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Tipping point?

15 July 2021

I read a couple of very interesting articles recently.

In this age of climate-change and impending CO2-induced planetary doom we are often reminded about the importance of the Amazonian rain forest.

This huge carbon sink, we are told, is being clear-felled at such a rate that the entire planet is now in jeopardy.

Well guess what?

If this story is to be believed we've already passed the tipping point of this particular piece in the climate-change puzzle and things are about to get far worse. The problem is that this rain forest is now contributing far more to the planet's carbon emissions than it is soaking up and that's not good.

However, another report I read this week suggests that Kiwis ought not look so far from home when ascribing blame for deforestation.

This RNZ story highlights the oft-forgotten fact that we have clearfelled a much larger percentage of NZ's native forests than have the people of South America.

Before settlement by Maori and then Europeans, New Zealand was effectively blanketed in a dense native bush that was obviously a huge soak of carbon.

One of the first things we did upon arriving in this land was to start knocking down the trees and turning forest into pasture.

Not only did this process release a lot of carbon into the atmosphere (as felled trees decomposed or were burnt) but the absence of those trees also meant that far less carbon was able to be sequestered from the atmosphere.

So can we claim the moral and environmental high ground when we've effectively left little more than tiny strips of our native forests intact and turned the rest of the land into pasture that is home to vast herds of methane-belching ruminants?

I think not.

One slight mitigation might have been the plantation forests that used to proliferate around the central North Island and which have fueled our timber, pulp and paper industries.

Sadly, many of these (especially around the Taupo region) are now also being converted into far more lucrative dairy farming operations -- with the consequential loss of carbon sequestering activity and huge increase in methane production.

Then, as if things couldn't get any worse, we need to realise that farmers still have a pretty broad exemption to the restrictions and rules that require other industries to offset their carbon emissions in some way. We are effectively subsidising this ongoing environmental terrorism, well at least that's the case in the opinion of some eco-warriors.

The final blot on NZ's copybook for today is the fact that we seem to be importing and burning inordinate amounts of "dirty coal" to fuel our electricity sector.

Whatever happened to our 100% pure NZ and "clean green" claims?

I can't abide hypocrisy but it seems to be the lingua franca of politicians, bureaucracts and marketers around the world.

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