There is much more work to be done as the Zero Carbon Bill works its way through to enactment, says Keith Woodford

There is much more work to be done as the Zero Carbon Bill works its way through to enactment, says Keith Woodford

The Zero Carbon Bill introduced to Parliament last week answers some questions but raises many others.  There are big challenges ahead for everyone, but particularly for farmers and their leaders.

As always, the devil will be in the details. These details have yet to be spelled out. More importantly, it is apparent that many of the details have yet to be determined.

 If rural leaders wish to have some influence on these details, they will need to be much better skilled-up than in the past.  The next few months will be crucial as the Bill works its way through the committee stages for enactment.

In the meantime, farmers are entitled to think they are in danger of being left to carry much of the pain.  This is because the rest of the community can lean on forestry, whereas methane is to be excluded from those forestry credits.

One important positive aspect of the Zero Carbon Bill is that short-lived methane (CH4) will be in a different basket than the long-lived gases of carbon dioxide (CO2) and nitrous oxide (N2O).  That creates the basis for logical and nuanced discussions relating to the specifics of short-lived methane.  Until now that basis has been missing.

It would seem that placing methane in a different basket only came about because of the persistence of New Zealand First. They heard the message from Simon Upton, the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, which neither the Greens nor Labour were keen to accept.

However, getting methane into its own basket achieves nothing by itself. It is simply the starting point.

One of the rules of greenhouse gas accounting system is that the costs are assigned to the country where the emissions occurs.  That works well in situations where production occurs in the country of final consumption, but that is not the case for New Zealand’s export-led agriculture.

For example, when Australian coal and iron ore are exported, then the carbon dioxide released from burning the coal and making the steel is assigned to the overseas countries where both production and consumption occur. In contrast, when New Zealand butter and milk protein are consumed all around the world, then it is New Zealand that carries greenhouse gas liability because this is where the methane-producing cows are located.

The biggest negative for agriculture in the Climate Change Bill is the scale of the proposed long-term methane targets. These are going to be destructive. Ten percent over ten years may well be manageable albeit challenging, but the proposal for something between 22 percent and 47 percent over thirty years is unachievable with current technology.

There may be smarter ways to manage our global climate issues.

One of the challenges for rural leaders is to get a better grasp on the science of methane. There are very good arguments as to why New Zealand’s ruminant-sourced methane, which decays rapidly, is much less of a long-term threat to climate than carbon dioxide. This is because the ‘methane cloud’ from New Zealand’s pastoral agriculture is now close to stable whereas carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere remain on an inexorable upwards journey.

However, if rural leaders then claim that methane has no effect on global warming because it is simply part of the natural carbon cycle, they are going to be laughed at in official circles.

In fact, each atmospheric methane molecule has strong absorption of outgoing energy at two specific wavelengths. Also, the physical scientists can argue that there are residual effects after the methane has left the atmosphere, sometimes called ‘climate inertia’.

Focusing first on the next ten years, a big question for agriculture is how can those initial 10 percent methane savings be achieved?

The easy part will come from shifting some of the hill country to forestry. This will indeed reduce methane emissions by removal of the sheep and cattle that are currently there.

However, the 2018 Cabinet paper on the ‘Billion Trees’ program suggests that most of the tree plantings will be either replacement plantings or on land that is currently scrub.  So, it seems that loss of farm land to forestry may not have a large effect on sheep and beef numbers, and hence on methane emissions, at least in the next ten years.

 Apart from forestry, the other changing land use can be through more cropping. We need to keep reminding both the politicians and the broader urban community that there are major biophysical constraints to shifting most pastoral soils to cropping.

Most of these pastoral soils are much more difficult to crop than the fertile soils of Britain and Europe where most of our forebears come from.

Similarly, the New Zealand situation is very different to the USA, which has wonderful fertile soils across much of the country, and a climate well suited to broad-acre cropping.

To use the language of economics, New Zealand’s competitive advantage has always been in relation to pastoralism. Apart from some specific crops such as wine and kiwifruit, in very specific locations, it’s very hard work trying to earn export dollars from cropping.

The difficulties of achieving top-quality cost-efficient cropping products are sufficiently challenging that all the wheat for bread-making in New Zealand is currently imported from Australia.  This has occurred for many years and for good reason.

The notion that New Zealand can develop major export industries based on plant-based proteins has little basis in reality.  Europe, North America, South America and much of Asia are where these crops will be grown efficiently.

Similarly, China will have no problems in growing its own crops for human consumption. It is the feed-crops for livestock that cause the challenges. and hence China’s ongoing interest in sourcing livestock products from New Zealand and elsewhere.

Within livestock farming itself, methane reductions can come from less animals that are more productive.  New Zealand agriculture has been on that journey for a long time. Further increases in efficiency are possible, but they won’t come easily.

