NZ’s low carbon cows: global warming heroes?

CowA new report from Lincoln University´s Agribusiness and Economics Research Unit finds that New Zealand’s dairy industry has a smaller global warming footprint than the UK’s, even after taking into account the emissions resulting from shipping products half way round the world. From Lincoln’s press release:

The Lincoln study´s central finding is that the UK produces 35 percent more emissions per kilogram of milk solid than New Zealand and 31 percent more emissions per hectare than New Zealand – even including transportation from New Zealand to Britain and the carbon dioxide generated in that process.

The report’s lead author, professor Caroline Saunders, explains the importance of this finding:

“Our report clearly demonstrates the fallacy of using a simplistic concept like `food miles´ as a basis for restrictive trade and marketing policies. It is obvious that production systems and not transport are the major contributor to the differences in greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.

Knee deep, and still digging

GreenlandmeltsmallJames Hansen, perhaps the most outspoken of mainstream climate scientists, reckons that unless we take urgent steps to cut emissions we’ll be committing the world to multi-metre sea level rise this century. In this week’s New Scientist, he presents his reasons why:

In my opinion, if the world warms by 2 °C to 3 °C, [..] massive sea level rise is inevitable, and a substantial fraction of the rise would occur within a century. Business-as-usual global warming would almost surely send the planet beyond a tipping point, guaranteeing a disastrous degree of sea level rise.

That’s a controversial viewpoint, and has lead to Hansen being described as “alarmist

Books at last

GrmuggsyThe rural postie delivered my first copies of Hot Topic this morning. After months of staring at a computer screen and agonising over proofs, it’s nice to see the thing realised as ink on paper. I’m biased, but I think it looks pretty damn good. The team at HB Media (for AUT Media) have done a great job – the embossing and varnishing of the melting NZ on the cover looks lickable (as they say). Meanwhile, the media schedule for next week’s launch is filling up. We have a launch event at sponsor Minter Ellison in Auckland on Wednesday evening, with special guest David Parker, the climate change minister. I’m told there will be an ice sculpture, which will presumably melt and flood the room. Can’t wait…

Fuel from willows

Interesting interview with Jim Watson, former President of the Royal Society of NZ on Kathryn Ryan’s Nine to Noon programme this morning (podcast here, but only for a week). Watson, the founder scientist of Genesis Research & Development discusses the new Biojoule project being established at Taupo. A species of willow (not the cricket bat kind) will be grown and harvested to produce ethanol as a biofuel, and lignin, a biological chemical alternative to hydrocarbons from fossil fuel as a feedstock for plastics. Home grown technology in every sense of the word.

The roof’s melting…

TibetThe high Tibetan plateau, sometimes called the “third pole