Peter Dunne in ‘Peter Dunne says something sensible’ shocker!

The terms of the Select Committee on Climate Change are out (PDF, at the end) and they’ve dropped the ludicrous call to rake over the science once again.

“The science is pretty clearly established,” Dunne said. “It’s somewhat ludicrous and arrogant to expect a New Zealand parliamentary committee to review the science which the IPCC, Stern (UK economist Lord Stern) and every notable committee in the world has adjudicated on.”

This makes me a very happy bunny, as I won’t have to waste my time flogging a horse that’s long buried.

Still, in a great example of failing to connect with reality, Rodney Hide said as far as he was concerned the committee will get to look at the issue of the science theory behind climate change.

18 thoughts on “Peter Dunne in ‘Peter Dunne says something sensible’ shocker!”

  1. Rodney Hide, like Jim Anderton, should stick to what he’s good at. In fact I wouldn’t mind having Mr Hide involved in drugs policy.

    I have a fair bit of respect for Peter Dunne after an interaction I had with him regarding accountability of custodial parents for use of Child Support. But I still didn’t vote for him because we have a divergence of values.

  2. Rodney Hide (and the ACT party in general) appear to be bat-shit crazy. I suspect my father voted for them. 🙁

    Still, good news that they won’t be trying to revisit the science. I’m still not totally convinced that we know what’s going to happen but I’m more than happy to make policy on the broad scientific consensus. I mean, what else is there?

    1. I have a concern about how “they” are going about this carbon effect business (and I’m quite prepared to be shot down in flames if I’m wrong) and that is the attempt to resolve the base issue by attacking the short term carbon cycle (emissions caused by cows and burning trees) when the real problem (to my mind anyway) is the long term carbon cycle (burning fossil fuels that have locked up carbon for millennia) like there is no tomorrow.

      Yeah, I know there is an issue with methane from cows, but there have been ruminants on the planet for quite a long time, and in probably greater numbers than there are now, given the hunting to extinction of the great buffalo herds of North America (for example).

      Come on, scientists out there, shoot me! Show me where I’m wrong, please…

      1. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has the same warming effect, no matter where it comes from, so whether emissions come from digging up fossil fuels, or burning trees, the effect is the same*.

        Methane again has the same warming effect once it’s in the atmosphere, but it gets broken down by hydroxyl ions, with a half-life of about ten years. So reducing methane emissions now might have a more immediate effect upon slowing warming than reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

        As for numbers of ruminants, there were something like 60-100 million bison before the Europeans arrived, and now there’s about 100 million cattle. However, those cattle are mainly adolescents, bred and fed to grow rapidly, so I’d guess that emissions per cow are higher, given their ramped-up metabolisms. Add to that, they’re not eating (much) grass any more, but feed specially grown and fertilised, and I think we’ve got quite an amplification of emissions here.

        * – the effect of the carbon dioxide is the same, but uncontrolled burning kicks out soot, which is black and absorbs sunlight more than most other things, increasing warming.

        1. So which cycle is going to have the greater long term effect on how much CO2 is up there? The short term one that is going to keep on cycling at the rate it always has, re-absorbing the CO2 that gets emitted from the normal activities of life etc, or the long term one that takes centuries to lock up the CO2 that we’re furiously generating by burning fossilised carbon in the form of coal and oil?

          And whose ruminants are not fed on grass? I was of the belief that NZ’s cows and sheep ate grass rather than corn or maize or whatever (Clean and Green and all that), or are my beliefs out of date? Certainly all the cows I have come across are busily chewing on stuff growing in paddocks that looks remarkably like grass to my untrained eye, green stuff that is largely composed of carbon that was floating around in the atmosphere as CO2 in quite recent times.

          1. There’s a whole bunch of different processes that put CO2 up there and remove it, on a wide range of timescales. There’s a whole bunch of things we could do to stop the CO2 concentration increasing, but each of those things has its own timescale.

