Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Climate, money and risk

220 Responses

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  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Nor am I suggesting, as has been implied, that we should increase our dairy herd.

    Nor am I suggesting that the dairy industry should be further subsidised to increase the herd.

    I never said you were, Bart. But diary herds are increasing hugely in New Zealand, and the people of NZ are effectively subsidising them already with our water resource.

    I applaud the initiative to produce grasses which can feed cows more efficiently and with fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
    But you completely fail to address my point about water.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Also, if we must justify everything in terms of money, NZ's tourism income relies on our environment not being too fucked up. Tourists like to be able to swim in rivers and lakes.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Sacha,

    Why China?

    Thought they’d probably have more non-market-reliant solutions.

    Fair enough. I think I just listed a few examples, too. Trouble is I don't see these non-market-reliant solutions being of the kind our current government deems politically correct.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    And FWIW Bart I think the work of plant scientists is vital and none of what I have said is meant as a criticism of you or your profession. Just that great plant science can't fix political stupidity. We need good science and good resource management.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Chris Waugh, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    I’m talking about the business/marketing consequences of NZ being seen to be doing nothing much to address climate change.

    Ok I see. But since most of our biggest export earners go to China I’m not certain that it’s true.

    I would argue it will soon become true. Fonterra's involvement in 3 food safety scandals already has question marks hanging over Brand New Zealand in Chinese consumers' minds. And what Lilith said about tourists liking to swim in lakes and rivers - Air NZ flying Yao Chen and other Chinese superstars out to NZ is going to backfire big time when Chinese tourists start posting photos of lurid green lakes and rivers to Weibo with comments to the effect of "Hey look! NZ has filthy, polluted water just like us!". And earlier last year, I can't remember if it was during the DCD or botulism-that-wasn't scandal, I saw what looked very much like advertorial sneaked out the back door of a Dutch dairy company or trade promotion organisation to a friendly (because paid off? Not unlikely) to the effect of "Look! Dutch infant formula is clean and the Netherlands has super-strict quality control!", with a definite hint of "Not like those filthy bloody Kiwis" to it. So, yes, we do need to worry about the marketing side of it.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2007 • 2401 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Nor am I suggesting that the dairy industry should be further subsidised to increase the herd.

    No, just proposing a large spend up on research that will benefit the dairy industry, to be paid for by tax payers --- as opposed to the implementation of a polluter-pays market based system that puts the cost of carbon on the people most responsible.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    large spend up on research

    Of course. Because that's one area where I know it can do some good. But feel free to suggest other options.

    polluter-pays market based system

    Sorry Kier but I am unconvinced that this will do anything other than make it more expensive to farm. Note at present there is simply nothing (absolutely nothing) a farmer can do to reduce sheep and cow burps other than reduce the number of sheep and cows. Essentially this isn't an incentive to do anything other than reduce the national herd. And to do that in the industry that is one quarter of our export economy is not something I would choose to do lightly.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    But you completely fail to address my point about water.

    But isn't this thread about carbon?

    Water quality is a whole other issue and unlike burps farmers can do something about water so it make sense to incentivize them to actually do it (aka massive fines).

    FWIW my opinion about using one of the few bits of land in NZ that is actually dry to farm grass which likes water is that it is kind of stupid. But the problem is none of the crops that like being dry (eg maize and wheat) are getting the same subsidies as cows. But the Sth Island still votes National, what can you do?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    __ But you completely fail to address my point about water. __

    But isn’t this thread about carbon?

    Water quality is a whole other issue and unlike burps farmers can do something about water so it make sense to incentivize them to actually do it (aka massive fines).

    I don’t think there’s much point saving one aspect of the environment while fucking up others. We need a coordinated approach.

    And as I seem to have said repeatedly, sheer numbers of cows are going to fuck the freshwater even if we keep them out of directly standing in streams. Of course farmers should fence waterways, etc., but nothing will stop disastrous levels of nitrate runoff except running fewer cows.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Note at present there is simply nothing (absolutely nothing) a farmer can do to reduce sheep and cow burps other than reduce the number of sheep and cows. Essentially this isn’t an incentive to do anything other than reduce the national herd.

    Yes, this. Reducing herd numbers is a good outcome.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But the Sth Island still votes National, what can you do?

    ECAN is no longer a democratically elected body.

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 4593 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    Has Rodney Hide ever visited Australia lately? Temps reaching close to 50 celsius in parts, 3-minute showers and all that.

    Belatedly.

    Quite.

    2013 was the hottest year on record in Australia and all but one of the last ten years was 0.50 degrees C above average. More here.

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel, in reply to Gareth,

    ...a self-respecting newspaper of record

    Hmmm, I haven't seen one of those for some time now!

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic, in reply to Paul Williams,

    Quite. 2013 was the hottest year on record in Australia and all but one of the last ten years was 0.50 degrees C above average. More here.

    And unfortunately it hasn't swayed Tony Abbott one bit, and probably never will.

    We should thank our lucky stars for now that Washington and Brussels haven't legislated for carbon tariffs - yet.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5443 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    But the point is that you are proposing to subsidise dairy farmers -- twice, in fact, once by paying for this R&D program, and once by proposing we not impose the polluter pays principle.

