Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Climate change: numbers out of their arse

In a scramble to justify its spineless backdown to polluters, the government has released figures from its upcoming Projected Balance of Units showing that the Kyoto deficit is expected to decrease dramatically from 45.5 to 21.7 MTCO2-e. Unfortunately they don't release the actual report (it won't be finalised until the end of the month), but from the press release and associated FAQ a number of points stand out:

  • Around half the savings are due to methodological changes - 5.1 MTCO2-e due to "changes in the methodology to project emissions removals" from forests, and a further 4.4 MTCO2-e from "the use of improved data sources" in calculating transport emissions. That smells a bit, particularly in light of what I've been hearing about MAF's current research focus on methodological "improvements" rather than actual emissions reductions.
  • Agricultural emissions are projected to be lower due to the "effects of current drought". But NZ's methodology for calculating these emissions takes no account of drought - it simply uses an estimated emissions factor for each species of animal (based on average energy intake and weight gain) and multiplies it by animal census figures (the decline in sheep numbers mentioned will however make a real difference, provided they are not replaced with larger, dirtier cows).
  • Given the timing, the transport figures almost certainly include the effects of the ETS. So figures which include the ETS are being used to justify its gutting.
There is good news in there - lower electricity sector emissions and significantly less deforestation, but parts of this are very stinky indeed, and smack of a government fudging the numbers in an effort to justify a decision which has already been made.