In all of the current debate, there is surprisingly little discussion about nitrous oxide. Yet nitrous oxide is clearly a long-lived agricultural gas and it is certainly going to be part of the emission trading scheme. As such, it will be tradable against forestry credits. However, the current evidence says that it is not as long-lived as carbon dioxide. That means that within the proposed GWP100 equivalence system it is going to carry more than its share of the burden.

In this article I have done no more than touch on a raft of complex issues. Unless and until rural leaders can get their minds around the nuances of these issues they are going to do poorly in the ongoing debates at official levels over coming months and years. Yet there are important arguments that rural leaders do need to be putting forward if agriculture is to get the best and fairest outcomes. It is time for more upskilling and informed engagement.


*Keith Woodford was Professor of Farm Management and Agribusiness at Lincoln University for 15 years through to 2015. He is now Principal Consultant at AgriFood Systems Ltd. His articles are archived at http://keithwoodford.wordpress.com. You can contact him directly here.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Is there anyone in leadership, who is on point for 'Carbon Zero?' Are they out there showing us how easy it is to live with 50% of the carbon budget of the average Kiwi? It's a question well worth answering before we commit to impoverishing ourselves in the name of an ideology.
Who are the people that are actually out there doing it? The people I know, who are making the most noise, seem to be producing a heck of a lot more CO2 than the average Kiwi, so why should I take them seriously? They live in palatial mansions, never take public transport, make more overseas trips in one year than most voters will make in a lifetime, so where is the moral authority to pass repressive laws on the rest of us?

While your questions seem logical, with the current thinking all these people do is point to some trees they had planted in their name that completely exonerates them of any responsibility for their fossil fuel use.
Its magical.

Skidiv - Entirely predictable - the standard shoot-the-messenger/others rather than address the issue.

Thanks Keith - one of the more thoughtful articles on the matter. I'm of the opinion that if you take a systems approach, we are looking at the end - or at least the reduction - of globalism. Add CC to resource/energy depletion (you fail to point out that China and the US are currently unmainatainable in aquifer draw-down terms) and we are more likely looking at a trend to 'local' rather than 'export'. Local we should be able to do from the high-quality soils adjacent to cities, presuming they aren't built over.

The rest can be a mix of lower-level grazing and revegetation. Important too, is the full-circle of nutrient flows, rather than the linear 'to waste' current model. But we are all in this together - cities are unsustainable in their current form too. Rather than lobbying for competitive advantage, we need to take our medicine together. I see permaculture as being more applicable than monocultural agribusiness, and expect the biggest resistance to change will be debt-obligation driven. Ultimately, it may be that we cannot trend lighter on the planet without debt relief (or implosion). It's something we should be aware of.

Yes, all very good points. The depletion of aquifers is a very scary thing. It was covered well by the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment;
https://www.millenniumassessment.org/en/index.html

But of course depletion has magnified in the ensuing years - now we're getting a lot of reporting on it causing ground movement (sinking) in places like California, and the effects are widespread and serious;

https://phys.org/news/2018-08-drought-groundwater-loss-california-alarmi...

I read somewhere that some US municipal authority was thinking of re-charging groundwater with treated wastewater (to sort of 'pump up' the subsiding land) - and I thought for goodness sake - that's a seriously desperate measure and they were going ahead with it despite the science telling them that it wasn't going to work.

There's going to be a lot of that kind oF panic-nonsense. A classic is the carbon sequestration dream. If you didn't listen to the Krumdiek piece in my Top10, do so here: http://wiseresponse.org.nz/category/presentation/

Note she says "twenty years ago maybe...." We're just too late for lots of moves now, we denied and grew too long. But there's always a best card to play. Cool heads required.

Great presentation but unfortunately I believe its all come to late as it will continue to fall on deaf ears and/or we will move to slowly, so the likely outlook will be war, war and more war as countries start to run out of options......................from that point on it will be survival of the fittest if theres anyone left!

Kind of a zombie apocalypse scenario...

You may be thinking of Orange County, California, which is already doing exactly that, and it's generally considered an unqualified success. It is on the coast, and one of the considerations is that if you deplete a coastal aquifer it may allow seawater to infiltrate. I imagine much of NZ is in the same boat.

Found the article;
http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20171130-the-ambitious-plan-to-stop-the-...

It focuses on the ground sinking issue, as opposed to the seawater infiltration one. And I see it's 2 years old now - so there might be better knowledge now. What stuck with me were those cities that altogether stopped groundwater extraction and as a result saw their sinking stop. Whether pumping water back into them will reverse the subsidence, I guess depends on the geology of the place.

Would that be the same UN who in 1988 forecast the Maldives would be under water by now? In fact, it transpires Tuvalu is actually 2.9% bigger today than it was then. As with most of the Left indoctrinated alarmist nonsense, the facts are highly inconvenient in the bid to control and tax Western economies, which is the real goal here.

