People talkin’ about science (and water)

by Gareth on November 28, 2013

To kick off a new open thread (biofarmer, that’s you I’m looking at), here’s the IPCC’s new/latest video, in which various lead authors and Working Group 1 luminaries talk about the state of our understanding of the physical science of climate. You may also wish to discuss — anything. Have at it…

{ 256 comments… read them below or add one }

Murray November 28, 2013 at 8:09 pm

More bad news for the hurricanes linked to climate change brigade. Sorry no link but I really suggest going onto for a good read.

Date: 27/11/13 The Global Warming Policy Foundation
A new report published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation concludes that there has been no increase in extreme weather events in recent decades.

This report also pours cold water on the myth that hurricane intensity in increasing. There is not nearly enough information of hurricane strength from the early and mid part of last century to make that claim. The 16 year pause in surface warming also undermines the blaming of recent events on warming. When will people wake up to the fact that we don’t control the weather?

I truly believe the only people left who buy into catostrophic climate change are people who have crowed about it for so long they are too embarrassed to admit its a false alarm. Yes and the people on the climate change gravy train.

SimonP November 28, 2013 at 8:17 pm

DO you believe in chemtrails too?

the biofarmer November 28, 2013 at 8:34 pm

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a thread with few ad hominem comments?
Just a thought.

CTG November 29, 2013 at 6:55 am

By your weird definition of ad hominem, your comment is also ad hominem. Pot, kettle, black.

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 7:35 am

Fair enough. I just couldn’t see where Simon addressed the argument. It appeared that he was simply casting aspersions on Murray.
I stand corrected.

bill November 29, 2013 at 12:51 am

Golly, ‘published’ by the GWPF, eh? Could you tell us their journal ranking?

Mr. Tone Troll will probably claim this is an ad hominem, because, like the rest of his tribe, he doesn’t know that it means. HINT: ‘your argument sucks, doofus’, may well be rude, but it ain’t an AdH…

nigelj November 29, 2013 at 9:37 am

Murray your source is simply an organisation not peer reviewed science. You need to be more sceptical of what you read. Peer reviewed research by James Hanson around 2011 finds clear evidence of more extreme weather.

There is evidence that hurricane intensity has increased but not enough to be 95% certain. You see the IPCC is very conservative it only makes claims when its very certain. Like being 95% certain we are altering the climate and causing more rainfall which has an impact on floods, etc.

Speaking of peer reviewed science the latest science says theres been no pause in the warming. Cant recall the paper but its being discussed on and you will find links to the original paper there if you are interested.

Murray November 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I have made a few chemtrails in my time. That’s like flatulance right?

Murray November 29, 2013 at 6:56 am

Whatever you do Bill, don’t read it and try to challenge it with hard evidence! It is far more productive to just pass it off as right wing ramblings because you don’t approve of the author.

Lead by your fine example I see we realists no longer need to bother to point out flaws in IPCC reports. We can just say we think the IPCC are a bunch of politically motivated loonies and we don’t need to even understand their position. Good work Bill, you are making life real easy for us.

Gareth November 29, 2013 at 9:50 am

It has been pointed out to you before that the source of a report is most certainly important. The GWPF is a secretly-funded UK propaganda outfit campaigning against action on climate change. The stuff it publishes is designed to persuade, not contribute to our understanding of the problem.

You can find the time to read that, but you can’t find the time to read the real stuff. Why is that?

bill November 29, 2013 at 1:27 pm

Ooh, ooh! I know that one!


Murray November 29, 2013 at 7:09 am

I honestly did not know the ranking of the journal effected the quality of the research. Thanks again Bill.

Those science hating sceptics have often complained about getting their work into the popular journals. I guess if 97% of the peer review committee feel their work is threatened by sceptic research, it won’t get in? Not sure. What I have noticed is the research by The NIPCC seems to match reality, where the IPCC relies on ‘hidden heat’ to remain remotely logical.

SimonP November 29, 2013 at 10:52 am

Which only goes to show your gullibility. See Gareth’s comments above. A reasoned analysis of the NIPCC “report” is here:
If you follow the funding sources of the NIPCC it leads right back to the Heartland Institute:

bill November 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm

Conspiratorial rubbish! The stuff that goes to the GWPF just isn’t good enough to pass peer review. Full stop. It’s a bloody thinktank, after all, ‘Murray’!

Thomas November 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Murray, getting published in a reputable journal depends on the quality of the work, not the confirmation bias of the editors. These would have a lot to loose if they rejected work that later was found to be significant and correct. The climate change denier scene has virtually nobody left who can make an argument in favor of their stance that is well founded enough to make it through peer review. Don’t blame that process, start questioning your prior assumptions and your personal bias!

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 7:58 am

I see that the NBR thread (behind a paywall) on the Environment Commissioner’s report has already died after only five comments. I’m not sure what that tells us , if anything.
I’ve cut and pasted this comment from Farmer Brown at NBR . See what you think about it.

“The report from the Commissioner makes it abundantly clear that this (riparian fencing and planting) is not the answer .

The only feasible solution is to reduce stocking rates , and to eliminate the “crutches” propping up the overstocking, viz. application of nitrogen fertiliser, and “dairy support”, including imported PKE.

The problem is nutrient overload from excessive application of stock urine; in the case of nitrate – too many cows on too small an area.
In the case of phosphorus , the problem is hill country erosion.

Stocking rates cannot be economically reduced until farmers receive higher prices , most likely through adding value.
Inflation-adjusted prices for milk solids are at historically low levels.”

Anyone disagree?

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 8:08 am

I can’t find any up to date data for inflation- adjusted pricing but this old table is sufficiently illustrative to justify Farmer Brown’s claim above.

The highest price for milk solids in N.Z. at present is in the region of $20/Kg M.S. That price is for year-round added -value production (i.e. selling into the clean, green and fresh market).

Compare that price to Fonterra’s $7 / Kg M.S. for seasonal (not year-round) production going into the storable commodities dairy market. That is to say , predominantly milk powder.

Gareth November 29, 2013 at 9:54 am

Brian Fallow at the Herald is not behind a paywall:

But none of this allows us to wriggle out of the uncomfortable position that, as Dr Wright puts it, “in this case New Zealand does face a classic economy versus environment dilemma”.

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 10:03 am

His first line is wrong :-

“If we want (the dairy) sector to lift national earnings, we will have to pay the price of more degradation of rivers and water bodies”

In essence he is saying that we cannot obtain a higher price for NZ dairy production – ever. That is plainly wrong.
He is also saying that the dairy sector cannot reduce its environmental footprint. Well established science says otherwise.

Gareth November 29, 2013 at 10:08 am

If you read on, I think you’ll see that he covers those points in more detail.

Yes, we may be able to get higher prices for dairy – particularly in a food-constrained world – and yes, we can make big dairy more environmentally sustainable, but there are limits to both.

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 10:22 am

He doesn’t go anywhere near the commodity trap into which N.Z. dairy has fallen.

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 10:34 am

We will never get high prices for low-value commodities. We will never get rich by selling to the poor. The affluent want clean, green and FRESH. The poor want that too , but cannot afford it , so they get SMP, WMP , AMF and WPC. Yum!

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 10:16 am

The point is that not all dairy farmers are facing this dilemma.

The problem appears to be the type of dairying that is being practised by most of the dairy farmers . . . seasonal , low-value , high-input, and excessive stocking rate for the soil type.

Most dairy farms have also lost carbon from their topsoils which has in turn exacerbated leaching losses, loss of structure , reduced water-holding capacity, reduced resistance to treading damage.

None of those problems are insoluble.

John ONeill November 30, 2013 at 1:41 am

Any views on housing cows in permanent shelter, as proposed in the Mackenzie Country? It stops soil compaction, excessive nitrogen in the soil from urine, and sore feet.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 7:30 am

The farming papers this week were full of it John. It will certainly be used to paper over the cracks , and to avoid the necessary paradigm change , and I predict that the overall effect will be to increase the nitrogen loading on soils , although the % of the total applied nitrogen that is lost may decrease slightly.

That’s because in order to get a return on the capital expenditure , farmers will have to intensify further;
higher production/cow = more N2 excreted/cow
higher stocking rate /Ha =more N2 deposited/Ha
more N2 fertiliser / Ha = increased N2 losses
more “dairy support” (bought- in feed) = increased N2 loading on the “milking platform” (grazing area).

The difference will be that the N2 will be applied on drier soils and at a different time of year.
You will see the proliferation of gigantic manure lagoons to store the effluent.

But I’m sure that a gullible public will see this as progress , just as they were taken in by the Clean Streams Accord which was a very successful delaying tactic which had little or no impact on the amount of nitrogen being lost to groundwater/waterways.

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 8:16 am

This comment by Dave at NBR would be accepted by all I think :-

” There are many industries that are only viable in their current form because their externalities are paid for by the public and not the business.

While there are obvious difficulties in calculating the cost of these externalities, it’s something that needs to be worked out if we are going to create viable long-term industries.”

I assume that Dave is saying that the current Fonterra dairy model is unsustainable.

I find that idea really funny because the reason for forming Fonterra was that the existing model at that time was said to be unsustainable.

The passing of the DIRA (to by-pass the Commerce Commission) to allow the formation of Fonterra has resulted in no progress at all on sustainability .
Arguably , quite the opposite effect is what we are witnessing.

Gareth November 29, 2013 at 10:05 am

There’s unsustainable in a business sense – meaning, can’t lose money indefinitely, and then there’s the environmental sense. The latter is what big dairy is going to struggle with – that, and the public perception that they’re being allowed to ride roughshod (can you shoe cows?) over our waterways.

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 10:20 am

Yes cows with sore feet from walking excessive distances (a 2000acre dairy farm is big) wear Shoofs or Cowslips which are glued to the sore claw.
You want to talk animal welfare while we are at it? It is not a pretty picture.

