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AMY and HAMISH BIELSKI: Our Research down on the Farm

My name is Amy. My husband Hamish and I farm sheep and beef near Clinton in Southland. We use regenerative farming methods following the advice of a Dr Christine Jones. We spent months researching the options before taking the decision. Dr Jones is a leader in regenerative farming. Her methods build carbon into the soil, lower inputs, improve stock health, and are better for us and the environment.

Our motto is ‘optimising not maximising production’ and despite some pretty tough challenges and hard work, we are really happy with the decision we took and the outcomes. It is a matter of doing the homework, studying the options and figuring what is best for us and our farm.

Now we are researching a different problem. We face being taxed for our ruminant methane emissions. Hamish and I have studied the issue very thoroughly and the more we dug into it, the more deeply disturbed we became.

Finding out simple, straightforward answers to questions like how much warming our farm is causing, or how much methane all farms in New Zealand are emitting, proved difficult, even impossible. A farming friend has had his farm assessed on three separate occasions for the amount of methane (so-called CO2 equivalents) emitted and got three very different results. Are we going to be taxed for something that we have virtually no reliable data on?

Professor Dave Frame who advises the government and farming industries, and has been an IPCC participant, admits that New Zealand’s total emissions from all sheep, beef, dairy and deer ruminant methane over the last 100 years have caused some nonsensical fraction like one, one-thousandth of a degree centigrade change. In other words, an immeasurable, utterly insignificant amount per year.

It seems to tally with what a Dr William van Wijngaarden told Irish farmers recently stating that all the world’s ruminant methane over the next century would only cause 0.17th of a thousandth of a degree C change. Remember New Zealand only has 1% of the world’s ruminants. For this we are proposing slashing our sheep and beef industry by 20% - even more if the carbon price goes higher as demanded by green groups. Few people know our ruminant emissions in New Zealand are falling and have done since 2005.

You might be thinking that everyone has to play their part – the sacrifice needs to fall on every sector in the battle against global warming. If that is the case, we should compare ‘apples with apples.’ Our ruminant methane and your car emissions are both greenhouse gases – but they differ significantly. Our emissions can only occur by our using lots of CO2 – greenhouse gas - to create them.

Compared to you, we have a ‘net' position. Here is what our research showed.

According to a paper published called Phase 3 Multivariate analysis of Greenhouse Gas emissions from sheep and beef farms – April 2020 it takes up to 7 tonnes of CO2 to grow a hectare of grass on our farm. It’s called photosynthesis (if you can’t remember your college science.) Plants use CO2, sunlight, water and mineral salts.

We turn those 7 tonnes of CO2 per hectare into enough feed for 10 ewes. Those 10 ewes each emit about 20 – 22 grams of methane a day which means they produce in total 80 kgs of methane per year. It is accepted that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 – generally regarded as 28 times stronger. If we multiply our ewe’s 80 kgs of methane by 28 we get 2,250 kgs of CO2 equivalent.

We are, therefore, using over three times more CO2 than we emit. A car owner cannot say that. Or a coal fired boiler. Or a private jet going to a climate conference. Farmers are not quite the villains we are made out to be.

Have we miscalculated? No, but we do lose some CO2 from our pasture as it respires and then dies back. We do sequester some deep into the soil, so that’s a plus. Some carbon goes out from the farm in meat and wool. Reality is we are being dealt a rotten hand by both the people who are supposed to represent us and our scientists, who are ostensibly seeking our best interests. Too many are caught up in baseless hype and chasing funding for long term projects. It is deeply disturbing and made Hamish and I sick to the pit of our stomach as we completed our research.

Now we have found the earth’s outgoing re-radiated energy can only interact with each greenhouse gas in certain, defined bands/frequencies. Methane can only operate in two narrow, weak bands where water vapour swamps it. Over New Zealand each one of our methane molecules competes with up to 8,000 water vapour molecules. We are not scientists but those who are qualified tell us to stop fretting about methane. In real life - not models - dominating water vapour renders methane ineffective.

We are told that the big overseas supermarkets are making demands of our exporters that require us to take action on methane. We know supermarkets. We tried marketing our own regen produce directly to them. They are super-bullies and will use any excuse to beat down the price. New Zealand has the lowest carbon footprint of any food producer in the world. Any alternative country’s food they buy would be defrauding their customers.

We need a government that stands up for us as food producers. We feed 40 million people. Article 2 (b) of the Paris Agreement that we signed said, clearly, that no government should take steps that “threaten food production”. Why do we rush to meet some international obligations and ignore others?

We are unique in that we use more greenhouse gas than we emit and we urgently need a government to go into to bat for us in international forums.

Amy and Hamish Bielski


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213 comentarios

16 mar

Sensible sustainable farming is great. Good on you guys. Intensive dairy farming compromising natural streams, rivers and lakes is a more immediate concern and is not sustainable.

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13 mar

A little something for the climate warming brigade to think about.

NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) and NASA, based on the published solar cycle 25 predictions, concluded that solar cycle 25 will be very similar to solar cycle 24. They anticipate that the solar cycle minimum before cycle 25 will be long and deep, just as the minimum that preceded cycle 24. They expect solar maximum to occur between 2023 and 2026 with a sunspot range of 95 to 130, given in terms of the revised sunspot numbers.

We have no control over what our sun does. If we do get a Grand-solar minima, there could be repercussions, with crop failures, lower temperatures, unpredictabe weather, etc. etc.

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Actually, it appears, methane is not quite the villain it's made out to be. See The "28 times" quote may be wrong and it's more likely around "15 times". So, 80kg of methane x 15 = 1,200kg so, for every 7,000kg CO2 you remove, you're only adding 1,200kg. We should be paying you!

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Congratulations spending so much intelligent effort to write such a logical letter. What you explain is so true - farmers have been vilified and victimised , as we all have been. Because what you clearly explain about methane is also true of carbon dioxide. As a greenhouse gas water vapour wipes it out! In all bands water vapour is the only effective greenhouse gas.

We are all being energy impoverished for NO advantage at all. Restricting carbon dioxide will have negative environmental and economic and social results.

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Contestando a

" farmers have been vilified and victimised ,"

Sustainable /organic farmers et al , not so much.

Arguably , the opposite in fact.

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Bravo Bielski's

The zealots like the Tooth fairy and Chloe Swarbrick are clogging up the path to sanity.

The gutlessness of Luxon in coming to terms with the "Eco fuckwits" is cauterizing New Zealand's agricultural future.

Straight talking by good smart, passionate young Kiwis like you is to be heralded and encouraged.

Pity the mainstream media haven't the guts or the brains to amplify your cause....too engrossed in their anal, leftist dogma.

Keep up the good work, Amy and Hamish. New Zealand needs you!

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