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment wasn't about prediction or projections. It was just about gathering data on the current state of the global environment. Much like the NZ Environmental Reporting Act 2015 framework - it identifies the pressures, states and impacts of "what is", as opposed to predicting "what might be" and making recommendations on actions.

I'm no big fan of projections for decades hence. But I'm really keen to deal with known environmental problems in the here and now. And we've got so many of them that we hardly need to consider the future. In fact what is interesting is that we are in the pickle we are, because for decades we have failed to deal adequately with the here and now - nature collapses, we take a short term view to recovery, then it collapses again, perhaps permanently;

https://www.nzgeo.com/stories/what-we-do-in-the-shallows/

The climate debate feels far more political than scientific and it is riddled with hypocracy and fear. I tend to look at what people do, not say - like Emma Thompson flying first class to lead the Extinction Rebellion in London or a 16 year old telling global leaders the world will end in 2030. This is all heading towards controlling how people live, what they can eat and how they can travel. All except the political class of course.

I still find it amazing that we have large organisations and coordinated information campaigns working to convince folk that there's nothing to see here with climate change, for heaven's sake don't inconvenience the businesses, and that any push to reduce pollution that's causing major issues has a heart of totalitarian communism. Who exactly is controlling how people live and think?

Still driving a car mate? I'm just curious if you drink your own cool-aid.

Without predictions or projections, how can you make alarmist claims about global warming?

Yeah great comeback, I'm asking who TF is actually addressing the issue and you accuse me of shooting the messenger. If the messenger won't address the issue, then why is he asking me to shoulder his burden which he is not only unwilling to accept, but is in fact doing more 'harm' than the average person. In what world is that ok? How is that leadership? How can that change anything?
To hell with the pontificating BS, lead, follow or stfu!
Personally I think they are FoS and just in it for the publicity like the latest fashion trend. Get red-pilled and based is a more appropriate response.

Good to see McCarthyism isn't dead. Just resting in small corners of Godzone.......

It's not McCarthyism if someone has a different opinion to yours, it's democracy. In fact, the defining trait of the far left is intolerance of opposing views.

Where is our Farage?
From the BBC:

(Interviewer) Marr:
“Do you still believe that worrying about global warming is the stupidest thing in human history?”

Farage:
“I believe that if we decide in this country to tax ourselves to the hilt, to put hundreds of thousands of people out of work in manufacturing industries, given that we produce less than 2 per cent of global CO2, that isn’t terribly intelligent.”

Let's hope we don't have anyone in a position of power with such a pathetic, selfish attitude as Farage. The world is going to slow destroy itself because everyone is waiting for other people to take action.

I'll grant you Farage is smug and unlikable however he is the only thing standing between the UK and a full blow Marxist revolution. Also, has Farage said he didn't want to cut down on single use plastics or reduce particulate matter in UK cities - you know, tangible ways of improving the environment instead of the simply relentless "global warming"rhetoric?

90% of all plastic in the oceans comes from just 10 rivers, and none of them are in the UK
https://www.thesun.co.uk/tech/5120820/90-of-plastic-in-our-oceans-comes-...
I spent an hour looking for rubbish with my family on the weekend and we couldn't find enough to fill and ice-cream container.

I do likewise. Did you see any animals committing suicide because of global warming, like the walruses??

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2019/04/08/netflix-walruses-driven-d...

The word is 'socialist', not 'Marxist'. Socialism has been, and continues to be, the bedrock of European politics since WW2, and has resulted in European countries taking up most of the top 10 happiest countries (especially the more socialist ones) while also being amongst the richest in the world.

It's hard to point to Farage's policies as his current political vehicle explicitly does not have any policies and won't announce them until after the European elections - the man should be a laughing stock.

Ok... Socialism is also the bedrock of Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba as well, you can't just pick and choose. Norway is a European equivalent of Saudi Arabia - their standard of living is supported by oil reserves (simultaneously preaching their virtuousness while drilling for oil around the globe - Australian Bite for example). My observation of UK and Farage is that his populism is due to the fury that democracy is being denied. Trump as well. Socialists don't do democracy well, totalitarianism is more their cup of tea.

The only problem with ‘socialism’ is it invites U.S intervention in the form of trade embargo’s and democratic subversion re Cuba et al.

If we're talking about Socialism in a UK context, then of course I'm going to compare to nearby countries with similar histories and political systems - how is Venezuela relevant? The UK has one of the oldest democracies in the world and any reversion to socialism would be under that parliamentary democracy. The UK has had socialist leaning governments before without destroying its democracy, it's all part of the waves of power between labour and capital. If you're looking for threats of totalitarianism, Trump is the obvious red flashing light right now as he tries to beat down the various other arms of government, law, media, and other balances against his power.

All those European countries are full blown capitalist countries. In fact it was the introduction of protection of private property that preceded the rise in living conditions. Look it up, I'll wait.

