planting more trees than we are felling, gets caught out and has to change his story.


Anyway, fantastic to see this issue (you know, the future of life as we know it on the planet) get some visibility in the news. It would have been an even better piece if there had been some discussion of the inevitable consequences of our ever-rising emissions.



112 comments on “NZ emissions disaster in The Herald! ”

  1. Potato 1

    And this is the same Tim Groser who thinks TPPA is a good thing for NZ ?

  2. That last graph is just horrifying. I know the Nats love to go on about what a “small player” we are and “how little” impact our CO2 reductions would have, but Christ, when you’re that much more of a problem than even the USA there’s a problem.

  3. Heather Grimwood 3

    …and there IS the point of our being an example …a leader…as we have been on many issues, but sadly this government scoffs at such an idea.

  4. fisiani 4

    A growing tree sequesters carbon. Once it is cut down and turned into timber it counts as a carbon emission. No carbon is emitted. Official stats GIGO Garbage in Garbage out

    • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1

      Citation needed.

      Specifically, the carbon is still sequestered in the timber products made from the tree.

      I don’t believe that’s how carbon credits are calculated.

      • Lanthanide 4.1.1

        For the purposes of carbon credits, you receive them when trees are planted / growing, but you relinquish them (or must re-purchase them if you previously sold them) when the trees are harvested.

        It is measured that way because obviously it’s impossible, once the trees are cut down and turned into numerous different products, to then measure when each sheet of paper from the forest is burned returning it to the atmosphere, or whether those same trees end up as paperstock for books that sit in a library for 70 years.

        • fisiani

          Thank you. i was right yet again.

          • weka

            No, you weren’t. Lanth just pointed out that some post-felling timber emits and some doesn’t, hence it’s too difficult to account. You said there is no emission, which is wrong (plus you’re ignoring what happens to the land after the forest is cut down).

            • fisiani

              Read my comment again then Lanth’s. If you harvest a tree that counts as carbon emissions when clearly no carbon is emitted.

              • McFlock

                As soon as the tree is chopped down it ceases to absorb carbon and begins the process of emitting it. Bits will rot immediately as saw dust. Other bits might become paper consumables, to be put into the landfill or the sewer on a fast cycle.

                Some might last a few decades as books or as building components.
                But all of it has started an inexorable entropic process that begins with “timberrrr!”

                • mac1

                  This is an interesting topic. It occurred to me to investigate how much of a tree is left ‘in the ground’ when it is harvested. A study comparing beech and spruce showed that the ratio of ‘root’ to ‘shoot’ ranged from 1:10 to 3:10. This did not include fine roots but was the ratio between the coarse root system and stump compared to the trunk and canopy.

                  So, when a tree is harvested between ten and thirty percent of the tree is left to rot as root and stump, and therefore liberate its carbon, and there is also another (unknown to me) percentage in the trunk and canopy which is not used as timber. A typical tree in the study has 888 kg of root and stump of a total biomass of some 3900 kg.

                  So quite a considerable part of a tree (excluding the commercial and ‘useful’ trunk) is available in the short term for carbon emissions after the ‘Timberrr” stage.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Trees that aren’t harvested release their carbon when they die anyway. More trees grow to take up the carbon and a balance is maintained. Tree-farming, where re-planting occurs, has much the same effect.

                    • mac1

                      OAB, the point that you raise is the salient one- “where re-planting occurs”. This of course was the one that Minister Groser, for as yet inexplicable reasons, got exactly wrong. We are not replanting as much as we harvest.

                      Three questions to clarify my mind. Why do we not plant more than we harvest, given climate change? Why would Minister Groser get the figures so wrong?

                      And thirdly, what is Groser going to do about the afforestation deficit since he obviously thinks that reforestation is a “Good Thing”?

              • Lanthanide

                “If you harvest a tree that counts as carbon emissions when clearly no carbon is emitted.”

