My family has a problem. We have sheep and cattle on our farm that emit methane. We are told regularly we will have to cut our emissions. If we don’t, the bill will be bigger than we can afford. The threat forced us to do some reading. We had been told all scientists agree – methane is a very big problem. But we studied the issue and found something very different. The latest science surprised us, even concerned us, leading us into a tough dilemma.
What should we do?
We are fighters. We do our homework. We work from a basis of facts and truths. We have to know how stuff works – that is why we are farming and how we farm. It is the only way to be successful – stay up to date with technology and follow the latest science.
We study genetics to be better breeders. We study soil science to grow more fodder. We study new plant varieties to maximise quality and quantity of feed. We study animal health to optimise the welfare of our stock. We study weather to discern trends and patterns because of its major impact on our operations.
So, when the organisations we pay levies to said, “prepare for facing taxes of $150,000 for your methane emissions”, we didn’t roll over and put our feet in the air in submission and phone a real estate agent. We did what we always do – we researched and studied the detail.
I have a science degree, so I understand the basics of science, the scientific process and how to research systematically.
Where to start?
The findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) seemed to be a sensible place for us to begin. In the early days of the IPCC there was little to learn as most focus was on CO2. We did read that methane was much less prevalent, but each molecule was significantly more potent than a CO2 molecule. It became obvious that the method used by the IPCC to compare the warming ability of methane to other greenhouse gases was not just unhelpful, it was misleading.
We have a crop we grow on the farm that produces 30 times the feed per hectare of our grass paddocks. But we only grow one paddock of that crop. Its contribution to our total farm requirement is minimal compared to our grass paddocks. The crop only lasts a few months compared to our grass systems that are used indefinitely. Focusing only on the high yield of our crop when doing our feed budgets would be absurd. The same goes with methane in the atmosphere – strong but minute.
We learnt there is huge disagreement among senior IPCC scientists over how to compare methane and CO2. Not marginal differences but massive 300% to 400% differences. Yet we are being forced to measure our methane emissions and pay taxes on a basis that varies so widely and according to whichever scientist wins the pissing competition. The IPCC now seems to suggest the lower number but why should we risk signing up to a scheme where there are massive unsorted differences that could either make us broke or let us survive.
Part of our research involved looking at how the IPCC made its predictions of future temperatures. The higher the prediction, the higher potential costs we face. Our regional council and the government departments we interact with tell us they include an outcome called RCP8.5 that would require CO2 to exceed 1,300ppm (3 X higher than now), oil use to go up by 400%, coal use by 500% and no mitigation measures to be implemented.
How are we to take that prediction seriously? What level of rates are we going to pay on our farm while bureaucrats design mitigations strategies based on ludicrous, fairyland predictions?
We love trees. Not just for their aesthetic value – an important factor on any farm – but because they provide valuable shade and we were told we were helping the environment. The trees along with other vegetation and the grass we grow rely heavily on taking in CO2. Some of that CO2 ends up locked in our soil, some in meat and wool, some floats back into the atmosphere and some gets converted into methane to be belched out into an atmosphere that turns it back into CO2 and water vapour. Having done the planet a favour and reduced CO2 levels, nobody wants to know. We are told we get no credit for the good we do – only punitive measures for the bad.
Strange, seeing we pay enormous subsidies to offshore companies to come here and plant trees, gobble up good pastoral farmland, ruin rural communities, all to reduce CO2.
We are told that our industry will be incentivised to use mitigation techniques such as low methane emitting rams, methane vaccines, methane boluses, and even GE low methane grasses. If we use these ‘biotech’ tools then our methane tax bill will be lower. We see this for what it is; blatant coercion and corruption. We don’t want to use these mitigation technologies because they are not necessary and, secondly, we don’t want to tamper with a perfectly good product. We produce the best grass-fed beef and lamb in the world, and we produce it with a minimal amount of chemicals and genetic tampering which is just how the consumer wants it.
We are keen to ask Mr Luxon whether his National led Government will honour the commitment they signed called the Paris Agreement that very clearly stated that no mitigation measures should be undertaken that threatened food production. We want to know urgently because Government departments and our own industry organisations say that the methane measures planned for our farm will slash our production by 20%. That is our profit gone. Why would we carry on? We are all ears, Mr Luxon. Do you believe in the sanctity of contract? Or will you succumb to your new urban supporters who only ever hear one side of the argument because the mainstream media will not print our story?
Our latest foray into international science introduced us to a Dr William Happer. He is highly regarded. Some say one of the smartest physicists alive. He along with a Dr van Wijngaarden, Dr Wiegleb, Professor Schildknecht and many others said forget ruminant methane as a major influence on climate. Water vapour out-absorbs out-going radiation in all but one very small part of the electromagnetic spectrum making methane a weak player. We can’t personally defend that complexity of science but we do have the right to have it either accepted or refuted in a mature, scientific manner. After all, science evolves and it is only current, uncontradicted science that should prevail.
Can you get our concern?
Helen Mandeno B.Sc.