Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Climate, money and risk

220 Responses

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  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Russell Brown,

    [Shaun] ... I’d choose to build my house a little further up the hill…

    [Russell] Quite. It should be straightforward thinking to assess the risk and determine it is such that doing nothing would be very unwise.

    What I find annoying is the assumption that all actions to deal with climate change will have a negative outcome. Improving energy efficiency is good regardless of why you do it. Developing cheap renewable energy systems is just good. Building cities and homes more resistant to environmental change is good. Changing agriculture to use less energy and do less environmental damage is good.

    One lie being told by deniers is that all the changes are somehow bad.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    level of lobbyist hyperbole

    Aye, I don't believe many of the changes proposed would cripple dairying. But I still would be cautious about altering a major export earner. Doesn't mean I would want changes just that I'd be cautious.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But it is worth noting that without the dairy industry we would be royally F’d. Without the dairy industry we couldn’t afford the health system, or welfare, or much of anything. The dairy industry for all it’s faults is the difference between our current reasonable lifestyle and real depression.

    This is a totally false dichotomy. Nobody is suggesting we outlaw dairying! Just that as an industry it must pay the real costs of its operation, and not rely on the rest of us to prop it up, directly or indirectly. Corporate welfare indeed.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    One lie being told by deniers is that all the changes are somehow bad.

    A big, crude oil-powered lie at that.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5415 posts Report Reply

  • Che Tibby, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    A big, crude oil-powered lie at that.

    exactly. the problem ain't the cows, it's the fertilisers.

    and the cars.

    and the ocean full of plastic.

    the back of an envelope • Since Nov 2006 • 2042 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    If we didn't have the dairy industry, we'd do some thing(s) more or less productive with our rich soils and hospitable climate.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    Corporate welfare indeed.

    There is an argument to be made for all industries being equal. But I'm not convinced. For NZ, export industries are inherently more valuable than purely domestic industries, at least they are if we actually want to be able to buy a smartphone. If any industry is to get "welfare" then it should be an export industry. Furthermore a small industry is of less value to NZ than a large one, unless you have very good reason to believe the small industry will become large. Dairying is both large and export.

    But most importantly dairying is so large in NZ that if it collapsed for any reason we'd be F'd. So I would be very careful about how we altered the dairy industry to improve it's environmental impact. As much as possible I'd like to see changes that did no economic harm but that is unrealistic.

    I don't think this is a good situation. That we are so dependent on dairying is a failure on the part of many governments.

    And don't get me wrong I'm not suggesting we allow the dairy industry free license, far from it. But I am saying that putting a cost on the dairy industry that realistically will do nothing to affect climate change worldwide is something I would be very careful about. I'd happily make them pay to clean up streams etc which actually would do environmental good.

    If we are really serious about doing something about the climate change effects of ruminant burps worldwide then the solution is to free up the regulations around GM research and fund research into make grasses and ruminant bacteria that don't produce methane. That research could be applied worldwide and really could do some good. By all means put a levy on the dairy industry to pay for some of that. Just not a simplistic carbon tax that will simply get used to pay for another stupid road.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to George Darroch,

    we’d do some thing(s) more or less productive with our rich soils and hospitable climate.

    We do. But a lot of our soils are not that rich, we invented superphosphate and top-dressing pastures for a reason. But we do have water.

    Our really rich soils are mostly used for horticulture and now viticulture.

    But yeah if we didn't have dairying we'd have something else growing ... probably. But the transition to that could be very unpleasant.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    putting a cost on the dairy industry that realistically will do nothing to affect climate change worldwide is something I would be very careful about

    This is the whole problem with saving the planet. Everybody wants it not to have to apply to them. Or not now, maybe later.
    No single action will halt climate change. But if we don't all chip in, we're all fucked. As in actually doomed, not just poorer.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Our really rich soils are mostly used for horticulture and now viticulture.

    The Canterbury Plains are rich soils in a dry climate perfect for cropping, currently being replaced with intensive dairying made possible with government-funded irrigation using our super-pure artesian water.