                It will *eventually* be emitted. That may take as little as months, or it may take as long as centuries, but eventually, everything will be decomposed and the CO2 returned to the atmosphere.

                Hence why the carbon credits are consumed at the time the forest is cut.

              • Macro

                Actually there is quite a bit of Carbon emitted in the harvesting of trees, so it’s probably correct to ignore the small amount retained in the timber left, the rest is emitted as the wood breaks down over time.

                • Corokia

                  Hell yeah, the neighbours ‘harvested’ their pine plantation recently. 3 months solid of chainsaws, diesel powered machines moving and stacking logs, then logging trucks all day. Where do the carbon emissions of all that get counted?

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    Those trees represent carbon taken out of the system. Putting it back in is a zero sum (especially when you consider the life of a tree is several orders of magnitude smaller than timescales associated with the carbon cycle).

                    The fuel etc. used to harvest them is counted as fossil fuel emissions.

                    I don’t buy the argument that deforestation is a significant contributor, since – sadly – it has been going on for millennia and yet the greenhouse effect has only arisen now we’re burning fossil fuels and pouring lots of concrete.

                    I suppose I’m just missing something 🙂

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      *correction: for “system” read “atmosphere”

                    • Macro

                      Deforestation is the second largest anthropogenic source of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, after
                      fossil fuel combustion.

                      About half of the world’s tropical forests have been cleared. That has not occurred over millennia (yes some clearance- but not at the rate it is happening today)*. About 36 football fields worth of trees is lost every minute.

                      *There is now opinion that Humans through deforestation have altered climate over millennia, although not as significantly as that since industrialization.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      As the van der Werf et al paper (your first link) shows, it’s a distant second, and estimates have been revised down.

                      Not only that, it (deforestation) is mainly occurring in the developing world; the serious polluters deforested their land millennia ago (US forest coverage ~30%, China ~18%, according to Wikipedia). Just as the oil lobby points the finger at “cow farts” while leaking massive amounts of methane from their gas facilities, the developed world points the finger at the developing world for clear-felling, while, having already cut down their trees, doing nothing about their CO2 emissions.

                      That humans have altered past climate via deforestation is old news – I recall it being discussed at Real Climate at least five years ago.

                      Basically, if we want people to obey our demands to leave their trees alone, we will have to pay them.

                      And our CO2 emissions are still the biggest problem.

                    • Macro

                      Not denying that Carbon emissions from fossil fuels is the main contributor OAB. But deforestation is estimated to reduce the sequesting of Carbon by about 100 giga tonnes per year. Most forests are not replaced with new tree plantings, but soy and corn. Furthermore, new research indicates that the Amazon rainforests are in such a sad state that they may not survive.
                      In NZ however we have been replacing trees with cows to our future detriment, because of the machinations of a foolish government which has no idea of what it is doing.

              • weka

                You seemed to be saying that when a tree is cut down there is no emission which is patently not true.

          • mickysavage

            This particular aspect of the Kyoto system may seem too conservative but the big picture here is that emissions continue to rise unabated. If a higher price is put on tree felling than could perhaps be justified in a perfect world I am fine with it as long as it has an effect.

            • RedLogix

              This particular aspect of the Kyoto system may seem too conservative

              Not really. More than 90% of the carbon from a felled tree is emitted back into the atmosphere by rotting or burning in less than 50 years.

              Which is a relatively short period compared to the 500 – 1000 odd years the extra carbon will remain in the atmosphere.

              • mickysavage

                Right you are RL I guess that in environmental terms the time it takes for the carbon to be returned to the air is very short.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  So was the time taken to sequester it in the tree in the first place.

    • aerobubble 4.2

      Yes, but surely the timber goes into homes and replaces other timber that is burnt destroyed. Timber in new homes yes, but not all new timber is carbon zero.

    • Tracey 4.3

      Garbage in Garbage out Fisi? Oh the sweet sweet irony…

    • dukeofurl 4.4

      Im a little bit with you on this one.
      Its bizarre that cutting trees counts as emissions, because once the timber is dead the trees arent absorbing carbon so counts as emissions.