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 10:30 am

I’m not sure where anyone would get the idea that the existing N.Z. dairy model is economically sustainable ; the debt figures that are worrying the Reserve Bank seem to say otherwise .

And I doubt that much publicity is ever given to the mortgagee sales which are a regular occurrence in dairying . . . for the reason that it is better not to devalue the other dairy farms and push more marginal operations over the edge.

And then there is the destruction of social capital which has accompanied the “rationalisation” of the dairy industry (read this as more and bigger powder dryers) since about 1970.

Redesign is long overdue, but will never come from the top. The quote I posted from Buckminster Fuller says it all. Create a new model which makes the old model obsolete. That’s where we are at right now.

noelfuller November 29, 2013 at 9:35 am

Here’s something else that might need some serious thought:
Healthy life expectancy collapsed in most of Europe from 2003, France from 2006. UK and Denmark are exceptions.
Climate instability, in particular heat waves, are in the sights of those speculating as to cause. Meanwhile life expectancy continues to rise but so does health costs.

It might be amusing but the Norwegian army has decided to tackle the agricultural contribution to global warming head-on – well by mouth – meatless mondays are prescribed across all bases.

I suppose i should add being an “almost vegan” to the list of things I’m doing about climate change but I have been vegetarian for about 53 years and was not thinking about climate change in this connection back then.

Gareth November 29, 2013 at 10:01 am

George Monbiot’s latest is on vegetarianism, almost veganism, and Al(most) Gore:

So saying, if he is managing to sustain his vegan diet, in this respect he puts most of us to shame. I tried it for 18 months and almost faded away. I lost two stone, went as white as a washbasin and could scarcely concentrate.

Lady R and myself are content with two meat-free days a week. Doable, and we don’t feel in any way deprived. And only my legs are as white as washbasins…

noelfuller November 29, 2013 at 11:40 am

Reads like a comedy :)

Knowing nothing about it at first, I did not do well for a while, highly acid, processed fruit drinks are harmful rather than substitutes for the real fruits. Greens take care of acidity otherwise, except when colon cancer arises. There are a few pointers to making vegetarianism work: Among veges only soy has the fully balanced protein content people need – egg without cholesterol or cruelty – but little flavour. Some other beans more flavoursome may come close. Otherwise the secret is to eat a variety of veges at once so the combinations give you the necessary balances. Then there is the matter of vitamin B12 which you do not have to short yourself on.. Among people offering, at a price, properly fortified proteins, only sanitarium, in my experience, really get it right.

bill November 29, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Gotta love a good tempeh! With ginger and tamari…

the biofarmer November 29, 2013 at 10:39 am

Sheesh ! We are not even touching on residues and agrichemical pollution of soil and water, not to mention the food.

There must be something good to say about the current state of the N.Z. dairy industry.
Anyone? Employing impoverished Filipinos ?

noelfuller November 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm

It seems in our technological hubris we have broken every cycle we could thinking we could do better but without enough science to know what we were really doing. Science, after all, means a way of knowing. I tend to think in a context of “right human relations” whatever that is. Right relations with our biosphere we have to mend.

About Filipinos I have met few but I took a lot of interest when I read up on 5 geothermal power stations on Leyte Is , the island most damaged by the typhoon. They generate power from super heated water in multiple stages then reinject the water. Only one of those power stations is needed to supply the whole 1.5 million inhabitants with all their power, the rest going to other islands.. The power stations themselves were unhurt by the typhoon but the cooling towers on the ridgeline were damaged and the transmission lines wiped out.

Interesting though that they have all that renewable energy, and the vision to take advantage of it. Interesting too that they, like Scotland and Tasmania, have announced a goal of 100% renewable by 2020. Those that applaud the intent nevertheless doubt they can really do it in the short time this leaves.

Murray November 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Are religious people called evolution deniers in you world?

Gareth November 29, 2013 at 10:11 pm

If they don’t accept the reality of evolution, then I refer to them as primate change deniers…

bill November 29, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Damn, you got in first! ;-)

And, if they deny evolution, well, yes… ‘Duh’, as the young folk do say.

Thomas November 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

Do you deny evolution Murray?

bill November 30, 2013 at 3:29 pm

He appears to assume that the set of ‘religious people’ and the set of evolution deniers are pretty-well the same set, which would be news to, say, the Pope…

Thomas November 30, 2013 at 8:20 pm

For once, Murray might be onto something that might turn out to contain a smidgen of truth then. At least one could support the hypothesis that the intersection between the set of climate change deniers and those that deny evolution is not empty….. ;-)

bill December 1, 2013 at 10:28 am

We really are owed an answer on this one, ‘Murray’. Though, of course, not answering is an answer in itself…

bill December 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

Well, while we’re waiting, let’s assume that the answer to the question of whether any particular person denies evolution is ‘yes’, shall we?

Now, frankly, I think the notion that we must constantly kowtow to the so-called logical-fallacies is a fallacy in itself.

Specifically, in a world that literally deluges us with inputs, and where it is vitally necessary to cull out tonnes and tonnes of chaff, I reject the ‘ad hominem fallacy*’ notion that we’re not allowed short-cuts in order to conclude that information from a certain sources is demonstrably and routinely mere gobbledygook, and this to such an extent that you may safely not trouble yourself to engage with it.

My specific case here is that by definition anti-evolutionary creationists have already completely rejected the scientific method – so there is no reason why their views on any other aspect of science should be paid any heed whatsoever.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, maybe, just maybe, it’s theoretically possible that… etc., and all that, but, frankly, life’s too short. The burden of proof’s on them, as far as I’m concerned.

*that’s the real one, not the denier ‘help, help; I’m a victim’ version!

Murray November 30, 2013 at 7:43 am

That was a bit funny.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 7:51 am

In summary then , the waterways can be easily fixed; it is the current dairy industry model that is irremediably broken.

The price farmers receive for raw milk needs to double ; it can’t happen with so much milk powder production.

Gareth November 30, 2013 at 8:39 am

If the farm gate price doubles, surely that will just drive further dairy conversion and intensification? The corporatisation of dairy (as in so much else) doesn’t allow for a “happy with a decent return” mentality. Profits have to grow.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 10:34 am

We must assume that at some point there will be appropriate law that sets limits for nitrogen losses. Certainly dairy farmers believe that this law is imminent, and that on some soil types dairying will not be possible except at very low stocking rates. This is not a problem if the price for milk is appropriate. Good profits would be available at only a cow / two acres , with no nitrogen fertiliser and no bought- in feed.

The intensification, up to whatever limit is set , is certain to occur as a result of the current dairy paradigm persisting. That is , the production of low -value commodities. That paradigm is what must change to achieve sustainable dairying. The present paradigm will persist for as long as it is permitted to do so.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 2:11 pm

“If the farm gate price doubles, surely that will just drive further dairy conversion and intensification?”

The other counter to your suggestion is the fact that sustainable , clean, green , and fresh dairying is market-driven. In modern terms , you have been allocated a quantum of shelf-space by the supermarket , and you will fill that space on time , every time and in spec , ; if you do not you will be deleted. End of story.

So there are penalties for both over-supply and under -supply.
Each farm has a daily quota , which it can reasonably and reliably produce come hell or high water or both – floods , droughts, storms etc. without relying on outside help. The farm essentially becomes self-contained. The climate is never an excuse , and a perennial philosophy is thereby engendered.

Milk in excess of the quota is paid at half price or at a charge, and undersupply is penalised by deduction from payment. It’s very simple. There are big incentives to neither over-produce , nor under-produce.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 10:57 am

It is a very simple matter to determine the cation (NH4+) and anion (NO3-) exchange capacity for any soil type , and to then set an appropriate maximum stocking rate according to the relevant expected climatic conditions. It may necessary to specify that animals are removed to stand-off barns when soils reach field capacity during prolonged heavy rainfall ; it will depend on the soil type , and the carbon content of the topsoil.

It is unlikely that more than one cow /acre (which was the standard for many years, and is still the organic standard) can be grazed within the proposed nitrogen limits.

A sustainable dairy model will have about one cow /two acres , and no cows calving in springtime so as to avoid the very high stock densities (up to 100cows/Ha /24 hrs) which result from the existing dairy paradigm of seasonal (spring) calving and the creation of a “feed wedge” (i.e. long grass) for grazing in late winter/early spring when soil damage and leaching losses are worst.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 11:01 am

The most sustainable dairy models produce the same amount of milk every day for 365 days/annum so as to always have fresh milk available for conversion into added-value (clean , green and fresh) dairy products.
This greatly improves the efficiency (capacity utilisation) of the processing equipment which at the moment operates at full capacity for two months of the year, and not at all during two months in winter.

nigelj November 30, 2013 at 3:39 pm

Im inclined to think water pollution from dairy farming is a problem obviously, and should be treated like other human activities that impact on society. Ie farmers have a duty of care and failure to provide a duty of care is negligence.

To make standards clear you have rules that set limits on pollution levels and penalties for not meeting them. This should apply as of right now, not when farmers are more “profitable”.

The rules might be on water pollution levels, or stocking levels or both.

Given the considerable difficulties farmers face the rules need to be carefully judged and fair and some farmers may need some element of time to comply etc, etc. Or financial subsidy from the public, maybe.

There must be a known technical capacity to meet rules, we cant ask the impossible ie the concept of fairness and viability. Im very conscieious farmers face some challenges over these issues, but the rules have to be tough enough to be meaningful as well.

How farmers meet the requirements is their business. Farmers might be given the option of changing stock numbers or finding other ways to reduce effluent flow off etc.So you set some bottom line rules but maybe like river pollution levels on nitrates etc, but allow different ways of meeting them. This is how the building code works.