The French government owns the vast majority of their electricity market (EDF has even significantly expanded overseas while being state owned), their postal service, the Railways, and has large stakes in Car manufacturers, Airbus, Air France/KLM, and various other manufacturers. This is not unusual in Europe - most countries have significant state ownership, and have significant welfare and income redistribution systems. Is that what you consider to be full blown capitalism?

Ok you first ;) haha

I'm working on it. Ditched the car, I bike everywhere, my house doesn't buy meat or dairy, big veggie patch and fruit trees, homebrew most of my booze, working on our plastic waste now. If everyone acts together we'll make a difference, if everyone waits for others to act it'll be too late.

Seriously, good for you. I could get behind the home brew!

I don't know what % of urban sewage plants and landfills have Methane capture systems. That would be one way to share the pain. Capture and use of Methane in farm effluent farms may provide a decent saving too.
Pity they can't find a methane loving plant or insect.
But I would say the biggest challenge is the govt selling these possible positives to the farmers. The dilemma is the majority of farmers are making it pretty clear they won't vote for Labour or the Greens anyway , so why bother ??? Only NZ First gains / loses really.
Perhaps its time for both sides to drop the hyperbole and met in the middle.

Methane-consuming bacteria could be the future of fuel. Known for their ability to remove methane from the environment and convert it into a usable fuel, methanotrophic bacteria have long fascinated researchers. But how, exactly, these bacteria naturally perform such a complex reaction has been a mystery.

Now an interdisciplinary team at Northwestern University has found that the enzyme responsible for the methane-methanol conversion catalyzes this reaction at a site that contains just one copper ion. This finding could lead to newly designed, human-made catalysts that can convert methane — a highly potent greenhouse gas — to readily usable methanol with the same effortless mechanism. By oxidizing methane and converting it to methanol, methanotrophic bacteria (or “methanotrophs”) can pack a one-two punch. Not only are they removing a harmful greenhouse gas from the environment, they are also generating a readily usable, sustainable fuel for automobiles, electricity and more.

Current industrial processes to catalyze a methane-to-methanol reaction require tremendous pressure and extreme temperatures, reaching higher than 1,300 degrees Celsius. Methanotrophs, however, perform the reaction at room temperature and “for free.”

https://news.northwestern.edu/stories/2019/05/methane-consuming-bacteria...

It is already found in our soil... but because of the wisdom of our leaders we are not able to recognize it in our systems . There are plenty of scientific studies showing this but I don't want to be abused for 'shooing the messenger' or 'citing a big business funded report'
https://www.landcareresearch.co.nz/publications/innovation-stories/2016-...

I think you mean that soil carbon is unable to be used as an emissions "offset" - whereas the research (if a viable commercial product emerges) means we wouldn't need to offset any methane in the first period to 2030, as that innovation alone if implemented NZ-wide would achieve the 10% reduction target on its own. At least that's how I read it.

This international offset-style carbon accounting is to my mind a cake-and-eat-it too approach - reality is, we just need to pollute less, not keep polluting just because we (think we) have an 'offset'.

When CFCs were a problem - under the Montreal Protocol, most of the world banned them and ozone improvements were subsequently observed. Offsets is where Kyoto went wrong to my mind. We do want to halt deforestation of our planet's tropical forest - but simply taxing carbon and paying those taxes to the nations with rainforest for the ecosystem services of preserving the forests, would have been a more useful approach.

With offsets as the incentive, all we got was "fake forests" and a concurrent loss of real habitat and biodiversity. And the folks cutting down the rainforest are still dirt poor.

No I mean Micro-bacteria in the soil that decreases methane (the same permanent trees do for Carbon) in NZ pasture based systems . They say it was too hard (when I was at Uni 05-11) to measure the amount that is fixed , instead they put animals in a contained plastic box and only measure methane released by the animal. Read the link . Nature is amazing and does not exist in a vacuum
Yes Soil OM is extremely important
And fake forests are a problem but not my point

But if soil OM decreases methane then it is counted, because the methane counted is that which isn't sequestered. Right? Sorry, yes I will go back and read the link again.

No, and that's the point of many of the comments on here. Methane is looked at as a gross amount while CO2 is accounted for as a net amount.
Basically this means we can go on polluting so long as we plant a tree. And to be blunt that's just BS. But we can't carry on grazing animals as we can't offset the methane.
Pure logic.

And that was my point about where the Kyoto model went wrong - offsets. I don't like them because they simply allow us to carrying on polluting. You and I are in agreement there. I think the government is in agreement too - they think that offsetting isn't enough - that our/societies behaviours must change as well.

Urbanites without land won't be able to offset their carbon footprint. They will either be able to absorb the cost of offsets, or they will have to de-carbonise their lifestyles, i.e., take the train/bus. Move closer to town. Order less goods from overseas. Etc.