    • Pat 4.5

      aside from the already observed carbon release there is also the carbon produced in the felling, limbing ,transporting and processing of the timber….not insignificant regardless of the end use

  5. Maui 5

    I wonder if it’s time for a super ministry combining Primary Industries, Fisheries, Environment & Conservation. Then the Environment & Conservation reports like this can quietly disappear. Probably not good to give anyone ideas though..

  6. Macro 6

    Anyway, fantastic to see this issue (you know, the future of life as we know it on the planet) get some visibility in the news.

    And about bloody time.

    It would have been an even better piece if there had been some discussion of the inevitable consequences of our ever-rising emissions.

    Now that would be asking way too much!
    We might have to consider what we are going to do about it.
    And that would be way too unpleasant for our readers.

  7. Trainman 7

    Is it so offensive to the Nats that we must not show world leadership on reducing greenhouse gases. I guess it must be ideological for the National government or rather their idiotilogical standards

  8. The Murphey 8

    Pondering why this has been picked up on my the NZH when usually it would be expected to have been swept aside

    • yep got to remember there are layers and multiple points of attack – very little happens just because it happens – dirty politics isn’t one-dimensional.

  9. Corokia 9

    Over at Pundit dairy cheerleader Jacqueline Rowarth is shaking her pom poms spinning the National Party line, claiming that our increased greenhouse gas emissions are worth it because of the economic benefits to New Zealand. It’s a terrible, selfish, short sighted argument at the best of times, but with dairy returns in freefall, all those GHG emissions just to pay interest to the big banks. So fucking stupid on so many levels.

  10. Clemgeopin 10

    Yesterday Tim Groser said a new greenhouse gas report from the Ministry for the Environment shows planting has exceeded felling for the past six years. “We’re well on track to meet our 2020 target. Forestry is an important part of our response to climate change, as forests remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For the past six years, our level of afforestation has exceeded our rate of deforestation”

    The crook might have thought that he can try to fool us all.

    However, he was caught out by Mr Russel Norman today.

    Having been sprung, Groser quickly released an amended statement:

    “While afforestation is currently happening slower than deforestation, as the carbon price rises I expect this trend will turn around,” Mr Groser said. [Corrected 5pm 10/4]”

    This clearly shows that Tim Groser can not be trusted to tell the truth. He is not only incompetent, but completely untrustworthy.

    For this serious lie alone, he deserves to get the sack from the cabinet. Does Key have the integrity and courage to sack him?

    • Macro 10.1

      For this serious lie alone, he deserves to get the sack from the cabinet. Does Key have the integrity and courage to sack him?

      Actually the ability to tell barefaced lies is a prerequisite for appointment to Cabinet in the Key ‘government’. Expect to see a more senior role for Groser in the near future.

      • capn insano 10.1.1

        It clearly states on the prerequisites list for National MPs ‘The ability to tell utter bullshit is required’ just above ‘At no time will you accept blame or admit to being wrong, where possible blame Labour and/or lefties’.

  11. Colonial Rawshark 11

    NZ’s population only increased 32% between 1990 and 2013. Greenhouse gas emissions rose at a far faster rate. Wonder what caused it – surely it wasn’t increased industrial economic activity.

  12. Jim 12

    How about an article graphing all of the doomsday predictions by Government “expert scientists” of the past 50 years? Let me give you a clue- they are ALL exactly the same.
    You know when a Government/ Vatican run scientist is lying when they use words. Because the true science (which the vatican and crown keep from us) is actually in the numbers and letters themselves. Not the words, or any collection of words. Rest assured, carbon emission climate change is just another of these frauds. To create fear and taxes. Case in point- they are yet to even admit that our solar system is a vortex – we travel through much larger seasons- 24,000 year seasons to be exact. 12 lots of 2000 seasons within that. And we all knew this before the ‘dark ages’ arrived. Time we all remembered it again- before we are taxed for breathing by these fascist lying lunatics and their latest outrageous lies/scam.