    And when our regional council tried to put the brakes on this massive conversion to dairy (for tedious scientific reasons!) the government sacked them and withdrew our right to regional democracy.
    Dairy farmers are already getting more of our water than we’re willing to give them, and the National government is telling us to get fucked.

    This shit is serious.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    You learn something every day: a primer on New Zealand soils

    However, this is what should be giving us all pause for thought: the massive increases in NZ emissions since 1990.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

  • Tim Michie,

    Scientists, who have come to rely on liberals in political battles over stem-cell research, climate change and the teaching of evolution, have been dismayed to find themselves at odds with their traditional allies on this issue. Some compare the hostility to G.M.O.s to the rejection of climate-change science, except with liberal opponents instead of conservative ones.

    NYT, typically thorough reporting on a Hawaii bill to ban GMO.

    Auckward • Since Nov 2006 • 614 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    If we are really serious about doing something about the climate change effects of ruminant burps worldwide then the solution is to free up the regulations around GM research and fund research into make grasses and ruminant bacteria that don’t produce methane.

    Ah. So there is real promise there. Rod Oram has banged on repeatedly about various others ways we could get first-mover advantage on emissions and energy reform. To no avail, sadly.

    That research could be applied worldwide and really could do some good. By all means put a levy on the dairy industry to pay for some of that. Just not a simplistic carbon tax that will simply get used to pay for another stupid road.

    Given the extent to which the ETS has been compromised, I'm thinking a straight-up carbon tax would have been more effective.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Dairy doesn’t need to wait for research or magical technology – they need to pull their heads in right now rather than plan to *double* the current livestock levels.

    For some reason just not doing more of the same shit is beyond the imagination of many public commentators and politicians. Farming industry leaders, I’d understand not wanting to see that as an option.

    There are many other export industries NZ does well in without the same public subsidy via environmental damage and privatisation of public resources like water. Or the trading reputation risk from trashing our green brand.

    Our young people don’t want to be farmers, recent recruitment difficulties suggest. More interested in high-value careers in creative industries, information technology, social service research, etc. Who can blame them.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Russell Brown,

    a straight-up carbon tax would have been more effective

    Like the one originally proposed, you mean..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Mike O'Connell, in reply to Russell Brown,

    We had a carbon tax set to be introduced in late 2005 I think it was. And then David Parker pulled the plug on it. Is it too late to reintroduce it in some (effective and meaningful) form? I don't know.

    I haven't read Rodney Hide's column but can pretty well work out he's that old argument frequently used by deniers along lines of 'frozen sea ice in the summer means it's cooling, not warming.'

    What people like Jim Salinger at Akld University and NIWA scientists like Jim Renwick will say, climate change is about a greater occurrence of extreme events: freezing seas, droughts, torrential rainfall, increased cloudiness - all on the back of an increasing gradient of gradual (and perhaps now accelerating) warming. NZ is somewhat insulated, experiencing 2/3 of the predicted impacts of what continental landmasses (or countries v close to such land masses) are predicted to experience.

    In that latter regard, it's fortunate we're just that little bit further away from the West Island. Someone above mentioned not all impacts are negative. Agreed. even Vladimir Putin quipped when Russia signed Kyoto that 'we can soon throw out our fur coats'. But necessity is the mother of invention isn't it? We will design for example, better houses to keep out... the cold, the heat, wider eaves to keep out wind and rain, etc

    Reducing emissions is one thing. Mankind will adapt, will need to adapt. E.g. managed retreat from low lying coastal regions. But what that means for our vulnerable species and ecosystems, it may be too late in many cases. Can they adapt fast enough? It's not the meteorite of 165M yrs ago but the human induced 'snowball' that's going to hit us, gathering pace all the time we sit by and fiddle with the (national and global) policy settings.

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 379 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Sacha,

    There are many other export industries NZ does well in without the same public subsidy via environmental damage and privatisation of public resources like water. Or the trading reputation risk from trashing our green brand.

