The Herald explains that Brian Fallow is its Economics Editor, but he belly-aches and pontificates about climate change more than anyone.
I suppose he must be an economist, since he’s divertingly keen to discuss all kinds of fascinating financial and structural details of transforming New Zealand society but little concerned with evidence that might justify it.
The result is he carps noisily on a ruinous, indefensible crusade. He insists the country spend time and tax “adjusting” to a “low-carbon” economy, though he freely admits we won’t thereby affect the climate even minutely.
Worse, he won’t say why we should do it. Not really why — not scientifically, plausibly tell us the necessity for it.
Let me highlight this error of judgement by rebutting a couple of his latest points.
A few days ago he said:
Our emissions are high — the fifth-highest of 40 developed countries — at 16.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per person.
And we have fewer options for reducing emissions than most developed countries.
Whereas for most developed countries carbon dioxide represents around 80 per cent of their emissions, in New Zealand methane and nitrous oxide from the bodily functions of livestock make up about half of emissions.
It is harder to change a cow’s digestion than a car’s propulsion.
Three-quarters of the electricity generated last year was from renewable sources.
Mr Fallow doesn’t say, or he hasn’t troubled himself to discover, first, the fact that, in expressing the methane emissions from our ruminants in terms of carbon dioxide, the Ministry for the Environment inflates them by a factor of 21. This overestimates their warming influence and grossly exaggerates our communal negligence.
Including agricultural methane in the inventory, together with inflating methane’s greenhouse effect 21 times, quadruples New Zealand’s contribution to global warming.
If methane emissions were not inflated, they would approximately halve. Energy, at about double the agricultural emissions, would then take the lead, ahead of the much-reduced agricultural emissions. Industrial processes would be a close third. I don’t know how the per capita emissions would change in the international ranking.
MfE must tell the truth
This would, however, involve the MfE telling the truth and getting off their high horse about us having to save the world.
More fundamentally, do agricultural emissions actually cause warming? Well, no. Cows eat grass which took the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere just in the last few days or weeks. The cows quickly make milk and meat and put the rest back where it came from — it doesn’t cause more warming.
Public scientists know this. Why don’t they tell us?
Now, just briefly let me acquaint Mr Fallow with a puzzle that’s not spoken about in public media but which worries some thoughtful, sceptical folk because although it vitally affects some important public policy nobody’s speaking about it much in public media.
First, a graph:
The CO2 in the air is hard to measure, since it’s one of the trace gases at only 398 parts per million (ppm). At just 0.000398 of the atmosphere it’s almost not there. Does it drive the climate, control the temperature, cause more and more extreme weather? Only in our bad dreams. Look at the wild fluctuations in temperature. Look at the mild, steady increase in plant food (carbon dioxide).
The puzzle? How are CO2 and global temperature connected (because it’s not obvious)? Why has temperature failed to rise, and even fallen somewhat, in the last 17 years or more? Why do some scientists talk about carbon dioxide as being a pollutant when it’s the only thing plants eat (it’s essential for photosynthesis) and many scientists say that it does not dangerously increase atmospheric temperature?
Global emissions grew by an average 2.2 per cent a year during the 2000s, driven most of all by rising incomes, compared with an average of 1.3 per cent [a] year between 1970 and 2000.
ppm doesn’t mean per cent, Brian
What? In, say, 2010, the level was about 390 ppm. By the next year it had grown to about 392 ppm. But hang on, 2.2 per cent of 390 is about 8.6 ppm! He’s got the maths wrong.
I looked at the data from Mauna Loa. If I’ve done it correctly, the average increase during the 2000s was about 1.9 ppm per year (0.5%). From 1970 to 2000 it was about 1.5 ppm a year — about 0.4%.
It’s a tiny rise, which has been growing a tiny bit.
Finally, a recent analysis published at WUWT showed methane is irrelevant as a greenhouse gas. Dr Tom Sheahen explains that, because the absorption properties of atmospheric gases, including water vapour, overlap several wavelengths of light, the slight amounts of methane have no effect on temperature. His conclusion: “Methane is irrelevant as a greenhouse gas.”
These facts being already demonstrated, there is no reason to avoid emitting carbon dioxide. Unless there’s some other reason?