    • NickS 12.1

      Idiot clean up to this thread please, word-salad conspiracy idiot detected.

      For your own sanity Do Not attempt to deal with other than cluebatting from orbit or banning.

  13. Jim 13

    UN/Vatican Agenda 21 – we must all kill ourselves to leave a cleaner world for the elites. How ironic the socialists are all pushing elite propaganda. Go research the Galactic Year people – we go through 12 seasons of 2000 years, every 24,000 years. And 90 of them in a full cycle. From ice ages to complete pole flips of 360 degrees. The earth’s rotation shifts 1 degree every 72 years along this cycle. So of course there is climate change. Iraq used to be home to the Gardens of Babylon. And will be again one day also.

  14. Corokia 14

    AND all the CO2 from milk tankers driving over 81 million kms a year AND the 5,500 gigawatts of mostly fossil fuel energy used to process the milk. I got those figures from a Fonterra ‘fact sheet’ on Energy a year or 2 ago. I’d post a link to it, but couldn’t find it again on their website. I’m guessing those CO2 emissions are counted in transport and manufacturing, but they are directly due to dairying. Would be good to see up to date figures for total dairy GHG emissions, from cows to milk powder, including all the companies, not just Fonterra .

  15. In what way is this a “disaster”?
    It makes no difference to global temperatures at all.

    • NickS 15.1

      And here we have Hooton make an arse out of himself once again, who will doth reply stupidly, proudly displaying his magnificent level of general ignorance…

      • Matthew Hooton 15.1.1

        What are you talking about?

        • NickS

          I don’t need to anything really, everyone else here with half a working brain did the work :smug:

          (note, this unit hath been drained by dealing with transphobic arsewits, hence the lack of chewing on idiots)

        • NickS

          And the one area not covered is global politics.

          With the EU, China and the US all heading towards lower carbon emissions, there will likely be political repercussions for their developed trading partners that refuse to deal with their own emissions.

          In particular, the ongoing, slow suicide of the Republican Party is going to keep Democrats in the White House for the next 2 terms (provided no major Watergate level screw ups). And the American’s foreign policy has always been very happy to force their way of thinking on their trade partners and use political aims as part of trade deals.

          While the EU is busy reducing carbon emissions across the board and EU consumers are trending more environmental conscious, for which the costs of NZ dairy products are going to make products look rather unappealing. While the EU could also use carbon emissions as a pressure mechanism in trade deals.

          China however maybe less of an issue, but with the rise in dairying in China and the CCP rapidly realising they need to sort out China’s pollution problems before people start getting really sick of it, the market for NZ dairy in China runs the risk of contracting. More so in the light of what will likely be cheaper local prices.

          And furthermore, with global dairy production increasing, the price of milk solids will likely not rise to recent highs again, if anything, it will probably drop to levels that are financially unsustainable for farmers with high levels of debt, while eroding the economic benefits for NZ from dairy. Combine this with the now increasing issues with dairy sourced nutrient pollution and costs of dealing with it, and increased intensification becomes nonviable. More so in light of continuing climatic variation causing droughts even in core dairying areas, bringing dairy into to conflict with other agricultural sectors and towns reliant on surface waters for drinking water.

          But hey, why pay attention to the wider picture when you can be an ignorant arse instead and falsely claim there will no impact? It’s not like your considered a pundit or anyth… Oh wait, yes you are.

      • Redbaiter 15.1.2

        Hooton making an arse of himself by being dead right? Can’t see that worrying him.

        If you don’t know this article by Brian Fallow is a load of alarmist nonsense you should. NZ’s Greenhouse gases are a pittance on a global scale and as long as the major contributor is cows and sheep farting and belching then I am not going to get worried.

        81 million tonnes out of what, 4000 million tonnes produced globally?


        And considering greenhouse gases are only 0.04% of atmospheric gases anyway, and their increase shows no co-relation with global temperature changes, then I am even less worried.