I suspect the government seeks similar behavioural change by the farming community. Hence, they have decided that nitrous oxide and carbon can be offset (allowing for relief from cost in that regard) but methane cannot, in order to ensure there is behavioural change (which in farming terms means land-use change and most likely de-intensification).

I think that's their logic. But it would be better if they would come clean if indeed it is.

Looks like the only way the dairy industry will survive will be cut and cart to fully contained freestall type herd homes of such a scale that they can "scrub" the herd home air of methane and nitrous oxide and use digesters to control these gases from the effluent. The TMR will be such that methane production can be better controlled and the cows producing as high production per unit of gases produced. This is all in line with what happens in the USA as your last column reported.
Small uneconomic dairy farms will become "Drymatter Producer Farms" e.g. maize, annuals, lucerne etc which will be transported to large 3000 plus plus cow Dairy's where robots will do the work and the digestors will plug into the national grid to support the loss of NZ Natural Gas.
The only thing stopping us doing this now is that our Dairy Co-op Structure has failed and nobody has the confidence to spend the money to get there.
Given the state of the Dairy Industry today to make this change (or any other type of change) is going to require support from Govt, which is unlikely in the near future. We are meant to be operating in a Free Market, taking away our ability to attract offshore investment to help facilitate change is one sure way of wrecking an industry.
We are on a hiding to nothing - time to look at other land uses..............

................... we could grow more trees
When you harvest a forest an angel is born.

"The biggest negative for agriculture in the Climate Change Bill is the scale of the proposed long-term methane targets. These are going to be destructive. "

So is a global temperature rise of 3 or 4 degrees - which would you prefer?

Townies out to stop farming. What if dairy farmers got antsy, like they do in France. No milk deliveries to Auckland until New Zealand pulls out of the Paris Climate Accord. People will only take so much before they fight back. Could get very interesting indeed. Direct action cuts both ways.

We are only 2% of milk consumption - -there will be more than 2% of farmers who are enlightened. So no problem. Already we buy our milk in glass bottles, old-style, from a local producer. Sure, the big boys try to use economic and political muscle to quash them (the so-called free market applies, in other words) but they are there and flourishing. Ironically, they probably make more-per-cow as direct local sellers........

The costs to direct-to-consumer farmers in regards to environmental changes and carbon emissions will be interesting to see how profitable they remain. I hope they are able to continue to be profitable as they offer a point of difference to the consumer. At a conference this week Damien O'Connor spoke of the farm environment plans that the govt is expecting all farmers to have. He talked of them being 'simple' but if bureaucrats have any say in designing them they will be anything but.

..just maaaaybe we might come up with a better alternative land use? Dairy works because so many of the costs are socialised. User pays would be good....then we could have our waterways back - or will it take an algae bloom in Taupo?.

I think one day without a latte will be enough to bring Orcs to its knees.

The entire point of Keith's excellent article is that 'alternative uses' do not exist in any commercially viable form, or in enough quantities to make that difference.

We don't have much in the way of cropping soils that are not already used for that already, we don't have the climatic conditions (growing-degree-days etc) that aren't already utilised, and we don't have 'leaders' that are in the least conversant with or sympathetic to, Ag overall.

Magical thinking and agriculture just don't belong in the same sentence. But magical thinking is all we have gotten ourselves with this lot.

The threat of a carbon charge motivates change in dairying. So why not charges for fossil fuel burnt by international travel. The areoplanes using aviation fuel and the liners using diesil emit CO2 that contribute to global warming so why isn't it counted and charged back to the producers? Instead we encourage tourism.

Yes, I really don't see why people seem to think tourism is better than agriculture. I get the grave concerns about big corporate agricultural poisoning the soil and our food steadily declining in nutritional value each decade. A few tourists is great, but mass tourism ruins a place. I get the desire to be less wasteful, but tax increases on petrol seem to get wasted on some politician's fantasy project (eg Shane Jones, Phil Twyford, Phil Goff) or gobbled up servicing the immigration business. Immigration is incredibly destructive, it eats up tracts of good farmland for yet more housing, causes mass homelessness, overcrowding, lower wages, expensive housing and pushes up rents. No wonder there is worldwide pushback against it. What to do? I guess the answer is to figure out what is reasonable in each area. What is clearly beneficial and what is not.

I'm happy to be corrected but I remember reading that an average tourist on an international flight to NZ creates the same emissions as an average Kiwi in 10 months. If the resident Kiwi is charged via high fuel taxes then why not the international traveller? Probably most international flights are made by foreign tourists and our govt spends plenty of money encouraging them.
International travel is not as significant for carbon emissions as agriculture but it is in the same scale as vehicle use. We may be persuaded to get electric cars but I cannot see battery aeroplanes being developed. If international travel is not included then it makes a joke of the concept of 'zero carbon'

I'm not sure arable farming is the way forward - large quantities of carbon that's been built up in the soil by rotational grazing with ruminants is liable to be lost into the atmosphere as the soil is degraded by cropping.