    Again, I'm not keen on the damage done by dairying. But I'm also dubious about the value environmentally and economically of applying the ETS or even a simple carbon tax to an industry that is such a big part of our economy, especially when it will not solve the problem at hand.

    That said I see no value in making the reliance on dairying worse by subsidising the expansion of the dairy herd especially in areas where the land and soil are unlikely to be able to support it.

    But I'll call you on this

    There are many other export industries NZ does well in ...

    Name them.
    I'll help by starting with (from memory) the next biggest export earner, the sale of raw timber logs to Asia! Yup that's right our next best export earner has every chance of being worse for the planet than dairying.

    As for the rest of our export industries they're all much smaller, a tenth the size of dairying. Not unimportant but smaller. And unfortunately size matters, because big industries can do things small industries can't (like invest).

    Again this is bad for NZ. The export reliance on cows and sheep for milk and meat is a bad thing. It means that if those industries are harmed it has a direct immediate effect on our lifestyle. It needs to change. And the harm that dairying does needs to reduce (certainly not expand as Lilith notes).

    But ignoring how dependent we are on grass and cows is not wise either.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4450 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    ignoring how dependent we are on grass and cows is not wise either

    I can’t see where anyone is doing that Bart, this is a straw person.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Barnaby Nicholls,

    Even if stringent environmental protections would cripple NZ's biggest industry - a dubious claim - the choice between environmental sustainability and economic viability should still be a no-brainer. If a project can only be economically viable in the absence of environmental protection, then it should not go ahead. If the current "balancing" of the environment with the economy continues indefinitely, tipping precipitously towards the economy rather than the environment, we will be left with an environmental catastrophe.

    It's simply not worth it. Environmental sustainability is necessary whatever the economic cost - because we can overcome a slight GDP forecast downgrade, but we can't overcome a destroyed environment.

    Wellington • Since Apr 2013 • 19 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Barnaby Nicholls,

    Environmental sustainability is necessary whatever the economic cost

    And so is full democracy.

    Waimakariri mayor David Ayers:

    "The rural communities feel very engaged and that they are having their say over water planning, so I would hate to see the democratic model back if that slows that progress."

    source

    Seriously, I'm not seeing that dairy farmers are the victims here.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3887 posts Report Reply

  • Euan Mason, in reply to Russell Brown,

    "Given the extent to which the ETS has been compromised, I’m thinking a straight-up carbon tax would have been more effective"

    The ETS has been compromised, but it could be fixed:

    http://euanmason.blogspot.co.nz/2013/12/why-our-emissions-trading-scheme-is.html

    Canterbury • Since Jul 2008 • 258 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    NZ needs to export more niche-targeted processed dairy products, not megatons of basic milk powder for others to capture the value in. Moving the dairy industry up the value chain can be done way less destructively than simply doubling its raw production. Takes smarter leadership though.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I'm not talking about total income but things we do *well*. Software, screen production, fashion, wine, boutique food, professional consulting, that sort of thing.

    I'm expecting in our future, exports higher in ideas than molecules will be worth more. Don't thank that's such a radical projection is it?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Lilith __,

    Seriously, I'm not seeing that dairy farmers are the victims here.

    Of increasing financialisation of their industry, perhaps, and trying to compete with big corporate farmers. Over the last decade, big banks have been lending to farmers just like homeowners, underpinned by expectations of perpetual capital gain in land values. Imagine that puts quite some pressure on, as interest rate rises loom this year.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19680 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Lilith __,

    The Canterbury Plains are rich soils in a dry climate perfect for cropping, currently being replaced with intensive dairying made possible with government-funded irrigation using our super-pure artesian water.

    It's actually worse than that -- read Rebecca Macfie's excellent feature in this week's Listener. It's not all negative either -- she looks at real examples of what can be done to reduce dangerous run-off and improved productivity at the same time.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22747 posts Report Reply

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