        When is Fallow going to stand as a Green Party candidate?

        • Macro

          And considering greenhouse gases are only 0.04% of atmospheric gases anyway


          Idiot alert!

          Lprent – a huge deposit of utter bullshit has just been dumped on this page…

        • NickS


          There’s a massive library of science that says you’re full of shit, not that you’ll read any of it since you have a learnt blindness to anything that messes with your bullshit excuse for a worldview.

    • weka 15.2

      I’m curious Matthew, what is the country size where difference kicks in?

      • Matthew Hooton 15.2.1

        Dunno. It’s a bit like when is someone bald? But outside China, US, EU, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia is a stretch to say anyone else matters. Certainly, nothing NZ can do could ever be a “disaster”. Maybe “embarrassing” – but “disaster” makes no sense.

        • Macro

          And yet Mathew NZ is now 20th out of all developed countries in the total amount of GHG’s.
          The cost under the Kyoto protocol is obviously not a disaster too you either – that’s something the poor ignorant taxpayers will have to bear. Not the rich and famous!
          As for the long term consequences – well that’s in the future – something for the next generation to worry about so no disaster there either.

          • Matthew Hooton

            There is no “Kyoto Protocol”. The first commitment period has expired and hasn’t been – nor will it be – replaced with a second commitment period. Plus China, the US and India never had any commitments even under the first commitment period.

            • Macro

              The first commitment period has expired and hasn’t been – nor will it be – replaced with a second commitment period

              And we know who to blame for that!

              • China, the US, India, Brazil and Indonesia – unless you want to make the case NZ’s position determines these things.

                • Macro

                  You believe what you like Matthew. Others who were there – know better.

                  My first exposure to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations came when I attended the 2011 Durban Talks with the New Zealand Youth Delegation. Three days into the talks, small island negotiators torpedoed my naiveté when I was lucky enough to get into a closed door Alliance of Small Island States briefing. Hearing representatives from some of the most vulnerable states describe New Zealand as “pulling the Kyoto Protocol down to the lowest level of ambition, and the lowest level of cooperation” by taking “deliberately inconsistent” stances sank my idealism about my country without a trace.

                  Like Hot Topic‘s Durban correspondent Cindy Baxter, I had no idea what we were playing at, but knew we were “cheating and lying”. In particular, we stood accused of proposing a “wild west” carbon market allowing secret, bilateral sales of carbon credits, with no central register to prevent us from selling the same units twice. By the end of the Conference, our veneer of conditional support for a Kyoto Protocol had collapsed, with Minister Groser describing a Second Commitment Period as “actually an insult to New Zealand”.

                  In the eyes of the NGO community, though, we had improved a tiny bit, narrowly escaping a Colossal Fossil award for disrupting negotiations the most by sneaking into third place, after coming second overall in 2010.

                  We made up for lost time in 2012, by walking away from the Second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol. In doing so, we further abandoned our past claims of conditional support for a Second Commitment Period and, ultimately, further betrayed the trust of our Pacific neignbours: “Its island partners in the Pacific should think again before ever trusting NZ again.” After our near misses in 2010 and 2011, we cleanly took out the 2012 Colossal Fossil award. The Climate Action Network sledged our “exceptional blindness to scientific and political realities” and accused us of trying to “drown the talks” — and our Pacific neighbours. What credibility we had in the talks, we tossed away with the Protocol. For our dirty deeds, the Doha talks agreed to shut NZ out of international carbon markets from next year.