Maybe the dairy model has to change and maybe specific rules would actually create an incentive to move up market. The more NZ moves up market the better for everyone.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 6:27 pm

The hard fact is that no government is going to introduce environmental standards that cripple a major export industry. Not even the Greens are that stupid . . . I think. :-)
Whoops ! No politics on Hot Topic , right?

So the only option is to maintain or increase the export returns by adding value, while reducing the environmental destruction.
It doesn’t take a Harvard think-tank to see that . . surely?

nigelj December 1, 2013 at 10:41 am

Biofarmer, I agree crippling standards (by that I mean government regulations on water quality and related practices) wouldnt make sense. But having no standards at all doesnt make sense either. Why should farming be exempt from standards? Nobody else is.

The industry needs a push but standards have to be carefully judged so as not to be onerous and crippling. Ditto any form of penalties. I dont think suing in court is a great option due to legal costs.

The basic approach to environmental problems is normally to first try self regulation. I dont think that has worked with this river issue, therefore you need some form of government regulation with some mechanism of inspections and penalties. This is the standard approach to problem issues and I dont see a need to treat farming differently in principle.

By all means the industry might go up market and is that makes it more profitable then of couse environmental protection or reducing stock becomes more feasible, as you say. But would profits filter through to fixing the environment? I believe only if theses a push from regulatory standards.

I would consider myself in the light greenie camp. The RMA has its strengths and weaknesses and Im pretty familiar with it. It does not deal well with nationwide pollution issues, as in simple terms it leaves things to councils which doesnt make much sense.

My understanding is the environmental protection ageny is developing national standards on water quality, but they are still a little too weak imho. However it is definitely a matter of needing a national strategy and taking a partnership approach as much as possible.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 11:14 am

” Why should farming be exempt from standards? ”

Agriculture was specifically exempted at the outset under the RMA, so as not to “scare the horses”.
This was because it was perfectly clear that agriculture , as practised, could not meet the basic requirement to behave as sustainably as possible without crashing the national income from exports.
That has not changed , which is why we will never see suitable regulation until agriculture is operating under a sustainable paradigm.

nigelj December 1, 2013 at 11:28 am

Biofarmer thanks. But how do you get agriculture to act under a sustainable paradigm without suitable regulation? Or some carrot and stick approach to encourage a more sustainable level?

Farmers are like the rest of us they need a push sometimes.Sometimes I wonder if dairy numbers per hectare simply have to be capped by law.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm

“Sometimes I wonder if dairy numbers per hectare simply have to be capped by law.”

I wouldn’t oppose that . Far simpler though to give every farm a milk production quota based on the soil’s ability to hold the nutrients voided by the number of animals needed to produce that quota.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 11:19 am

” I dont think suing in court is a great option due to legal costs.”

The RMA has been a lawyer’s benefit fund. Legal costs have been occurring at alarming levels without necessarily ever getting to court.
One or two relevant precedents were all that was necessary (there were plenty already) to make the Tort of Nuisance apply to farmer’s polluting.

But I’m not suggesting we go backwards. The EPA will presumably have a Public Defender role which the Dept. of Conservation does not have.

nigelj December 1, 2013 at 11:34 am

Biofarmer yes well I agree with all that especially the last paragraph. The KISS principle should apply to the whole issue.

I have dealt with lawyers in the leaky homes thing, and Im left speechless at the fees they charge and paper they generate. They are the only winners. Its an industry.

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm

” Ie farmers have a duty of care,
and failure to provide a duty of care is negligence.”

Yes that is the law of Torts. But it’s not negligence : it’s nuisance, pure and simple.
Unfortunately that law was over-ridden by the RMA, a totally useless and unnecessary piece of legislation provided there is an office of the Public
Defender who is required to protect the commons. Prior to the RMA , any member of the public could have brought such an action .

The destructive expansion and intensification of dairying has taken place under the auspices of the RMA.
Thanks , Geoffrey Palmer, you self-serving prat.
Whoops , politics again! :-)

Macro November 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm

“The destructive expansion and intensification of dairying has taken place under the auspices of the RMA.”

Which has not been enforced by the regulatory bodies that have the responsibility to do so.The gate was left open by in-attentive regional bodies (Waikato is one) and the cows are now all over the countryside. As for the respect for the commons….the concept of the commons has been whittled away since Locke, and who had the where-with-all to take action against offenders, that was the rational behind the RMA to give public appointed bodies the teeth to be able to act in the interests of the public good.

Your opinion of the RMA is yours, but I have to say a rather extreme one!

the biofarmer November 30, 2013 at 9:17 pm

The problem was that there were no guidelines within the RMA. It has taken until very recently to get some bottom lines on what is acceptable.
So I don’t think that you can blame the regional councils for all coming up with different criteria.
My point really was that the Law of Torts had teeth , and precedent ; all that was needed was a Public Defender to file the action. The principle of a duty of care that Nigel referred to was established law.
Let’s see if the RMA can produce the goods ; I seriously doubt it.

Thomas December 1, 2013 at 10:34 am

One should point perhaps out here that the knee capping of the Department of Conservation by the current National Key government was done precisely to disable the role of DOC to act as quasi Public Defender (for the interests of the environment) in the RMA process!!

Now DOC has been instructed to remove itself largely from making submissions in RMA consent processes (by having lost many good people from their middle management ranks with the degrees, environmental conscience and the knowledge required) and instead ‘negotiate’ with the interests of the developer in private and away from the ears and eyes of the public consent process in order to milk the developer for financial contributions to some kiwi petting zoo projects while turning a blind eye to the damages the public might be laden with in pursuit of the developers interests riding through the RMA process unchallenged by DOC scientists…. (long sentence, ugly political reality…)
The Bananas on the political dance floors of our ‘Republic’ are doing fine! Thank you…. ;-)

Oh and the $20 million that the government took out of the budget of DOC in the process of knee capping the department pale in comparison to the bail out of our dirty coal miner ‘Solid Energy’ at the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars of tax payers money… government subsidies for the worst climate killing energy business of the country are doing just fine too….
One can only hope that the amount of lead balls that Key has been hanging on the Nationals belt with abandon will sink them in due course at the next election…. but with our country’s Talk Back Radio addicts still being allowed to vote too, this is by all means not guaranteed… ;-)

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

Reasonable points Thomas , but it’s never been clear that the Dept. of Conservation was ever responsible for anything outside of the conservation estate as legally defined . And they never, ever had the budget to do an even half-pie job of that confined role, regardless of who was in power.
Leave the politics out of it ; this is Hot Topic :-)

Thomas December 1, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I think DOC has intervened in much wider aspects than just the conservation estate, especially also river issues.
And who has ever said that politics have no place in HT? Are you making this up as you go? ;-)
In the end – since the science on AGW for example and many other issues is settled (at least to matter detail that is painted with a big brush quite well) – most of the discussion is really political here, isn’t it?

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Yes you’re right. It should have been a” winky-yeah right” . . . not a smiley emoticon.
It’s very political here usually.

Tony December 1, 2013 at 11:09 am


We need to pooh in our own nest, destroy rivers, drill for oil, sell off assets, mine for coal, decimate the RMA, kneecap DOC, or otherwise we wouldn’t have a strong economy:

No wonder National’s popularity continues in the polls unabated.

nigelj December 1, 2013 at 11:48 am

National are experts at death by a thousand cuts.

Rob Painting December 1, 2013 at 7:40 am

Another overlooked negative consequence of intensive dairy farming is increased acidification of the coastal ocean. When the excessive nitrogen and phosphorus loads reach the coastal ocean they fuel phytoplankton (algal) blooms. These algae, when they die, are decomposed by bacteria which release carbon dioxide into the water column in the act of breaking down the algae (respiration).

Eutrophication is not only killing our waterways, but is accelerating the process of ocean acidification in our coastal waters. Ocean acidification is implicated as a kill mechanism in previous marine extinction events, and it just so happens that we are (likely) seeing the oceans acidify faster than they have for 300 million years.

Macro December 1, 2013 at 9:44 am

Exactly Rob. We are seeing this right under our very eyes in The Firth, The rivers that empty into the Firth are amongst the most polluted in the country (source DoC regional manager, and) the recent exhibition at the Auckland Museum highlighted just how destructive our negligence of the environment has been, and the rapid deletion of species is now being documented.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 10:03 am

One would think that such a problem would attract immediate and serious attention from environmental groups.
Their attention seems to be predominantly elsewhere.

What ever happened to “think global ; act local” ?
Cleaning up our own backyard would seem to be the easiest thing that we could do before telling others how to run their countries.
I don’t get it.

bill December 1, 2013 at 10:26 am

Well, there you go, Bio – get out there and do something about it!

Rather than, say, disingenuously whining that the people whose actions you otherwise routinely deride aren’t doing enough for ‘your’ cause…

Seriously – if you feel that strongly, and do nothing about the problem, you are the problem.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 10:58 am

Weren’t you going to ignore me?
You need to get out more.

bill December 1, 2013 at 11:29 am

Say what? Hit a nerve have I?

Oh, I see; context again. The point I was making there, petal, is that you can start your own blog, and no-one will pay it any attention, or you can hang out here, and RTFR. Gareth’s blog, and all that; and as it is he’s given you an opportunity you can hardly complain of.

Oh, and by your lights, ‘you need to get out more’ is an ad hominem.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Again you got it wrong : I have been doing something about it for 30 years now. I’m simply suggesting that others might like to do likewise for the good of all. But it’s their choice to do nothing until environmental regulations force them to change. If that involves a loss of export earnings then the regulations will never be enforced.
You can keep knocking it as long as you like ; I’ll just keep doing it.
It’s no secret that I’m laughing all the way to the bank ; but why not share the good news?