            For example, planting pines to absorb carbon takes about five years to start to have an effect, but after thirty years, the amount of carbon each tree is taking up starts to slow down. If you’re planting native hardwoods, then after thirty years, you’ve barely got going, but the tree should keep growing for centuries.

            Another example, if you increase the price of petrol, then there’s an effect with a few weeks as people drive less, then a further effect a few years down the road as people buy smaller cars and more big cars are scrapped.

            Each of these actions has a different timescale and the costs fall in different ways. However, at this point, we pretty much need to take up all the actions that we can, focusing first on the most cost-effective ones, but short-term, long-term, hell, we need to get on with all of them.

            And as for the cows, NZ cows have it easy. Few cows in the US get to eat grass, most live on feedlots. They have 100 million, we have about 10.

          2. Last count that I looked at, we had 15 million and counting with all the dairy conversions and whatnot.

            Sadly, the pasture grasses have been developed for high production as well, so it isn’t just increasing cow numbers or feeding them concentrate (which we do more of these days too) – it’s the makeup of the pasture they’re eating.

            But you knew this. I just wanted to wank on about something I actually know about. As you were…

          3. Official 2007 numbers, from MAF:
            Beef 4,393,617
            Dairy 5,260,850

            We’ve about the same number of cattle now as in 1975 (9.6 million versus 9.3 million), coz as dairy has taken off, beef has dropped back.

            Of course, what we really need to know is the overall emissions and, as you point out, we’ve higher production grass, more supplementary feeding, heavier cattle and all. Those stats are probably on the MfE website, I could look, but I should do at least some work today.

      2. Before the widespread hunting of the American Bison (aka buffalo) there were 60mln animals on 1.3mln km2 of the Great Plains.

        Today there are 995mln head of cattle in the world, and they tend to be intensively farmed rather than wandering around the prairies.

        1. Bit of a category error there, Rich, comparing Great Plains population with world population.

          The canonical report on livestock and climate change is this one. Sadly, it doesn’t go into detail about pre-agricultural levels of ruminants. However, given that methane levels are greatly above historical levels, and increasing at rates unprecedented in the last 10,000 years, I think we can conclude that we’ve got a problem with methane.

          Here’s a graph:

          Methane is the middle on. This comes from the IPCC 4th Assessment Report, Summary for Policy Makers, Figure SPM-1, who’s web site is so slow that I’ve run out of patience for linking.

          1. Oh true, but the US today has a fairly low portion of the world’s cattle, whereas I’m guessing that prior to European colonisation, it had a much larger proportion. (Because of the much higher human population density in the Old World).

            Also, NZ has gone from zero cattle to over 4 million in 200 years, which makes it more of an issue for us than other countries.

          2. Going back far enough, there was a decent amount of megafauna everywhere. But it was all so tasty…

            Anyway, you can see from the graphs that there’s been a subtantial increase in something that kicks out methane. (Well, including rice paddies, wetland loss, god knows what’s happening in the tundra, as well as just more ruminants.)

          3. I haven’t read the report and don’t plan to, however, here’s some things I know:

            Cattle are a plains/rolling hills/bush animal.

            In times gone by, that’s where they’d be found rather than in the places where people keep them now. So, the bison numbers are only indicative of how many were on those plains, and possibly other similar plains – not of their even spread across the world.

            Plains grasses are not the same as pasture grasses. A lot of what the bison would have eaten would be dry and stalky, except in spring when they were feeding young and the grass was in its growth phase. The rest of the time it’d produce a lot less gas in the gut, and the poos would be hard and chunky rather than runny.

            All this says to me that intensive farming of cattle means that they produce a fuckton more carbon emissions than they used to.

    2. There’s always ideology instead of evidence. It’s much cheaper and you don’t need to waste all that precious tax-payers’ money on bureaucrats.

    1. Forcing a bunny to flog a horse that’s already long-buried would make the bunny sad, I expect. But who knows, bunnies are strange creatures. We will have to resolve this experimentally.

      Will can get us bunnies. Now, who do we know who has a horse that’s been dead about ten years?

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