Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Climate Change: We don't need a "magic bullet"

Lots of bad news about the climate today, with the UN reporting that emissions have started rising again and that we need to slash them by 25 - 50% by 2030 to have any hope of staying within safe limits, and Stuff reporting that great chunks of Lower Hutt could be underwater by the end of the century, and uninsurable long before that (so if you live in Petone, move now, while you can). There's also a piece on Newsroom about the current dispute over methane and farmers' "no net warming" bullshit, and that's what's got me thinking today.

For the past twenty years, New Zealand's debate over agricultural emissions has been dominated by the idea that actual reductions are "too hard", and that what we need is a "magic bullet" which would allow business-as-usual to continue. The "fart tax" was aimed at funding research into one, and when that failed, the government pretended it was doing something by throwing tens of millions of dollars a year at scientific research. Meanwhile, because they were "too hard", actual emissions reductions were ignored.

But in fact, we have some perfectly non-magical solutions to agricultural methane. The first one is the RMA. Impose stocking limits, and regulate the size of the herd down over time. The average dairy cow is killed after five years, so this doesn't even require farmers to do anything different, other than not replace some of those they slaughter.

The second one is the ETS. Imposing an effective head-tax per cow based on average emissions would internalise the price, and in theory the market will do the rest (in theory, if carbon prices are allowed to rise, rather than artificially capped for the financial comfort of polluters).

Of course, if we tried to implement either of these options, it would become crystal clear that what farmers really object to is doing anything or paying anything or changing anything they do in any way (meanwhile, the rest of us have been exposed to the ETS for a decade, and we pay the full cost of emissions on our petrol and power). Like the oil & gas industry, they simply want to keep destroying the planet for their own private profit, while dumping the costs on the rest of us.

The question is, how long are we going to let these fuckers get away with it? Because they are now directly threatening our lives and homes. Are you going to let them flood your house and kill your grandchildren? If not, you need to make it crystal clear to politicians that you want action, now, or you will vote them out and replace them with someone who will act.