Aardvark DailyNew Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.
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Climate change... it is a reality that can not be denied. The only thing up for debate is the degree to which man's actions are affecting it.
Regardless of the cause, it seems to be a sensible thing to try and mitigate, as much as is practically possible, the factors which are at least partially responsible.
For this reason there has been world-wide accord on plans to reduce carbon emissions and try to slow the proven increase of powerful greenhouse gasses such as CO2 and methane in the atmosphere.
To this end we're increasingly burdened with carbon taxes and other government-inflicted strategies that are designed to make us "cleaner" and "greener". These taxes, tariffs and levies apply at all levels, from private citizens to huge corporations.
The great thing for some industries is that they're actually doing okay out of the whole carbon trading scheme.
Those who plant a snot-load of trees that are not expected to be felled in their own lifetime can pocket huge sums in carbon-credits. You'd think therefore, that reforestation would be a popular trend and that NZ's huge tracts of plantation forests would be doing great things for the planet's future.
Apparently not, at least if the latest reports are to be believed.
Recent reports such as this one suggest that pine plantations may actually be somewhat counter-productive in slashing greenhouse gas levels.
How can that be?
Well apparently, chemicals (called monoterpenes) emitted by these trees slow the rate at which methane is broken down and removed from the atmosphere and, as we all know, methane is a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more damaging to the climate than CO2.
Here in NZ we are delivering a double-whammy boost to climate change because we also have huge herds of dair cattle which are massive emitters of methane. Even without the effects of the monoterpenes oozing out of our forests, this methane is one of NZ's largest contributions to global warming.
According to climate researcher Dr Jim Salinger, this means that in light of this new data, "that really means methane's share of New Zealand greenhouse gas emissions is not 42 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions but is now 50 percent. So that is a significant increase".
This surely further casts doubt on the viability of NZ's over-reliance on the dairy sector.
Not only is this an industry that is fouling our waterways but it is now even more of a villain than previously thought when it comes to its effects on the entire global ecosystem.
While the world is grief-stricken by the effects of the fires currently razing huge tracts of the Amazon's rain forests, surely we must be equally as concerned about the plumes of methane that waft out of Kiwi dairy pastures and which linger significantly longer in the atmosphere, due to our plantation forests.
Why on earth is our single largest polluter (of both water and sky) still exempt from the emissions trading scheme that every other industry in the country must comply with?
What is the point in pinging small traders who barely emit enough CO2 or methane to form a decent fart, whilst an entire industry which creates half of our total emissions gets away scott-free?
Once again I call out a government that claims our farmers are not subsidised. Excuse me... but exempting an industry from a scheme that all others must comply with, and thereby saving them from huge sums of carbon-tax, is very much a subsidy.
Once again, NZ's poorest, are being taxed to support the richest. Given that we have a Labour-led government in office at the moment, I'd love to know how they can sleep at night and how this can possibly be acceptable under such a socialist-leaning ideology.
Perhaps our biggest problem is that (as I have stated so many times before), New Zealand refuses to apply any real effort or resource towards encouraging economic diversity.
Trees, sheep, cows and perhaps wine... these are generally seen as the backbone of our economy but they are all vulnerable, not only to pathogens but to the very climate change that our unfettered dairy industry is creating.
The much touted "Knowledge Wave" of the early 2000's was nothing more than a ripple which rapidly turned into a placid pool of nothingness. Sure, we have a few high-flyers in the tech sector but often as not we end up selling them to overseas buyers who scoop them up and carry them away (often just after they've received a huge chunk of taxpayer money by way of the lunatic "grants" schemes).
How are we going to fix this?
Well (yet again) I offer my solution to be the creation of a non-transferrable over-unity tax-credit system for R&D expenditure. The net cost to taxpayers is (at worst) a big fat zero but when ideas and the companies that implement them succeed, we all win -- and without the huge impact on the environment that we're seeing from many of our "traditional" industries.
Sadly... as has been the case for so very long, we lack leaders with vision, imagination, courage and an ability to think beyond the next tea-break.
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