                  I went back to the climate talks last year as an Adopt a Negotiator Fellow, tracking New Zealand in the talks. After the beating we took in 2013, we kept our heads down. But, again, I saw a duplicity between domestic politics and international posturing. While ministers laughed at Russel Norman quoting Philippine lead negotiator Yeb Sano and denied the very existence of climate change at home, our negotiators advanced a platform of “Bounded Flexibility” — a nice name for almost pure voluntarism. Jim Salinger described this sort of approach as inviting people to volunteer to pay taxes. And when I was lucky enough to spend a day with Marshall Islands Minister Tony de Brum, I couldn’t help but compare our hollow lack of ambition in Warsaw with our decision to sign the Majuro Declaration on Climate Leadership. At the Pacific Islands Forum — and no doubt this week at the Small Island Developing States Conference — we pledged to stand with our Pacific neighbours, but in the UNFCCC, we don’t — and they know that.

                  We play dirty on climate change. If our international record wasn’t enough to show this, you just have to look at our domestic emissions trading scheme. Far from cutting emissions, it has subsidised pollution.


          • Lanthanide

            “And yet Mathew NZ is now 20th out of all developed countries in the total amount of GHG’s.”

            Specifying “developed countries” is a red herring, because the climate doesn’t care whether we’re a developed country or not.

            • Matthew Hooton

              The Kyoto Protocol assumed that it does!

            • Macro

              The fact is that while other developed countries have reduced or limited their GHG emissions NZ stands out as highly delinquent in increasing its GHG by such an extent. Furthermore it is one of the countries standing in the way of any sensible international agreement to limit GHGs.
              Note – One of our major trading partners notes this!

              • Matthew Hooton

                That’s largely because we are probably the world’s only developed economy that is still mainly agrarian.

                • felix

                  How is that relevant? Emissions are emissions.

                  We are in absolute control of how many calves are born every year.

                  • Matthew Hooton

                    Yes, but you can reduce emissions without reducing production much more easily in the services and manufazuring no sectors – eg, change from coal and oil fired electricity to nuclear.

                    • Lanthanide

                      Yes, to say “the source of emissions doesn’t matter” is frankly just stupid.

                      We shouldn’t be relying on agriculture as our number 1 export, we should have been diversifying towards tech and other industries. The fact that we haven’t is both Labour and National’s fault, although I think in recent times National share more of the blame with their extractive focus for everything in the economy.

                      But, even if we had moved to other less-polluting industries, our emissions are still likely to have gone up (just less), simply due to the inertia of existing industry and growth patterns.

                • Macro

                  You mean we are “milk powder republic”.
                  That scenario Matthew will slowly come to an end.
                  You say there is no disaster for NZ – but over the past decade NZ has experienced serious droughts over half that time. More and more farmers are killing themselves. How long will the general public put up with supporting drought relief? With a warming ocean, stronger winds, and increasing nighttime temperatures; extreme weather events, including periods of drought, will increase in frequency and intensify with poor consequential economic and social outcomes for all.
                  We didn’t have to cut down trees and replace them with cows Matthew. That decision was made in 2008, when National and Act trashed the ETS, and approved the importation of bogus Carbon Credits, so that what was once a mechanism that might have brought our carbon emissions under control ended up as a scam.
                  That is why Groser – knowing that NZ’s emissions were growing at a rate unequaled by any other developed country – has been obfuscating and obstructing and finally reneging on our previous international commitments to bring emissions down.
                  This ‘government’ has caused disgrace to this country and made us a laughing stock. It has no idea what damage it is causing both to NZers and to the rest of the world with it’s head in the sand attitude to Climate Change. It utters platitudes and words and nothing else. Promises nothing and delivers even less

        • weka

          “Dunno. It’s a bit like when is someone bald? But outside China, US, EU, Brazil, Japan, Indonesia is a stretch to say anyone else matters. Certainly, nothing NZ can do could ever be a “disaster”. Maybe “embarrassing” – but “disaster” makes no sense.”

          Have you added up the emissions from all those other countries? What if 20 small countries = the US emissions? Is that still insignificant?

          • infused

            Do it yourself and you will see it isn’t.

          • Poission

            Have you added up the emissions from all those other countries? What if 20 small countries = the US emissions? Is that still insignificant?

            Marland 2006 found little change in the uncertainties of emission aggregation and details their previous findings.