"There's three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon's being released by deforestation and poor farming. Problems include soils being eroded, compacted by machinery, built over, or harmed by over-watering.

Soil expert Prof Jane Rickson from Cranfield University, UK, added: "The thin layer of soil covering the Earth's surface represents the difference between survival and extinction for most terrestrial life.

"Only 3% of the planet's surface is suitable for arable production and 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost to land degradation every year."

://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-48043134

And where the soil is best near Auckland we will build on it.

Couple'a problems with that. 'Rotational grazing' hardly describes dairy in this country. And grazing as practiced requires endless inputs itself (where are we 'buying' our phosphate from currently? Who trashed Narau?).

Those of us who live low-impact don't use compactive machinery (that it is needed is a pre-ordained assumption). Built-over I agree with, but with provisos; we are going to have to go back to the land, more labour per acre. They're going to need housed.

And the last part I have no disagreement with at all - we're in trouble. The UN reconed 60 harvest left, about a decade ago.

Rotational grazing is exactly how dairy is managed in NZ. Large numbers of animals in a small area for a short time, and then they're moved on and the grass allowed to recover.

And yes, when we run out of phosphate it will be a problem, but adequate nitrogen can be fixed by clover. And even without phosphate, I'd fancy my chances more eating animals living on native vegetation than trying to grow crops.

An interesting US trial and literature review on carbon uptake by soils using different grazing regimes

"For instance, Teague et al. (2016) estimated that AMP (rotational) grazing could induce SOC sequestration rates 10 times greater than the commonly used default value of 0.41 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 proposed by Conant et al. (2003). This is also demonstrated by Wang et al. (2015) where AMP grazing lands sequestered 3 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 more than land under continuous grazing. Finally, when converting degraded cropland to AMP grazing, Machmuller et al. (2015) reported mean sequestration values as great as 8.0 ± 0.85 Mg C ha−1 yr−1 in the top 30 cm of soil for a 7-year duration."

I probably don't rate that as 'rotational'. More like 'repetitive shock-loading'.

Me, I've just gotten into biochar

Yeah, stay of the 'char,' stop hating NZ and learn to appreciate the good points of being a kiwi instead of looking for negatives.

Make sure that char's not from treated timber. Supplement your ingredients with some microbes from a healthy peat bog.

Are people/politicians not aware of the potential for farmers/people to store incredible amounts of Carbon in stable forms in soils (SOM, bacteria & mycorrhizal fungi etc.)? It is not even mentioned by these 'leaders'. It is easily measured and common now.
We as a farming family are limiting the amount of money we are spending on improving soil carbon levels (because we will not receive any CC) instead we will plant unnatural mono-cultures of exotic trees. Horrible (High-country Canterbury)
We could fix the planets problems in 20yrs but will still be charged and have to destock-which we need high stock #'s to make the system work.

I don't understand your logic. Isn't healthy soils the key to successful pastoral farming? Don't healthier soils require less synthetic fertiliser input, thus lowering your N budget (i.e., acting as an offset simply by improved pasture management)?

Yes healthy soil is most important but we are being penalized for not being high inputs, and now must act irrationality to save our farming business and value.
Our current N-loss is 8kgHa. They (ECAN+DC) want cuts across the board of 15-30% (yet to be announced) from 2025. So if we get to 7kgha and then have to cut we will not be allowed to farm. (Natural systems with no farming is N-loss 4-5kgha)
This is our low intensity farm system with 7800SU, but shows how policy is very difficult when many variables on the ground. (Grandfathering is horrible too).
Do you understand what I am trying to say?(hard to explain 25+yrs)

BearPigNZ - your example clearly shows what happens when an 'across the board' cut is applied. I had a discussion recently with a politician explaining that 'across the board' penalises the early adopters of good practice and is lenient on those who pollute the most. Grandfathering should be banned. The other problem is Overseer. Your results can change by as much as 25% simply due to a change in the software.

Yep, now I'm getting it, for sure.

Grandfathering was a crime against the environment but equally (and even more objectionably) against good farming practitioners. Good practitioners should have joined together and taken a judicial review on that one. You are subsidising the worst of the polluters with your bottom line. Across the board cuts is just another example of the worst of the polluters having been given an advantage (i.e., having it all their way).

And who do you think is largely responsible for that? Federated Farmers.

Point is - it's your industry. You've got to fight the bad from within.

Kate why do you blame Fed Farmers for grandfathering? The Collaborative Waikato Stakeholder Group made those decisions for the Waikato. And they all weren't farmers, let alone Feds executives. Feds are a lobby group reliant on subscriptions just like Greenpeace and Forest and Bird. I'm aware that some regions chose it and others haven't. In Southland it has been made clear there will be no grandfathering and neither does Otago allow it. It isn't universal across NZ. David Parker, may decide to over ride grandfathering in his environmental announcements due later this year. Or he may not.