Macro December 1, 2013 at 10:41 am

At this very moment in time bio there is the ECO conference in Thames. (actually a hot tweet – the 2nd down at this point in time) above in which a large number of concerned organisations are meeting and discussing this very point!

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 10:59 am

Do you mean that we might see an increasingly local focus?

bill December 1, 2013 at 11:15 am

Quelle surprise! Now, why isn’t Bio there, doing something? It is, after all, ‘the easiest thing that we could do’, is it not?

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 11:21 am

Conferencing? Jetting about?
Your ignorance is showing. Or is it something else?

bill December 1, 2013 at 11:31 am

You really have been caught out, haven’t you?

Macro December 1, 2013 at 11:33 am

“jetting about”! lol

Thomas December 1, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Jetting about? Can you explain to us how you would Jet from Waikemookau (or wherever your ivory tower is throning over your seemingly fully automated farmlet – the time at your hand to spill your two penny’s worth of wisdom at HT seems to be endless, hinting to the cows milking each other….) to Thames? You might actually be able to cycle there if you were keen in a few days…. Many tourists show us how thats done on a daily basis…

Sorry in advance for the At Cowminem – I mean no ill feelings to your udder bearing four leggers… ;-)

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 2:43 pm

“You really have been caught out, haven’t you?”

No , you are fooling only yourself : I’m at work as is usual 24/7/365.
I suggest that you take your attention-seeking troll schtick over to another thread .

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 3:09 pm

My point is that there are people who are forever talking about it ; and then there are those who do it , and make their findings available to anyone who is interested. Jeanette actually came here, and walked around a long time ago : all credit to her for using her eyes, and taking the time to view the reality.

bill December 1, 2013 at 4:53 pm

I suggest that you take your attention-seeking troll schtick over to another thread

Well, that’s another Irony Meter busted, then.

Let’s recap:

You whined that the (presumably amorphous green) ‘they’ weren’t doing what you think they should be doing, but it seems you’re not prepared to do it yourself. If it needs to be campaigned on in the public arena you need to be campaigning on it. It’s ‘easy’, after all. One name for this is hypocrisy. But more likely this was just a convenient strawman you could upbraid for this convenient purported deficiency.

But then it turned out ‘they’ were doing it after all, in which case you suddenly lost interest in the alleged issue of concern, and came over all ‘ad hominem*’, piling up another, risible, strawman about ‘jetting about’. Which, as a resident of your very large neighbour, I find genuinely comic.

Or perhaps, as has been suggested before with regard to another troll that previously haunted this blog, you’re merely trying to pile up sufficient strawmen to create a seawall to protect NZ from rising oceans?

*your definition.

bill December 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Oh, and as for ‘taking it to another thread’ this is the open thread, which is why there’s a long discussion of your pet subject allowed in the first place. Count your blessings!

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Watch your blood pressure grandad. :-)

bill December 1, 2013 at 11:23 pm

Oooh, I reckon I’m most-likely younger than you, pet. Don’t confuse being articulate with being venerable.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 10:24 am

None of that is exclusive to dairy of course. Phosphorus is more likely to originate from sheep and beef farms because these farms are more likely to be located on erosion-prone hill country.
Jan Wright’s report makes it clear that phosphorus is the major pollutant leading to algal blooms.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 10:30 am

“The much more common and widespread impact of nutrient pollution – excessive
growth of unwanted plants – occurs at lower nitrogen levels. Excessive growth of
unwanted plants, such as slime, algae and choking weeds, degrades swimming
and fishing spots and depletes oxygen in the water, sometimes to the point of
suffocating aquatic life.”

nigelj December 1, 2013 at 11:04 am

Biofarmer, there will be a natural nitrogen level that is healthy and sustainable, so neither too low or too high. Currently its too high.

Im afraid dairy is part of the problem. See my reply to you above its got a bit lost in the thread.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 11:08 am

Agreed that dairy in its current form is the major source of the nitrogen problem because of its pervasiveness.
Vegetable cropping is more polluting but less in area.

Beaker December 1, 2013 at 12:00 pm

If you want a bit of crystal ball gazing as to what could happen to NZ water quality, dairy intensive parts of the EU are a good place to look. Thankfully we no longer have direct production support that (as well as the intended modernisation, preservation and expansion) gave surpluses dumped on international market. What we do have is the post support industry surviving as larger highly intensive conventional units and a smaller organic sector. That and a very expensive and tricky issue with the diffuse nutrient (and faecal indicator organism) pollution of water.
Conventional livestock breeding has given us dairy cattle with stunning performance, milk production and fertility. This performance is supported by ensuring that they have the nutrition they need – for protein and phosphate this is insured by giving them excess. The cost of phosphate in feed is cheap compared to the costs of reduced fertility (no calf, no milk). Across the farm gate, more N and P comes in than goes out as milk and meat. Phosphate tends to accumulate in soils, to the extent that plants struggle to get at it. It can and does get to surface water through transported soil and livestock wastes. Nitrate is very poorly retained by soil and actively taken up buy a growing crop. Arable producers spreading nitrate apply what the growing crop can take when it can take it, minimising any excess leaching to ground/surface waters. NZ no doubt has an analogue to the UKs RB209 directing what you can apply. Nitrate from manure however is released slowly, including when there is little or no crop uptake (in this respect Organic is significantly worse than conventional production, and not being evidence led hobbles any constructive response to rectify this). Lots of this gets leached. For livestock on grass, the enchantingly titled urine spike is also an issue. As it all drops in one spot, there is more N there than the grass can use resulting in more leaching.
The EU now has the Water Framework Directive giving rise to Catchment Sensitive Farming in the UK. Most of the measures will be familiar to you in NZ, such as fencing off streams from livestock. It goes a lot further than this though. For a dairy farmer, the herd size is dictated by capacity to dispose of slurry/FYM. How much you can spread is dependant on soil type/conditions, weather, manure composition etc. Given that the dairy farm soils are loaded with P and that we dont want to drive the domestic dairy sectors out of everything but the niche markets, it will be a long slog to get back to good chemical and biological condition for surface waters.
Dairy loading up your soils with P is a bit like CO2 emissions – nice and profitable but then the harm manifests, you have no practical means of reversing it and vested interests fight control.
NZ has an attractive opportunity to export more into a future larger world market for dairy. Environmentally it has head-space as its relatively low intensity industry has not built up the chronic problems found in the EU and US – yet. Growing through transitioning the dryer arable farmland to add dairy hectares strains water resources and reduces the diversity of the NZ agric sector. Any such new dairy hectares still have the draw to intensify anyway.
Perhaps a solution is to domesticate for NZ provisions like those under the EU Water Framework Directive now – use our car wreck recovery plan to stop yourselves smashing into the same wall. These will however effectively limit the size of the NZ dairy sector well below the ambition of that sector, and condemn them to a declining position in a growing market. That would be a hard sell politically.
Sorry this is so disjointed but I am trying to follow Borgen’s subtitles at the same time.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I ‘m not getting your point about organic farming , whatever you think that is. We’re talking about pastoral farming and nutrient losses.
Can you elucidate?

Beaker December 3, 2013 at 11:32 am

My elucidation seems to have been lost to the aether. Pastoral farming (organic or otherwise) is going to have nutrient pollution issues, for instance the urine spike, sediment from trafficked areas such as gates etc. I prefer to see livestock out in fields (and happen to think that grass fed butter tastes better) but if you do house livestock and contain the slurry (airborne eutriphication and ammonia impacts on human health are important externalities) you can spread slurry in slots or below the sward with a trailing shoe applicator. The manure and urine is then all spread evenly, with satisfactory soil conditions and at a time of crop nutrient demand. Cleaner than the aesthetically pleasing grazing livestock.
You can of course minimise your excess manure nutrient on a dairy unit by getting another arable farm to take it. Beneficial in terms of maintaining soil OM but if you follow the organic model, the law of unintended consequences gives rise to unwelcome nitrate leaching. Organic needs to grow up and embrace an evidence led approach.

As an aside, a Defra report suggesting encouragement of greater seasonal milking to cut nutrient losses (for the UK climate) was childishly rubbished by the previous government (with the current one’s support) because ‘British families want fresh milk not UHT’ government by fear of tabloid headline.

Recently looked at a moderately large UK pig producer that had gone after their pig slurry for AD biogas and power generation. The Pigs were housed on slats, the slurry removed by an under floor flushing system. By regular flushing they also captured lots of the ammonia into the AD. With some acid they could take this out of the digestate as N fertiliser. Regular flushing also captured heat from the pens, minimising the use of biogas to heat the AD. Less heat and ammonia in the pens also reduced the need for ventilation, while antibiotic use (a measure of health) was significantly down. Fertiliser went on their own land that grows their own feed insulating them from fertiliser and feed costs. with the sale of the biogas power, the whole enterprise breaks even before the sale of any pig meat. A big intensive, indoor corporate livestock unit that delivers better welfare, reduced pollution, cheaper meat production and renewable energy. A good way forward but the opposite of the family farm free range ‘in tune with nature’ that we like to picture.

Rambling again but Fresh Meat is on, sorry.

the biofarmer December 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

“Organic needs to grow up and embrace an evidence led approach.”

I still don’t know what you mean. For practitioners , “organic” is a quality assurance guarantee and a third-party -verified traceability system for sustainable agriculture, of which “organic” is currently the most favoured. Every country has such an auditing system : in Godzone , Fonterra uses the USDA NOP protocols.
Of course the protocols make no stipulations as to the sustainability of the actual farm; that is left to the farmer. But practices which might be considered unsutainable are generally not permitted.
So farms use their own farm -produced forage and have stocking rate limits.
All that separates them from “conventional” is the amount of detail in the audit trail, and the avoidance of the most harmful agri-chemicals.

You must be talking about something else , I’m thinking.

