Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Too many fingers in too many holes

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The arguments around climate change have me genuinely confused. I’m not a climate change denier. I accept the world’s climate is changing. Where I have a problem is the approach we are taking.
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Where I have a larger issue is the inconsistencies of many policies.

A simple example is the Paris Accord, which, for some unknown reason, exempts air travel.

For a good reason it also exempts food production.

Why then, in New Zealand, do we totally ignore all the pollution of air travel while hitting food production with whacky targets.

It doesn’t make sense.

Air NZ increased its emissions by 5% last year to 3.47 million tonnes. That carbon dioxide will be in the atmosphere for centuries yet no one seems remotely concerned.  

Absurdly, after Wellington City Council declared a climate emergency the airport decided to spend $1 billion to extend the runway so it can increase the number of flights. It expects to almost double passenger numbers.

That means a doubling of the carbon footprint but that’s apparently okay. Cows burping isn’t.

Stupidly, in my view, taxpayers subsidised a visit from American talk show host Stephen Colbert to the tune of $100,000. Tourism NZ proudly said it would encourage $5m in advertising value, meaning a lot more tourists with the carbon footprint they bring. 

The carbon footprint of the average Kiwi is 7.7 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. A return economy class flight to London has a carbon footprint of 6.9 tonnes. Our politicians and bureaucrats fly business class, which has a footprint of double that at 13.2 tonnes.

In addition. we have 123 cruise ships visiting Wellington this year. Just two Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries, NZ and Mexico don’t require the ships run on cleaner fuel.

The emissions from a cruise ship in Wellington are equal to 200,000 extra cars a day.

Again, that seems okay because it isn’t related to farming.

Statistics NZ says immigration in the 2016-17 year was 72,300 people. That increased our carbon footprint by 557,000 tonnes.

Then we have the electric car saga. Electric cars are the go, we were told, because they drastically lower our carbon footprint. They are even subsidised because they don’t pay road user charges or fuel tax.

The Government was going to set the example and we were assured the vehicle fleet would be emissions-free by mid 2025.

Unsurprisingly, it won’t be. 

The total Government vehicle fleet is 15,000. In the final quarter of the 2018-19 financial year it added just five electric vehicles.

As well as being little use outside cities the German IFO think tank published research showing electric vehicles there produced 11% to 28% more carbon dioxide that diesel cars.

In addition, the batteries in electric vehicles are made of elements including lithium, manganese and cobalt from third world countries and exploited labour.

That’s nothing like the local dairy industry.

What I hadn’t realised was the impact fashion is having on the environment as clothing production has doubled in the last 20 years, much of it eventually heading for landfills and being burned. Washing clothes releases 500,000 tonnes of microfibres into the ocean each year.

Polyester is found in 60% of all clothes. It releases two to three times the carbon emissions of natural fibres and doesn’t break down in the ocean.

Further, it takes 9092 litres of water to produce a pair of jeans. A litre of milk, according to AgResearch, takes just 4296 litres.

No-one is talking about reforming the fashion industry and more ridiculously the vegans at Save Animals from Exploitation wear polyester but not wool.

Then there’s Government policies.

We give Tiwai Point cheap power to produce aluminium. The process not only has a large carbon footprint but makes us burn coal to produce electricity.

In addition, Treasury estimates the Huntly coal-fired generator produces 20% to 50% of the generation sector’s total emissions. Closing the smelter means you could also close Huntly. 

The Emissions Trading Scheme isn’t the answer to global warming. It means large polluters can pay to continue polluting. It doesn’t actually change anything. 

Planting pines won’t either. If we don’t reduce our carbon emissions we’re going to run out of land on which to plant trees.

Further, according to climate change expert Professor James Renwick of Victoria University, pine trees lengthen the time methane is in the atmosphere, which seems a no-brainer to me.

Further, if a European aristocrat buys a farm and blanket plants it for carbon, she can claim carbon for 50 years and walk away. The trees will eventually rot and fall down, thus returning the carbon to the atmosphere.

As I said at the start, I accept the climate is changing. What we need is a credible, coherent, science-based policy that everyone can buy into.

We don’t have that now. Instead, there seem to be many fingers in many holes in many dykes. 

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