The Good News

Climate Change, Commentary, Environment, Owen McShane, Urbanization

Smart Growth has always been a policy in search of justification. It started out as a means of pricing blacks and Hispanics out of white enclaves in the US. It worked then, and still does, but proved “inappropriate”. Then Smart Growthwould “save” productive rural land from urban growth. There is no such thing as “productive land”. Only people make land productive, so it didn’t work then and doesn’t work now. Then it would save us from the oil shocks. The shocks went away. Most recently it would deliver us from global warming.

The recent Australian report, Consuming Australia knocks the props out of the carbon footprint argument by reporting that suburban households have lower carbon footprints that those living in the centre of town.

As if this Australian report was not bad enough, another report by Chris Goodall, a UK Green Party Parliamentary candidate, and campaigning author of How to Live a Low-Carbon Life has come up with the ultimate “climate change heresy” – driving will save the planet!

He writes:

”Food production is now so energy-intensive that more carbon is emitted providing a person with enough calories to walk to the shops than a car would emit over the same distance. The climate could benefit if people avoided exercise, ate less and became couch potatoes.”

Goodall finds that driving a typical UK car 5.0km adds about 1.0 kg of CO2 to the atmosphere, based on Government figures. On the other hand, walking the same distance uses about 180 calories and would need about 100g of beef to replace those calories, resulting in 3.6kg of emissions, or four times as much as driving.

“The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better.”

I’ll say it’s troubling. All those planners demanding we walk to work, and walk to the shops, are hell-bent on destroying the planet! Someone should tell the ARC. Maybe they will then throw out their proposed Policy Change 6.

Don’t hold your breath. Their planners will just find some other excuse to push the rest of us around.

Good News for NZ Farmers – our Pastures are Carbon Sinks!

In “Future Farming: A Return to Roots” the August 2007 issue of Scientific American reports that many of the problems associated with modern US agriculture – soil erosion, excessive water demands, high energy inputs and so on – are linked to the fact that the most important grain crops are annuals, not perennials. Annual crop plants have short root systems and need to be grown anew from seeds each spring.

These research findings target corporate US agriculture, which is based mainly on grains and corn grown from annual seed crops, which also provide most of the feed for their chickens, pigs, dairy herds and beef cattle.

But our New Zealand farmers feed their sheep, dairy herds and beef cattle almost entirely on the perennial grasses that thrive in our green pastures. The Americans call us “grass farmers”.

This is great news for the rural sector. Our farmers, who used to be “the backbone of the country” are now continually taken to task for their contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Dairy farmers who are our most successful exporters are abused for destroying the planet and the climate alarmists would clearly love to close them all down.

But these US researchers are now telling us that pastures based on perennial grasses are major greenhouse sinks; the greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere by crop production inputs, minus carbon sequestered in soil – is negative for perennial crops.

The following table makes the comparison:

SOIL CARBON SEQUESTED (*Kilograms per hectare per year)

Annual crops 0 to 450

Perennial crops 320 to 1,100

GLOBAL WARMING POTENTIAL (Kilograms of CO2 equivalent per hectare per year)

Annual Crops 140 to 1140

Perennial Crops – 1,050 to – 200

Because these are year by year gains from a perennial crop the calculations are simple and easily verified, unlike forests which go through complex cycles from planting to harvest.

Every New Zealand farmer should buy this issue of Scientific American, read the whole story and send it on to their MP or to Climate Change Issues Minister, David Parker.

In the meantime let’s cut down the pine forests, sow the land in pasture, and bring on the dairy herds.

What a weapon to fight back the Food Mile nonsense. Just plaster the market with photos of our dairy farms with the caption “The world’s greenest greenhouse sinks!”

And remind our tourists that as they drive through our green and pleasant land they are looking at some of the most effective and extensive green house sinks in the world.

Let’s take it to them.

Freeman Dyson wins the Round.

The physicist, Freeman Dyson, who, in 1992, was one of the first to suggest biological Carbon sequestration as a “no regrets” approach to soaking up surplus carbon dioxide, has once again come out with his argument that “it’s roots – not shoots” which is now endorsed by these US researchers.

Dyson is prepared to advocate these “no regrets” policies even though his skepticism regarding Anthropogenic Global Warming becomes more entrenched by the day.

In his new book “Many Colored Glass: Reflections on the Place of Life in the Universe” Dyson writes “The fuss about global warming is grossly exaggerated”, and pours scorn on what he calls the holy brotherhood of climate model experts and the crowd of deluded citizens who believe the numbers predicted by the computer models.

He writes: “I have studied the climate models and I know what they can do. The models solve the equations of fluid dynamics, and they do a very good job of describing the fluid motions of the atmosphere and the oceans. They do a very poor job of describing the clouds, the dust, the chemistry, and the biology of fields and farms and forests.”

Once again he argues that biomass holds the key to carbon sequestration and once again he pleads for more scientific research into the workings of the planet’s biomass. “We do not know whether intelligent land management could increase the growth of the topsoil reservoir by four billion tons of carbon per year, the amount needed to stop the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. All we can say for sure is that this is a theoretical possibility and ought to be seriously explored.”

If our government, of any hue, want to make a useful contribution to “climate” science, while serving our economic and social interests, Freeman Dyson has shown the way – and he has been showing us the way for about 15 years. Shouldn’t we start to take some notice?

If you are unfamiliar with the work of this 84 year old “radical youngster”, Dyson’s 1999 collection “The Sun, the Genome and the Internet – tools of Scientific Revolutions” is a great place to start. In these stimulating essays Dyson shows a much more open and imaginative mind – and not to mention a better informed one – than so many current “radicals” who believe we must retreat back to some Romantic notion of the past. Dyson’s key theme is that most of us want to live in a village – provided it’s a rich village – and technology, using the sun, the genome and the internet, will soon make that choice available to us all.