Beaker December 4, 2013 at 12:23 am

UK organic accreditation, 3 years compliance before you can market as organic. no bagged fertiliser/drugs without special dispensation. seeks to address sustainability, animal welfare, food quality.
We have good and improving welfare standards anyway. Conventional accreditation traces all produce through the market (organic beef no safer from horse meat adulteration than regular). sustainable use of nutrients being driven by good practice guidance and catchment sensitive farming – an organic farmer has to pay as much regard to RB209 for instance.
When a report came out demonstrating (unsurprisingly to any food scientist) no nutritional difference between conventional and organic food, the whining from the organic industry was embarrassing. The scurrilous attacks on the researchers motivation could have come straight out of the Heartland playbook.
Organic does not offer any substantiated benefit over other accreditation systems, Its main selling point is the aura of goodness. If they face a choice between sustainable production and pandering to ill informed scaremongering (for instance use of sewage sludge cake) they trumpet their support for the latter.
Biofarmer, as a livestock farmer, would you continue to employ a vet who recommended homoeopathic treatment? Our biggest UK organic accreditor does just that.

the biofarmer December 4, 2013 at 8:39 am

” as a livestock farmer, would you continue to employ a vet who recommended homoeopathic treatment? ”

You mean would I continue to use the services of a doctor who denied the placebo effect?

Re the vet I couldn’t care less. I use a vet to do the jobs I hate ; feet problems and (especially) section and extraction of “Fizzers” (details possibly not so palatable) :-) .
If I can’t make a diagnosis , I use the vet.
But more relevant is the fact that the vet is rarely on hand to make the animal behaviour observations so essential to early detection.
Some of the vets believe in God you know.

Beaker December 4, 2013 at 11:34 am

“You mean would I continue to use the services of a doctor who denied the placebo effect?” No, I mean would you continue to employ a vet who recommended homoeopathic treatment. I think you are off on a tangent here, but I hope you would not endorse a doctor who chose to pretend rather than actually offer treatment to patients (as opposed to medical trial participants).
“Re the vet I couldn’t care less.” So if you are paying a professional to care for your (valuable?) livestock, you don’t care if you are getting treatment or make believe. Bad for your bottom line and the welfare of your stock.
“Some of the vets believe in God you know.” yes, but if I was paying the vet to pray over my livestock I would be a fool. The vicar’s fees are much cheaper.

the biofarmer December 4, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Well it was a light-hearted reply. No vet would be permitted to recommend a homeopathic treatment.

But vets do quite a lot of educated guesswork and quite a bit of “scattergun” treatment because diagnosis is difficult with patients who have poor verbal communication. I judge vets purely on results, and accept that they may not always be 100% sure what it is that they are treating.
But like all farmers in organic systems , I put most of the emphasis on prevention rather than crisis veterinary intervention.
Placebo effects are more common in human medicine, but doctors are less likely than vets to admit that they know neither the diagnosis , nor the cure.
If in doubt prescribe an antibiotic. (or an aspirin).
On an organic farm an antibiotic is the last resort , usually.

Beaker December 4, 2013 at 8:50 pm

“But like all farmers in organic systems , I put most of the emphasis on prevention rather than crisis veterinary intervention.” Sounds like what all competent livestock farmers do, not just competent ones in organic systems.
An organic accreditation body that promotes homoeopathic treatment is an indictment of a system that puts its philosophy ahead of evidence, to the detriment of its stated goals. You do not improve a cow’s welfare by pretending to treat it.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Thomas , perhaps it’s time that you took a look in person. I’ve previously posted the links , but maybe there is not enough detail on the website and Facebook.
That’s an invitation. Don’t be afraid ; our visitors book is full of German names ; mostly students of sustainable agriculture who have done their practicum here over the last thirty years.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Thomas, it only takes a few minutes to type a comment in between operations on the farm or in the factory. I never work more than 14 hours a day unless some exigency dictates otherwise.
But yes , I will be the first to do robotic milking in the field it seems.
Sustainable ag is more about vigilance and understanding of a biological system. There is much less physical work when the cows look after themselves.

noelfuller December 1, 2013 at 10:19 pm

I have been deeply interested in your observations.. The holistic approach, with loads of research and thought, needed to understand climate, is also needed to evaluate our actions with respect to our biosphere and the two are closely related. Laws, regulations, governments and industry organisations are all part of that too so thanks for the insights.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 4:06 pm

” ivory tower is throning over your seemingly fully automated farmlet – the your two penny’s worth of wisdom”

I’m not sure what to make of this Thomas.
Leaving aside the fact that 550 acres is not a really a farmlet, I should point out that the dairy industry that I have described existed in N.Z. from about 1950 until sometime in the mid 90s. It functioned successfully and profitably as the clean green and fresh arm of the NZ dairy industry for all of that time and was known as the NZ Milk Board. The average stocking rate was 1.6 cows /Ha ; the model that I have been decrying here has 3-4 cows /Ha. That is the problem in a nut shell.
So there is nothing novel in any aspect of what I have described.

It goes without saying that the NZ Milk Board and the associated industry were the first things to be destroyed by the drive to form Fonterra ; a drive predicated on the belief that it must be done in the interests of sustainabilty.

I suppose that you have to laugh ; you can count on politicians to do exactly the opposite of what is required in the longer term.
The Dairy Industry Restructuring Act put paid to any hope of NZ dairying moving in a sustainable direction.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 4:26 pm

Reading through the comments it seems that the scenario I have painted is unbelieveable or perhaps not comprehended.

One last try.
Instead of producing 20 billion litres of milk for a gross return of NZ$20 billion and a degrading environment, we could instead have a return of NZ$25 billion from the production of only 10 million litres and have an improving environment, better profitability, less debt, and more social capital being built in the countryside.

Over the last thirty years I’ve made the property available for demonstration purposes to anyone who was interested. Sharemilkers conferences, Large herds; university research projects; classes of veterinary, agronomy, MBA
students etc. etc.
I did that in order to see if anyone could pick holes in it.
It works just fine.

the biofarmer December 1, 2013 at 5:25 pm

Sorry, just spotted the mistake above ;it is of course 10 billion litres for a return (Gross) of $NZ 25 billion.

nigelj December 2, 2013 at 9:31 am

Biofarmer you make some good comments on this water issue, although its a shame you are so sceptical about climate change.

However part of the problem is its not clear what you are really saying, or what role you believe governments should play. You seem to be saying high stock numbers per hectare are the big pollution problem. Agreed.

I gather you have a dairy farm and its profitable with low stock numbers per hectare? Presumably you are saying you have superior farming techniques and add more value?

Well assumiing this is viable maybe legislation has to at least cap stock numbers. A hard sell politically, but David Lange / Roger Douglas faced down special intest groups (not that I agree with all his policies).

the biofarmer December 2, 2013 at 10:37 am

No role for government other than to prevent monopolies(not create them , as in the Fonterra case).
Dairy didn’t make a special-interest case in order to be exempted from the Commerce Act in forming Fonterra : dairy argued for the national interest , and the government agreed. They were both wrong , as we now see only too clearly.
I’m simply reminding those who have forgotten that the sustainable dairy model was one of the first casualties of government interference in the market, but that a few smart operators carried on doing it, and that the skills are not lost. Everybody is free to stake it or leave it, but most wouldn’t even know about it , or even think of it.

Sorry about the typos … I-pads are not so easy to edit.

Thomas December 1, 2013 at 8:05 pm

For what its worth: I would agree with Bio that NZ should move away from producing bulk products with little added value to less bulk and more value… that goes from the Dairy industry all the way to the forestry. It is wicked that we import cheep plywood panels by the shipload from China while sending our raw trees by the shipload over there for the purpose to making the same. What a hoot. Why can’t we export more valuable products instead of mass producing at the bottom of the supply chain…. ?

noelfuller December 1, 2013 at 9:52 pm

They buy up our means of production so they can do the value added bit using much cheaper labour

Remember Dr Such? I made a point of attending some of his lectures way back. He was accused of being a communist spy during our “Reds under the Beds” lunacy. He was all for added value. The doing seems to be a bit of a problem in NZ. I spent part of my working life essentially in research. Every time a government decided it was going to save money by trimming back government expenditure it was always research that came under the knife first. Our current government has been going down the same track. Could that be a factor in an inability to get beyond production of raw materials?

the biofarmer December 2, 2013 at 7:22 am

Lack of research is a problem Noel but what I have seen , is that people tend not to listen if they think that their paradigm is being attacked. So that’s why I rarely bother to say what I am doing.

If anyone says that they would like to look at what I , and a handful of others are doing , they are welcome to come and look and ask questions.
The fact is that sustainable (triple bottom line) dairying was practised by hundreds of NZ farmers from one end of the country to the other. There are maybe a dozen still doing it , but you won’t hear about it , because they are content to simply be doing it.
Others will both do it and advocate for it.
There is no shortage of those who merely advocate and never do it themselves, but nobody listens to them, whether it’s leading a fossil-fuel -free life or saying that dairy farmers should behave in a certain way.

I’m always interested in constructive criticism of the sustainable dairy model , but there was certainly none on this thread. There could be a number of reasons for that.

It’s not rocket science .
Added-value provides the economic viability.
Reduced stocking rate, and self -containment etc. deals with environmental impact.
And year-round employment enables the building of social capital.

So , I’ll leave it , for whatever it’s worth, there Gareth. I don’t expect the existing paradigm to vanish anytime soon because there are too few people demonstrating its obsolescence.
It’s the same with fossil -fuel emissions; jetting to the other side of the world to tell other people to cut it out merely achieves resistance.