    The whole point of polluter-pays is to make it more expensive to pollute, and by not imposing that principle, by not pricing in the externality, you really are subsidising dirty dairying --- and in a particular pernicuous way.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    you really are subsidising dirty dairying

    BULLCRAP

    And stop pretending that's what I said.

    What I said is that it should be possible to make cows not produce methane which would make dairying significantly cleaner. But that would require research which, yes would require money.

    Cleaner dairying.

    More importantly cleaner dairying that could be applied to countries that actually do produce a significant amount of greenhouse gas and where is might actually make a difference to the planet.

    What you propose is a tax on farmers that they cannot avoid by doing anything other than reducing their herd that will in turn reduce NZ export earnings. Are you volunteering to give up your imported luxurys? Because that is the only consequence.

    A consequence that does NOTHING for the planet.

    You propose taxing our major export earner in a way that can only reduce the financial viability of our major export earner for NO measurable gain to the planet.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    Reducing herd numbers is a good outcome.

    How are you planning to make up for that loss? Which service are you going to cut? Which school are you going to close? Are you going to put a duty on big screen TVs? or smartphones? or cars?

    About 12 billion dollars last year. How much can we spare? A billion? Two?

    This is not a simple thought game that has no direct consequence. This is actually a real situation in NZ.

    Is it good that we are in this situation? Hell no. But ignoring the reality of our shitty economy doesn't help.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    if we can improve efficiencies we can get the same yield from less land with less environmental harm.

    Yes, and I believe many of us are on that same page. No more herd increases does not mean dairy industry poverty.

    It's not a zero-sum thing, more about realigning the incentives towards sustainable value across our whole economy. The dairy and related food industries should be able to generate enough added value to more than make up for increased input costs that fairly reflect relative dirtyness. If not, investment will shift to industries better suited for our common future.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    How are you planning to make up for that loss? Which service are you going to cut? Which school are you going to close? Are you going to put a duty on big screen TVs? or smartphones? or cars?

    About 12 billion dollars last year. How much can we spare? A billion? Two?

    This is not a simple thought game that has no direct consequence. This is actually a real situation in NZ.

    Jesus, Bart. Do you think the rest of us are idiots?

    In 2012 New Zealand had 6.4 million dairy cattle, compared with 3.5 million in 1992

    stats NZ

    We still had schools and hospitals and TVs in 1992. Your argument is worthy of John Key or Hekia Parata.

    Because of saving the environment we can’t have nice things? Jesus.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Keir Leslie,

    Good grief Bart if you don't want to people to think you are supportive of subsidies to dairy farms don't suggest the state pays for a massive speculative R&D project to benefit dairy farmers! I mean I am sorry but it's an absurd position to take: no taxation of blatant externalities directly threatening humanity's future and a large government spend-up and we're not allowed to call it a subsidy --- all premised on the principle that under no circumstances can the number of cows in New Zealand shrink.

    Since Jul 2008 • 1452 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Lilith __,

    We still had schools and hospitals and TVs in 1992

    But in 1992 dairying wasn't a quarter of our income and it is now. I genuinely don't understand how you expect to have the same standard of living if you cause our export earnings to drop significantly. And because dairying is such a large proportion of our economy then reducing the national must have a direct effect.

    No I don't think you're idiots, if I did, I'd stop.

    But what I can't see is how taxing cow burps can do anything other than harm NZ. The farmers can't change the cows to ones that don't burp, they can't change the feed to stop the burping. And the tax is meant to help stop climate change but it can't do that.

    If you want to tax farmers on fertiliser runoff, fine by me. Or tax them on water pollution, fine by me. Or tax them for water use, fine by me.

    But just don't do this carbon tax thing because then you are using a false argument (that our cows will alter climate change) to address a totally different problem (environmental pollution) from dirty (badly managed) farms.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    blatant externalities directly threatening humanity’s future

    Hey Kier, here's a question. How much do NZs cows and sheep contribute to the total greenhouse gas production of the planet? Not per capita, just the absolute amount.

    When you have an answer to that how about you rewrite you hyperbolic statement.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Williams, in reply to Kumara Republic,

    And unfortunately it hasn’t swayed Tony Abbott one bit, and probably never will.

    Possibly not, no. But he is a buffoon (it'd be interesting to see what he'd do if the Pope stated a clear view given his strong Catholic beliefs).

    Sydney • Since Nov 2006 • 2273 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Keir Leslie,

    massive speculative R&D project to benefit dairy farmers!

    Oh and try reading. The point is not to benefit NZ farmers. The point of doing the research is that it could help ALL farmers on the WHOLE planet. And that is a shit load more cows and sheep than we have in NZ.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Saving the environment is a complex business. Greenhouse gases and limited freshwater and water pollution are all issues with dairy farming. I think there’s limited utility in addressing one while ignoring the others.

    And nothing will be achieved on any of these fronts if we keep giving dairy farming a free pass.

    Remember the argument that paying women the same as men would cause the economy to collapse? I feel this argument is much the same as “making dairy farmers pay their way will destroy our standard of living”.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

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