Yes, I certainly hope he does over ride it.

Kate we can lower our N budget simply by stop being all grass farmers and start feeding PKE. There are a variety of things that contribute to N levels.

It's a possibility. It's also a possibility to just reduce stock numbers in accordance with the carrying capacity of the land and the surrounding catchment.

I guess the question is, does our pastoral farming tradition actually add value from an export point of view? If it does, we should be able to reduce stock numbers and charge a higher premium for our product. If it does not, are we just pushing shit up hill (more correctly, into our rivers)?

These are important questions, because we just can't continue business as usual.

Some farms may need to reduce stocking rates Kate but not all.
Charge a higher premium for our product? NZ already receives a premium over other dairy export countries for their dairy products. We can't be greedy ;-)
Agree we all can't just continue BAU and there already has been a lot done, but that's not to say there's not room for more.
Minister Parker is concerned about sediment - and it is the biggest real time issue - for our waterways. Recently a Regional Council Chair near here said 'that when it comes to sediment, dairy has already stepped up, it is the sheep and beef farmers in this region who need to seriously step up and we will be out looking for compliance breaches this winter, concentrating on sheep and beef'. LAWA shows more sites are improving than degrading. Long may that continue.

In the meantime in the real world.
There is still nothing happening that has not happened before.
The IPCC had it far more correct in the first couple of Assessment Reports: there is a natural warming variability to which there is added an uncertain influence of particularly CO2.
This has now morphed into "all warming is due to CO2" as the real temperature is not playing ball with the computer predictions the stories need to become more pressing.
Sad really, CO2 increased steadily in the 60's and 70's, for those of us old enough to remember we were going into the next ice age then. That was also natural, the 30's and 40's were a bit warmer.
"Uncertain" as the IPCC mentioned it then is still correct.

It's very interesting if you can get a leaked copy of the IPCC Report DRAFTS and even better, the reviewer comments. The final "Summary for Policy Makers" actually does NOT represent at all, the input of the thousands of distinguished contributors.

The IPCC moved from New York to Geneva specially so US transparency laws would not apply to it, when they realised that people were working this out. Now, to see the Drafts and comments, it is necessary for "illegal" leaks.

This is not the actions of an organization we can trust!!!

This is the first time in human history our planet's atmosphere has had more than 415ppm CO2.

Not just in recorded history, not just since the invention of agriculture 10,000 years ago. Since before modern humans existed millions of years ago.

We don't know a planet like this. https://t.co/azVukskDWr

— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) May 12, 2019

"...Concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere were as high as 4,000 parts per million (ppm) during the Cambrian period about 500 million years ago; as low as 180 ppm during the Quaternary glaciation of the last two million years. Estimates based on reconstructed temperature records suggests that the amount of CO2 during the last 420 million years ago was with ~2000 ppm highest during the Devonian (∼400 Myrs ago) and Triassic (220–200 Myrs ago), with a few maximum estimates ranging up to ∼3,700±1,600 ppm (215 Myrs ago)..."

Wikipedia hasn't memory-holed the inconvenient truth yet.

Biggest driver of carbon is people. How can we get a population policy into the mix? Off limits because we just love that easy gdp that comes with it.

No. The biggest driver of carbon is middle-class over consumption. A large family in a 3rd world state will only be using a tiny fraction of a average Western family.

That's true redcows, but all developed countries have birth rates below replacement and some are so low that their populations could halve in the next 50 years.

Check out this graphic (http://www.wrsc.org/attach_image/world-population-projected-2050-develop...). Between 1950 and 2050 industrialised countries will go from 1 billion to around 1.4 billion (with the increase due to immigration). Developing countries are projected to increase in population from 1.7 billion in 1950 to 8.5 billion by 2050.

And while it's true some developing countries have minuscule per-capita footprints, that certainly doesn't apply to China where their per-capita carbon footprint is higher than many developed European countries.

Thanks Keith for educating us urban lot. Seems that much more urgent that we recognize and protect fertile soils that are under threat from lifestyle and sea level rise etc.
If we actually can read and absorb the climate science, it seems we are on track for 3-4 degrees rise in temp. This means a climate we've not seen before. Its hard to over state the danger of business as usual and I and most of us seem to have little idea of what this means.
Atmospheric physics is a cruel taskmaster and has no interest in ideology.

Sadly New Zealand is responsible for a great deal of greenhouse gas emissions but it's not through methane or indeed any emissions we produce here. New Zealand was the worlds first nuclear free nation and championing this (Lange at the Oxford Union debate etc) has empowered activists in other countries to successfully get their countries to go down the nuclear free path as well. This has greatly reduced the acceptance and adoption of nuclear power and consequently greatly increased the use of fossil fuels for power generation.