I’ll click the notify box now , in case there are follow-up comments, but otherwise I’ll disappear back into the landscape :-)
Arohanui ki a koe tatou.

noelfuller December 2, 2013 at 11:45 am


“Paradigm” is a more focussed word for what I have always called a “world view”. Everyone has one though it does not compass the planet. Anyone who challenges a commonly held version is usually put down – Socrates, Christ, Lincoln, Kennedy. Most assassinations are done via criticism from the victim’s closest assaociates. I’ve noted a few fatal instances in NZ, whatever the death certificates might state.

Few welcome any challenge to their world view, most call it reality, judge everything by it and are automatically sceptical of anything that does not fit it. I have not met any self-professed sceptic who lacks an axe to grind and whose scepticism is not directed toward maintaining a world view. Nevertheless I have enjoyed some totally delightful people who question everything in a constructive way and are free to think in any direction.

At the age of 7 (Winston P, shut your eyes!) I decided to put humanity first in all things human, not nation or race or religion or family and have spent the rest of my life trying to figure out what that means. I have spent my life unlearning what I supposed I knew. The most disturbing thing is to challenge one’s own world view. How much of anyone’s world view is actually researched I wonder.

Climate change changes everything physical, farming for sure, and certainly challenges everyone’s world view. The annoying thing is that we can only be conscious of it on a collective basis – via the group effort of scientists for example, not through the limited scope of our own senses.

Now to get off my podium a bit :) A better reason for why you have not had the desired level of discussion is, in my own case, simple ignorance of the world of farming. Both sides of my ancestors, and most of my aunts, uncles and cousins were or are farmers and quite aside from this I have walked on many farms, milked cows, churned cream, negotiated electric fences and talked with a number of non-related farmers, most of whom have been doing very interesting things, but I, a city dweller, would hardly consider myself knowledgeable enough to advance a discussion on farming issues even where closely related to climate change, except in the most general ways, hence my interested silence.

nigelj December 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Noelfuller, I agree with your comments about world views – ideologies. We all have them to make sense of a complex universe, but they are all suspect as they over simplify things and make assumptions. They are often based on little more than gut instincts.

I do identify a little with your humanity ideology. The only other ideology with some appeal to me is science and rational evidence based thought, but that still leaves the big moral decisions hanging, although science is making some progress there. But science doesnt as yet form enough of a platform to answer every question, hence we have other ideologies.

But at the very least an ideology (political, religious or economic) should be able to stand up to hard evidence, and many dont.

nigelj December 2, 2013 at 9:16 am

Thomas I agree about needing more added value, but you will only get more added value in NZ with government incentives, tax breaks, targetted finance. targetted skills education etc.

And the current free market orientated government opposes that ideology, and Labour dont see enough glamour and big points in complex policies like this. This is the problem.

Im no communist I believe in free markets and capitalism, but you get distortions in the sense that free markets create some anomalies, and other countries also dont play by the rules either. The simple answer is sometimes the government has to give things a push.

the biofarmer December 2, 2013 at 10:24 am

Nigel it’s not a matter of philosophy. It was government(Labour) interference in the free market via DIRA and the consequent sidelining of the Commerce Commission that has led directly to the reinforcement of the more milk powder more cows more pollution problem that is now obvious to all. There were large dairy companies heading down the added-value path. They were blown out of the water by the government-approved, indeed mandated amalgamations that resulted in the Fonterra monstrosity.
And you want another bunch of half-wits , obsessed with re-election, and short-term expediency , to intervene in the market again?

No,leave it to determined individuals to demonstrate that the existing paradigm is obsolete: that is how the free market works . . . Creative destruction.

nigelj December 2, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Biofarmer, I disagree mostly. This is a matter of philosophy, the tone of your statement that labour interfered in the free market immediately shows you are promoting a certain philosophy, namely market fundamentalism or governments keeping out of markets. So you are talking philosophy.

I believe sometimes governments should intefere in markets. One example issues around pollution where governments should set rules and limits on what farmers ( and others) can do. Nothing will change without this.

“Free Markets” have shown in the more distant past that they are quite incapable of addressing issues around pollution, hence the introduction of regulations over the years.

Aguably Labour interfered in the wrong way by forming Fonterra, but thats only really your opinion. Other countries have over stocking without fonterra like monopolies. It may have happened here without fonterra.

Absolutely the government should regulate the market, on setting pollution levels and possibly stock numbers. You provide no causal mechanism to explain how ending the fonterra monopoly would lead to less stock numbers or would lead to farmers not polluting.

However there may be an argument to split Fonterra in two, so that we dont have all eggs in one basket, with safety scares like the botulism thing potentally destabiling the entire industry. Im inclined to think the economies of scale of one big company like Fonterra made sense up to now, but maybe it has now grown literally too big. Nothing is fixed in stone.

Creative destruction is a good ideology in most cases, as letting companies fail can clean out the dead wood, but is also simplistic. It works in certain situations, and not others. Example letting banks creatively destruct after the 2008 crash would not have been good idea and the rescues were more prudent ( in America etc). Things are more complex than you think.

And you didnt really answer my questions on your own farm.

Macro December 2, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Totally agree nigel but just further to your point with regards “free market” so loved by the unthinking neo-liberal, there is of course no such thing as a “free” market. Every market has some regulation or other. Every good brought to market is governed by some regulation. Profits and losses are subject to government involvement in the form of taxation and other duties, etc. The concept of a “hidden hand” is so much nonsense.
As an observation, the economies which have performed the best over the past few decades have all been economies that have resisted the relentless deregulation such as we experienced here. South Korea, China, Singapore, Denmark, Germany, etc Australia to a lesser extent (far more regulated and protectionist than NZ) have all had a managed approach to their economies.

nigelj December 3, 2013 at 10:13 am

I agree Macro. All markets have some degree of regulation or legal control or you have the rule of the jungle. You dont want to over do it and stifle markets, but the neoliberal fantasy of deregulation doesnt work and has ideological and hidden motives .

Its very much a balancing act that has to be rationally and evidence based, rather than ideologically driven. The countries you quote take this approach.

the biofarmer December 2, 2013 at 9:54 pm

I can see how I’ve confused the issue there. I called the situation prior to DIRA and Fonterra a free market. It was no such thing .
I didnt describe the existing market accurately at all. There were about two dozen dairy companies in the country , all regionally based and all with slightly different product mixes. Some came under the Milk Board and were largely producing for the domestic fresh market. The rest came under the Dairy Board and were purely export. There is no way it was a free market.
If I were to re-write the offending sentence it might be :-
” It was government(Labour) interference in the existing multi-company structure of the NZ dairy industry by sidelining the Commerce Commission and introducing the DIRA that allowed the formation of the monopolistic Fonterra model and led directly to the reinforcement of the more milk powder/ more cows /more pollution problem that is now obvious to all.”
The dairy industry was very tightly regulated prior to DIRA, freer afterwards , except that a monopoly had been created.

I didn’t pick up on your questions re. my operation, sorry.


“I gather you have a dairy farm and its profitable with low stock numbers per hectare? Presumably you are saying you have superior farming techniques and add more value?”

Yes I have a farm which is predominantly dairy (also sheep and goats) and which is extremely profitable by dairying standards. 100 cows in milk on 220 Ha.
My farming techniques are likely indistinguishable from those of my grandparents , all of whom were farmers, but I may have the benefit of the advances in science over the last 100 years. Appropriate might be a better word than superior to describe farming technique because every farm is different.

My whole point was that 100% of my dairy production is added value and 0% goes to commodity manufacture. That was also the feature of the farms that used to operate under the Milk Board.

My remark about philosophy was in reply to your saying that you were not a communist, so again apologies if I crossed wires there.

Of course I agree that the free market is a theoretical concept or ideal. and all markets are more or less free. But they are still markets.

I already agreed with you that pollution limits and stocking rate limits are absolutely necessary. I have not argued for an end to the Fonterra monopoly ; that will occur anyway if Fonterra farmers are not permitted to externalise their environmental costs. None of the proposed regulations would have any effect on a farm such as mine , and would in effect be a leveling of the playing field. That should be all that is necessary to allow the growth of alternative models.

the biofarmer December 3, 2013 at 7:08 am

So , back on topic after the diversion into “free-market -philosophy”.

In sequence ; the dairy industry was completely regulated. It was not permitted that a farmer could sell milk to the public (as I do today).
It was not permitted that a dairy company could export dairy products ( remember Powdergate?).

For international trade appearances, it was proposed to “de-regulate” the dairy industry. That is what I loosely described as “free” market.
Of course it was , or would have been, subject to all the normal rules of commerce including the Commerce Act provisions pertaining to monopolies.

O.K so far?

Then the government intervened in that “de-regulated ” market with the DIRA which effectively removed the requirement for the new industry to comply with the Commerce Act.

I hope that clarifies a bit. It is what happened.

Then your request for a demonstration of a causal link. Fonterra is owned by the farmers who supply. If those farmers don’t want to embrace environmental sustainability , then they don’t have to, unless limits to pollution/stocking rates are set by government. And if I decide that it is my my best interest to embrace sustainability , economically , environmentally and socially (obvious that division is a bit academic . . . there is only environment in reality) then I am relatively free to do that.
It is the decision of Fonterra farmers to concentrate on the production of large-scale commodities such as milk powder that leads directly to the adverse environmental consequences.
I have tried to explain the agronomic reasons why seasonal dairying is more destructive than year-round clean green and fresh production.
I think that part was sufficiently clear.

Gareth December 3, 2013 at 9:48 am

Yes, thanks for the insights into sustainable dairying, biofarmer. It’s good to know that there is an alternative to the sort of farming system that’s being imposed all over the country, and that’s having such a deleterious impact on our water resources.

Unfortunately, it seems as though our government and farming’s leadership have been captured by big dairy – to the extent that even talking about sustainability or limits on stocking rates is vilified as being economic disaster (see numerous pieces by David Farrar).