            Marland 1999 conducted a comparison of two large, “(partially) independent” efforts to estimate national emissions of CO2.The data differed significantly for many countries but showed no systematic bias, and the global totals were very similar. Relative differences
            were largest for countries with weaker national systems of energy statistics, and absolute differences were largest for countries with
            large emissions. The two estimates for the United States differed by only 0.9%, but the absolute value of this difference was greater than total
            emissions from 147 of the 195 countries analyzed. The 10 countries with the largest absolute differences between the two estimates (for
            1990) included the USSR, North Korea, India, Venezuela, and China. When the differences between the two estimates were summed, without
            regard to sign, the difference for the top 5 emitting countries was larger than the sum of the differences for the remaining 190 countries

            Does that help your question?

            • weka

              Sorry, no, I have no idea what that is saying, and I’ve read it twice. Would you care to explain?

              • It’s very clear – that what happens in the top five countries overwhelms what happens in all the others combined.

              • Lanthanide

                In brief: the numbers are fuzzy and rough because getting accurate numbers for individual countries, especially less developed ones, is hard. We do however have global numbers that are accurate, so we can put together what we know and come up with estimates for carbon emissions using two different methods.

                The US estimates differed by only 0.9%, which is amongst the smallest in study, but because the US emits so much CO2, this 0.9% difference is greater than the total emissions of 147 of the countries studied. For the top 10 countries, the differences between the estimates, together, we larger than the differences for all other countries combined.

                • weka

                  Thanks Lanth. What’s the implication of that? That we don’t know what we are doing?

                  • Lanthanide

                    The most obvious implication is that it doesn’t matter squat what small countries like NZ choose to do with regards to emissions, because the big countries completely swamp us out.

                    The second implication is that while we know what the global emissions look like, trying to pin them down very accurately to individual countries is hard. But we know, to within a useful degree of accuracy, how much each country is emitting.

          • Matthew Hooton

            It would take 78 New Zealands to match the U.S. and 111 NZs to match China. And we are a relatively big emitter.

            • weka

              You didn’t answer the second part of my question Matthew. We’re heading for catastrophic climate change. Why would you not consider another US significant if that could make the difference in whether climate change becomes something we can mitigate vs something that is outside of our control and destroys human societies en masse?

              • You may find this useful: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_greenhouse_gas_emissions

                In practice, there is no “another US”. Even if there were, you then need to find your “another China”. And then your “another Russia” and “another “India” ….

                • weka

                  You’re still not getting it Matthew. CC is an ecological disaster not an accounting/economic one. We’re already locked into CC, what’s up for debate is whether we get to survive or lose society as we know it. Given the stakes, all the little countries that you think are unimportant are also part of the mix. We need to reduce emissions at a far far faster and larger rate than we are, we being humans, all of us (and that doesn’t even get to issues like the fact that the accounting you are reading doesn’t measure all GHG emissions, or the fact that smaller countries can lead the way in what is the only important global issue of our time ie what we do counts, or the incredibly important symbolic nature of NZ cutting our emissions in terms of getting NZ ready for a post-carbon world, or even, you know, just getting us ready for a post-carbon world).

                  btw, if you add up the countries in the ‘tens’ list between 40 and 99 from that wikipedia link you get another India. Why is this insignificant?

                  • Skinny

                    People like you Weka get a bit carried away with climate change. Natural effects such as volcanic eruptions are far more of a worry. How much crap did St Helens spew out into the atmosphere, way more than man has since the industrial revolution. How about the ticking time bomb of Yellow Stone Park, when that eruption happens life on earth for man is over within a month.

                    • weka

                      Not interested in talking with denialists. Take it to open mike, plenty of people there who will argue with you (and point out your logic flaws too).

                    • Lanthanide

                      “Natural effects such as volcanic eruptions are far more of a worry.”

                      No they’re not. And we have no control over them anyway – that’s even more an argument for why we should limit our emissions – so that if an eruption (that we can’t control) does happen, things won’t be as bad as they could be.