France didn't believe us and produces over 70% of its power from nuclear and now has the lowest CO2 per capita emissions by far of any developed Western nation - half of Germany and Japan (and NZ) and a quarter of the US of Australia. As France moves to electric vehicles the difference will be even greater. If every country was like France we wouldn't be even talking about this.

New Zealand could now lead the world in saying we were wrong. Sorry for the 50-100 trillion odd tons of CO2 that is sitting above us due to the increased burning of fossil fuels initiated by our misguided grandstanding. Even if New Zealand produced no CO2 emissions at all it would take 1000-2000 years to make up the extra CO2 we have gifted the world through our influence.

It is pointless even thinking about reducing our own emissions while this elephant is in the room.

So far though, no solution to nuclear waste - it's all still being stored above ground and we know the problems with that all too well;

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/05/13/national/tepco-tests-haltin...

Chuck the waste down the appropriate area of a subduction zone (the Hikurangi Trench springs to mind) and wait a few hundred million years until it emerges as who knows what on some crustal spreading zone on the other side of the world......Next problem?

I recall as a kid, the government reassuring everyone that we'd be disposing of it in space. Always wondered what must have sunk that idea.

As a short term measure, Nuclear may have its place. I listed to a Prof of Physics suggesting that due to limited supply of depleted uranium, nuclear was not a long term option.
If the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) has accurately estimated the planet's economically accessible uranium resources, reactors could run more than 200 years at current rates of consumption.
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-long-will-global-uranium-...

"At current rates of consumption". Now ramp it up to displace FF. 40 years and dropping, inversely to 'growth'. Then add in the build lead-time. The graphs cross, but it's complicatd by Capex pay-back times and resource unavailability.

Pureant
I remain hopeful for thorium as a long term solution. But I have been disappointed that progress has not been faster.
KeithW

Very good point skudiv...check out this article in NZ Farmers Weekly by Nuffield Scholar Solis Norton, on this issue of accepting that if we move to lower emissions, we by default must accept lower outputs, and therefore a lower level of national income, simply because the alternative low/no carbon energy sources are less energy dense, so deliver lower outputs...
https://farmersweekly.co.nz/section/dairy/view/lower-carbon-food-chain-c...

This guy is one of the brightest minds in the world:

https://phe.rockefeller.edu/docs/HeresiesFinal.pdf

The world has been progressing to "lower density" carbon fuels all along; from wood; to coal; to oil; to gas. Ultimately, to hydrogen?

This has had far greater "CO2 emissions reduction" effect relative to the whole of economic activity, than any "zero carbon" initiatives are capable of.

Jesse Ausubel makes some very clever and yet very simple suggestions in the above-linked work, how to maximize the potential of the technologies we already have. He also points out that the world economy may have been heading to zero-carbon anyway eventually. We are just hoping to speed up the process. But here's where it gets tricky - as happened again and again in the 20th century, when a certain class of utopians gets the levers of power, the unintended consequences are worse than the claimed problem being solved. I see endless examples of the current class entrenched in dictating what is good for us, getting it wrong in the same way. The kind of mind attracted to this issue as a "cause" is probably incapable of getting the SOLUTIONS right anyway!

For example, driving industry away from efficient, developed nations, to inefficient developing nations, is worse, not better, for global CO2 emissions. Rayner, Prins et al from the LSE have been publishing papers on this every few years.

Hydrogen is not a fuel. It's a vector, the same way a charged battery is a vector.

It have to be separated (usually from the oxygen in water) using energy. The EROEI is terrible, and wont support BAU.

So we have to think simpler - my bet for NZ is solar via tracked-mirror, focused boiler and steam turbine, generating. It's down-home materials and back-yard tech. Probably more than feasible now, economically.

And shipping garbage half way around the world to be recycled by developing nations that have poor quality control, and the waste from the waste gets sent down a river.

Seems to me that if we can't reuse or recycle the single-use plastic product at the rate it is disposed of locally, we should just ban it. Which would mean all single use plastic packaging in NZ would need to be PET or HDPE or organic plastic - and all soft plastics would have to be changed over to paper.

Has anyone given any thought to the importance of "primary" income in the economy and what we are going to replace it with if we forego some of the most significant contributions to it?

The replacement of it won't come automatically just because we forewent the "bad" stuff. This is like quitting a job at MacDonalds "because that way I'll become a brain surgeon", without any certainty of actually passing the exams and even getting hired as a brain surgeon.

By the way, "primary" does not mean "basic commodities", in the economic sense it means "what you sell to pay for everything else". Sweden's "primary" income consists of stuff like guided missiles.

Or what you make to exchange for everything else.

Just silly talk, that's not the kiwi way. Our way is just to borrow more.
It's been working great for 50 odd years.

Good piece