More power to your elbow, and to added-value in all its forms. In my case, the favourite would be fine cheese!

nigelj December 3, 2013 at 9:31 am

Biofarmer thanks. Thought provoking comments on Fonterra.

noelfuller December 2, 2013 at 12:23 pm

On fossil fuel emissions and jetting about, that is a problem for which there is little answer at present. International conferences are a phenomenon, hugely stimulating to participants and even addictive. I doubt that anyone would easily find a way to cross an ocean to some winter bound venue or negotiate many politically unstable nations on their way and avoid fossil fuel expenditure but it could be fun to do.

Nevertheless, I always think of Vinoba Bhave of India in this context.

I spent a day with his coordinator of ashrams and learned that Vinoba Bhave had, years earlier, been invited to a conference on land re-distribution. The government of India offered him air tickets but he replied he would walk.

Months later he arrived at the conference with the title deeds of a very large amount of land, garnered during his walk. He campaigned on the issue at every place he stayed a night. It’s called “walking the talk” I believe :) I doubt what he accomplished in India could be replicated anywhere else.

nigelj December 2, 2013 at 3:45 pm

Noelfuller, I agree long distance travel is an issue regarding climate change. I think its all about costs and benefits. Climate change will have big costs if we do nothing, but ending oil use “by tomorrow” will also have huge costs.

The best we can do is accept continuing use of fossil fuels for long haul transport and reduce it more drastically for cars and power generation. A big challenge but definitely not impossible.

noelfuller December 3, 2013 at 9:35 am

I have not thought of a world view as an ideology but I suppose that could be strictly true. Some people do not approve of the world as they see it while others idealise their view. I call it also a model. When people attack climate modeling for instance i wonder what model they themselves are employing. The world view is also a way of fending off the most pervasive of fears – the fear of the unknown. We populate the unknown with gods for hope and devils for despair. I have read that both worship and science are inspired by fear of the unknown.

nigelj December 3, 2013 at 12:12 pm

Noelfuller, I agree climate modelling estimates future events something we all do all the time on many matters. So its not something mysterious. I also dont think people realise climate modelling is based on sets of equations no different in principle than any physics or chemistry equation, as they all estimate future events.

Its purely a question of validity of the equations. Climate modelling isnt perfect yet but is better than people think, and has accurately predicted many events over the last 30 years.

On world views, I agree things could all be driven by a fear of the unknown, or maybe just uncertainty, however I will go with science rather than religion to find the answers. However sometimes I envy religious people as its so much simpler.

I suppose my world view is a combination of things, I cant distill it to one thing. I do believe in balance in terms of lifestyle choices.

I think we all have an inherent leaning liberal or conservative, I lean liberal but I can see the sense in some conservative views.

I have a strong sense we need to look after the bottom end of society up to a point, I can half rationalise this but in the ends its just a strong instinct, but I stand by it.

Also that we should be tolerant of people who are different, until they prove they are a genuine threat. But then you should be tough on them. I dont know what label you would call this view

My world view is a work in progress. Not much of a simple, clear cut world view, with an elegant name, but maybe better than a dogmatic, stupid simple world view.

bill December 2, 2013 at 5:02 pm
nigelj December 3, 2013 at 9:57 am

Moncton sacked? Good job.

bill December 3, 2013 at 5:25 pm

What’s truly fascinating is to juxtapose this with the quote I’ve posted below. This is the guy that was supposed to be securing Scottish support for Ukip? How could you even imagine this kind of discourse was going to get you anywhere? Talk about being unable to see yourself from the outside!…

Since I have no sympathy whatsoever for Ukip and similar parties of the lumpenpopulist Right it’s all to the good, of course…

bill December 2, 2013 at 6:28 pm

Further, on His Lordship -

I have just had the honor of listening to Professor Murry Salby giving a lecture on climate. He had addressed the Numptorium in Holyrood earlier in the day, to the bafflement of the fourteenth-raters who populate Edinburgh’s daft wee parliament. In the evening, among friends, he gave one of the most outstanding talks I have heard.

Professor Salby has also addressed the Parliament of Eunuchs in Westminster. Unfortunately he did not get the opportunity to talk to our real masters, the unelected Kommissars of the European tyranny-by-clerk.

Seriously, you could not make this stuff up! Let alone publish it (well, clearly you should not, but see if you can guess where they did!)

‘Skeptics’, this is one of your leading lights! I’d suggest you hang your heads in shame, but I’m aware you’d have to be capable of feeling any…

nigelj December 3, 2013 at 4:24 pm

Some climate sceptics seem to have no shame. Its like they are socipaths no conscience, no shame, anything goes including blatant lies or the most missleading spin possible. Its fascinating.

the biofarmer December 3, 2013 at 7:39 am

Never let it be said that scientific journals lack integrity :-

nigelj December 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm

Biofarmer interesting link. Looks like a journal caving into corporate pressure to me. It astounds me there are no long term trials on ge food. No matter how compelling the science on safety, given the scale of use of these products Im mystified why there arent more long term trials just to be certain. I can only assume its corporate pressure not to.

bill December 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm

Yeah, yeah, yeah – and the entire Capitalist enterprise is corrupt because WorldCom, Enron, and Bernie Madoff…

bill December 3, 2013 at 8:21 pm
Rob Painting December 3, 2013 at 10:10 pm

Bill – your link requires registration.

bill December 3, 2013 at 11:09 pm

Ah, should have spotted ‘paywall’ in the tag cluster. Hmmm. It’s Crikey‘s take on oceanographer John Hunter’s soon-to-be-published response to the Parker, Saleem and Lawson SLR paper of earlier this year, of considerable interest to them given that Lawson works for the Fin Review.

I don’t think the paper in question is behind it, though. I think you’d enjoy the read!…

Gareth December 3, 2013 at 11:43 pm


A leading oceanographer has blasted as “dangerous and foolhardy” a scientific paper, co-written by a senior Australian Financial Review journalist, purporting to debunk conventional models of climate change-induced sea level rises.

The original paper — “Sea-level trend analysis for coastal management” — was published in the international journal Ocean & Coastal Management in March. AFR letters editor and editorial writer Mark Lawson co-wrote the paper, which used complex mathematical models to argue local councils had overreacted to the threat of rising sea levels. The lead author was a mysterious engine technology expert and former Fiat researcher who goes by the names Albert Parker and Alberto Boretti.
In an eviscerating takedown to be published in a forthcoming edition of the same journal (but already available online), oceanographer John Hunter accuses the authors of making things up and displaying a “remarkable lack of knowledge” of sea level models. “Virtually everything they say about model projections is incorrect,” writes Hunter, an oceanographer at the University of Tasmania’s Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-operative Research Centre. He writes the authors appear to have made up the so-called “exponential growth theory” of sea level rises in order to discredit it.

…article continues in a similar vein… ;-)

Ian Forrester December 4, 2013 at 7:57 am

Graham Readfearn has a good article on Parker/Boretti and the other cranks he associates with on Desmogblog:

nigelj December 4, 2013 at 3:40 pm

Parker / Boretti are not new to this lark, and have a history of responding to sea level rise papers by posting dubious “comments” in journals as in this example below.

bill December 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm

“Reputable scientists disagree,” said the journalist. “There is a debate. The question is far from settled. The truth probably lies between the two extremes of duck and not-duck.”

A great little account of the sophistry of denial, and the 2+2=4.5 vacuity of the media.

Readers of this blog will be more than familiar with the ‘duck skeptic’ strategy, as exemplified by some of our recent visitors… ;-)

nigelj December 6, 2013 at 8:59 am

One other problem with journalists is your average journalist is sometimes lazy and never checks the fine detail. For example Pielke is scientist who published a dubious paper claiming theres no sea level rise since about 1970. Certain people in the media have quoted this work as debunking global warming etc.

You then find if you dig deeper, that a paper was published, and authored by 48 scientists and totally debunked Pielkes work. But in sceptic world and media world the original myth lives on, and on….

noelfuller December 6, 2013 at 9:21 am

A major contibutor to myth persistence is a group contributing with intent to make sure they do – lies survive by repetition – whereas the scientists takedown of the lies and misrepresentations is not so eagerly publicised.

This has been changing with various sites such as Skeptical Science as we know, and with more scientists realising that their contribution disappearing behind paywalls is not helping plus some very good journalists lending a hand. Nevertheless it really comes down to readers checking for themselves – how many have the nous for that?

nigelj December 6, 2013 at 10:14 am

Noelfuller, agreed. is great, and looks at both sides of the debate and debunks many of the sceptical myths. However most people dont have the time, and tend to get their views from the main media.

In that respect I would love to see Jim Salinger or someone like that on television or the newspapers firmly debunking a few of the main climate sceptics myths. This is the sort of thing we need, as people would listen to him.

It would also help get away from Bills problem of journalists assuming some half way point is the truth. “Science by negotiation” which is of course invalid.

noelfuller December 5, 2013 at 11:40 pm

I’m keeping a spreadsheet on the behaviour of my “5 Kw” PV system. It records
(1) Power Imported from the grid by night
(2) Power imported by day
(3) Power used during the day that is supplied by solarPV
(4) Power exported to the grid each day
(5) Total power generated each day according to the inverter
(6) At the end of each solar day a graphical image of the generation during the day produced by the inverter is photographed.

There is also a month by month comparison with a table of projected generation, and several years of pre PV records aas well as details of the electrical and electronic devices in use.

So far over 24 days the financial benefit is approximately 3.5 times the cost of imported power. Things will not be so sweet during winter.

The last few wet days have been particularly interesting:

First day was overcast with a few brief showers generating 14 Kwh and exporting 11Kwh,

Second day, heavy overcast, periods of rain, generated 7 Kwh, mainly in the early afternoon although overcast was still 100%, and exported 4Kwh,

Today generation was 9 Kwh export beginning about 1 p.m.when the overcast began breaking up. 4 Kwh were exported.
Only about 1 kwh had been generated by noon and none exported.

