Thursday, June 27, 2019

Climate Change: Ignoring the real problem

Statistics New Zealand has released a new report on New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions, with a sectoral breakdown shown how much is caused by different sectors of the economy. The data is crystal clear: half our emissions are caused by the primary sector, a quarter by the secondary sector (manufacturing), with the rest split evenly between services and households. So which sector does the Minister single out in his commentary? The latter:

“From 2007-2017 emissions from households were up, and emissions in other parts of the economy were down, showing we need to continue our work to build a sustainable economy,” says the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw.


“Farmers often get singled out as climate criminals, but this report shows we have work to do right across the economy. I know New Zealanders want to see our collective emissions come down, and that’s what this Government is focused on delivering”.

Its easier to show the problem with this in visual form:

[Datavis stolen from Stuff]

But it gets worse - because that dirty section of the economy, the one responsible for a huge chunk of our emissions? Its also the least efficient, and really not worth that much:
The dairy industry is now responsible for more emissions than the manufacturing and electricity and gas supply industries combined, rising 27 per cent over a decade.

The agriculture industry [sic - actually its the whole primary sector] as a whole comprises half of all emissions, but contributes less than 7 per cent of the national Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the data shows.

And yet this is who the Minister, following successive governments, wants to protect: the dirtiest, least efficient part of the economy, which provides the fewest jobs and delivers the lowest economic benefit for its pollution. The kicker: most of it is completely unnecessary: we export more than 90% of the milk we produce, and the vast majority of the meat, wood, and coal we extract. From an emissions point of view, we'd be better off cutting these industries down to a size commensurate to our domestic needs, and shutting down the rest. But that would upset farmers, which is of course something we can never do.

As for households, we know what we need to do: make our next car electric, then install solar panels, while shifting to a more plant-based diet. We're not the ones resisting change here. But it seems the Minister would rather blame us to avoid having to confront the real problem emitters.