                      “How about the ticking time bomb of Yellow Stone Park, when that eruption happens life on earth for man is over within a month.”

                      Yellowstone is not showing any signs of unrest whatsoever. It will probably explode sometime in the next million years. It is unlikely it will be in anyone’s lifetime.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Skinny’s comment is nonsense. CO2 levels had been relatively static for ~12,000 years until about 150 years ago.

                    • NickS

                      Teh stupid is strong with this one.

                      It takes very, very large volume eruptions, typical mega-caldera eruption events occurring over the space of years to cause long term climatic events. As can be shown in the paleoclimate record, easily found out by navigating to the relevant wiki pages and reading the references.

                      Also, long term climatic cycles are driven by variation in the Earth’s orbit, of which since the Holocene Optimum (aka Greenhouse Earth) have lead to a constant cycling between glaciation events and warm periods. The current return to an ice age however has been retarded by human actions per-industrial era and the long term prognosis is not rosy thanks to the gigatonnes of carbon (and equivalents) we’ve added to the atmosphere.

                      Not that you’ll pay any attention to that :rolleyes:

                  • Because you need to co-ordinate the policies of 59 countries (which has been well beyond the world’s diplomats so far) and then whatever they do can be completely countered by what India does.

                    • weka

                      Are you saying that if the top x countries all did the right thing all the other countries wouldn’t need to do anything?

                    • Lanthanide

                      @weka: that’s one way of putting it, yes.

                      The corollary is: if all the small countries do the right things and the big countries don’t change significantly (or at all), we’re still fucked.

              • Skinny

                I think deforestation is a far more significant issue to climate change. Probably more so than industrial emissions. And when you consider volcanic eruptions have been proven to be more damaging throughout history than the recent human industrial revolution contribution.

                • DoublePlusGood

                  Volcanic eruptions have a lot of emissions, but they actually cool the climate if large enough by blocking sunlight.

                • Lanthanide

                  “I think deforestation is a far more significant issue to climate change.”

                  It is undeniably an important factor.

                  “Probably more so than industrial emissions.”

                  No. Industrial emissions are the reason for the increase in the atmosphere. If we stopped emitting them, it would be irrelevant what happened to the forests, vis-a-vis climate change.

                  “And when you consider volcanic eruptions have been proven to be more damaging throughout history”

                  Citation, please. Also we’re not so concerned with “throughout history”, we’re concerned with the present.

                  Yes, there have been supervolcanoes in the history of Earth which have caused huge damage, but there hasn’t been one recently and there’s no reason to think there will be one within the next 1000 years.

                  If we knew for sure that there would be some catatrophic world-ending event that happened X years from now, then yes, we would probably change our current behaviours quite a bit in light of that fact. But we simply don’t have that knowledge, so we can only behave based on the evidence we do have available, and the evidence suggests that the climate is warming because of fossil fuel consumption by humans.

            • DoublePlusGood

              You’re like that kid who’s desperate to be cool, so he does whatever the biggest kid does, even when it’s self destructive.
              Someone else not doing what is right is not an excuse to fail to do what is right yourself.

              • That’s a silly analogy. If the big kid is, say, driving drunk, and the little kid copies him or her, then the likely impact on the little kid’s life expectancy etc changes for the worse. But in the case of climate change, there is no impact on NZ whatsoever from what NZ does in terms of reducing GHG emissions – the impacts are entirely independent of our policy. Our policy should be based around adaptation because we are unable to implement effective mitigation policies.

                • DoublePlusGood

                  Apparently you’re also the kind of person who doesn’t contribute to a koha at a large celebration, because your input to the total kitty won’t make any significant difference on the total raised.

  16. simon 16

    Matt hooten: perhaps China etc should partition themselves up into pockets of 4-20 million people then we can rest safe in the knowledge that climate change no longer exists and emissions no longer matter.

  17. simon 17

    Or better yet, why should the state of California/Washington etc take action since their contribution is negligible.

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