Average power use per day has been 7.5 Kwh – down from 11 or 12 in summer before we became super aware of power usage.

Average power generation has been 25.55 Kwh per day, down 2 Kwh/d from what it was before the last 3 days.

I have not been keeping a comparable record of the performance of the Solar heating but power to the hot water heater has been turned on about 9 days total since mid September including 1 day in early November and just 3 hours in the last two days during the rare peaks of solar PV input.

CTG December 6, 2013 at 7:31 am

Another 1-in-100-year storm battering Scotland, just 2 years after the last 1-in-100-year storm. Of course, that’s all just a coincidence, nothing to worry about there. Extreme weather events are not increasing, CO2 is plant food, free market rules, blah blah blah.

noelfuller December 6, 2013 at 11:49 am

Not only Scotland but the whole of northern Europe I gather with a large storm surge expected which should have arrived by now.

nigelj December 6, 2013 at 1:40 pm

The scotland storm is apparently a storm with “hurricane ” force winds. But then Scotland is influenced by weather patterns ifluenced by arctic region warming. You cant tell me you can get a concentrated region of warming like that, and have it not influence weather patterns, and for the worse.

Weather systems are basically a function of differential temperatures for example they are driven between equator and poles and the rapidly warming arctic is fundamentally changing the balance.

bill December 9, 2013 at 12:00 pm

Over here on the West Island the Climate Council’s bushfire report is out.


1. Climate change is already increasing the risk of bushfires.

2. In southeast Australia the fire season is becoming longer, reducing the opportunities for hazard reduction burning.

3. Recent severe fires have been influenced by record hot, dry conditions.

4. In the future, Australia is very likely to experience an increased number of days with extreme fire danger.

5. It is crucial that communities, emergency services, health services and other authorities prepare for the increasing severity and frequency of extreme fire conditions.

6. This is the critical decade

noelfuller December 9, 2013 at 5:19 pm

West island? A magic Isle surely? I like it ;)
Rubbing it in is the strategy I take it.

the biofarmer December 11, 2013 at 8:15 am

This property has organic (Biogro) certification. Other than that QA/traceability system, is it really greatly different from a lot of so called “conventional” properties?
In the 1940s it would have been quite conventional.

Beaker December 13, 2013 at 1:41 am

The Biogro documentation includes addresses for their certified providers. From a cursory glance these include Homoeopathic (Homoeopathic Farm support Ltd) and Bio-dynamic (Garuda Biodynamic). Certification for magical thinking. I can not however see anything for stabilised sewage sludge cake.
Don’t get me wrong, I support the intent of the organic movement to reduce, reuse and recycle, but their measures are not evidence based. Mineral N can be preferable in nutrient pollution terms to green and livestock manures. Our treated waste should be returned to land. It rather does give the impression that the key issue for the organic bodies is pandering to the ill-educated consumers impression of food (no chemicals in my food please) rather than actually achieve environmental and welfare change for the better.

the biofarmer December 13, 2013 at 7:49 am

Are you aware that pastoral farmers in Godzone obtain the bulk of their mineral nitrogen from (in the first place) the atmosphere? This applies to both “organic” and “conventional”.
Additional nitrogen usage is restricted in the “organic ” code.

And “pandering to the ill-educated consumers impression of food ” is a vital aspect of economic sustainability is it not?
The consumer is always” right” , however irrational their views may be.
The intent of the” organic” movement was always sustainability, and initially , conservation of soil carbon.

Here are the principles as set out about 30 years ago by the IFOAM assembly:-

‘To work as much as possible within a closed system, and draw upon local resources.
To maintain the long-term fertility of soils.
To avoid all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural techniques.
To produce foodstuffs of high nutritional quality and sufficient quantity.
To reduce the use of fossil energy in agricultural practice to a minimum.
To give livestock conditions of life that conform to their physiological needs and to humanitarian
To make it possible for agricultural producers to earn a living through their work and develop
their potentialities as human beings..

Not much to disagree with there , is there?

the biofarmer December 13, 2013 at 9:43 am
Gareth December 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

You should get your science from more reliable sources. Alan Savory’s ideas don’t stack up from an emissions perspective.

the biofarmer December 13, 2013 at 9:18 pm

I wasn’t a supporter of Savory on that thread : the principles that Voisin elucidated decades before provided the foundation for what Savory later used to make a name for himself.
At first glance your link seems to deal with carbon in vegetation , rather than in soil .

the biofarmer December 14, 2013 at 10:12 am

Freeman Dyson makes this point:-
” To stop the carbon in the atmosphere from increasing, we only need to grow the biomass in the soil by a hundredth of an inch per year. Good topsoil contains about ten percent biomass, [Schlesinger, 1977], so a hundredth of an inch of biomass growth means about a tenth of an inch of topsoil.”

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 9:26 am

If Freeman Dyson made that point sincerely, it only underlines that he has no knowledge of soil. To see a signal in sustained soil organic matter content, you need a period of ten to fifteen years. With that plus the need to arrest the current decline in soil OM first, sounds like Freeman Dyson was clutching at straws.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 10:44 am

It’s not clear what you are saying. Why is 10-15 years of any relevance?
The need (for several good reasons) to arrest the decline in SOM is undisputed ; do you say that there would be no discernible effect on atmospheric CO2 from raising SOM in general?

Beaker December 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

“Here are the principles as set out about 30 years ago by the IFOAM assembly:-” Then (once more with feeling) why no evidence based approach to addressing these principles? Is there any defensible reason disagree with an evidence based approach.
“Are you aware that pastoral farmers in Godzone obtain the bulk of their mineral nitrogen from (in the first place) the atmosphere? This applies to both “organic” and “conventional”.” But you must (actuallly being in the NZ dairy industry as opposed to me in SW England) be aware that this is decreasingly the case.

the biofarmer December 14, 2013 at 8:04 am

” why no evidence based approach to addressing these principles? ”

You mean why do some use an evidence -based approach while others prefer superstition? Clearly , to say there is no evidence based approach would be wrong ; it is just not clearly visible to you.
It is no secret that the “organic” agriculture movement was captured early in the piece by the usual suspects, but that does not affect the actions of those farmers who continue with the evidence -based science of sustainable agriculture.

” Is there any defensible reason (to) disagree with an evidence based approach.”?

People nearly everywhere are free to indulge in any superstition which takes their fancy (within the usual limits).
Consumers are renowned for their irrational buying behaviours, not to mention their ignorance of production methods ; is that not why we have “advertising”/ promotion etc.?

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 9:29 am

“Clearly , to say there is no evidence based approach would be wrong ; it is just not clearly visible to you.” Great, please show me the evidence to support keeping sewage sludge cake off organic land.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 10:37 am

We continue to talk about different things. I presume that you are talking about the protocols of the British Soil Association .
If the use of raw untreated sewage sludge is not permitted , then that is the same restriction as for all other raw untreated animal manure (except for that deposited by pastured animals).
As in “To avoid all forms of pollution that may result from agricultural techniques.”

I confess to knowing nothing about ” sewage sludge cake”.

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

Sewage sludge cake is not raw untreated sewage.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 3:14 pm

“Sewage sludge cake is not raw untreated sewage.”

Then I presume that , suitably treated , and with appropriate testing (heavy metals , persistent biocides etc) that it could, in combination with adequate carbon , be used in organic agriculture, provided the quantities used /Ha were appropriate to the exchange capacity of the soil to which it was applied. My understanding is that this already occurs but I do not know if an “organic” certification is applied for.

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 9:17 pm

sludge cake is treated and tested, the users of it are also obliged to have their soil tested also prior to use. My knowledge is that it is not accepted under organic accreditation.
There is no evidence to keep it off and it is of no risk to human health or the environment (cf cow’s manure).

Beaker December 18, 2013 at 1:38 am

Forgot to add re use of waste water derived biosolids on Organic land, specifically the absence of this, “My understanding is that this already occurs but I do not know if an “organic” certification is applied for.” But your accreditation body has taken the time to accredit homoeopathic treatments for livestock and ‘biodynamic’ products! They have done this, but not accredited sewage sludge cake that evidence shows to be safe and beneficial used correctly.
The Organic sector needs to grow up and embrace an evidence led approach. It is the only way to maximise benefit, and eliminate inadvertent harm.

the biofarmer December 18, 2013 at 7:38 am

“sewage sludge cake that evidence shows to be safe and beneficial used correctly.”

Again , what does evidence have to do with it?

Accreditation is simply a QA scheme for consumers , who define what quality they will accept. The consumer is always right.
If the consumer says no sewage sludge cake then those are the rules.
It doesn’t have to be rational; it is their own money , and they can spend it as they wish.

I acknowledge the apparent irony of a bunch of city dwellers , living an arguably unsustainable existence, being in a position to dictate the terms of those wanting to practice “organic” agriculture, but the fact is that the original impetus for “organic” agriculture (i.e. – sustainability) was lost a long time ago .
Or at least, sustainability was never a requirement that was written into organic protocols , possibly because it was just too hard, it being always relative. (until the sun goes out)

the biofarmer December 14, 2013 at 8:11 am

” pastoral farmers in Godzone obtain the bulk of their mineral nitrogen from (in the first place) the atmosphere?
But you must be aware that this is decreasingly the case.”

We might argue about which is the more sustainable, and we might not agree which method is preferable in the long run.

It depends to a large extent on the price received for the production.
If I receive the highest prices , at sufficient yields , for a method which entails no direct purchase of nitrogen fertiliser , would I be the more sustainable?

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 9:53 am

“… for a method which entails no direct purchase of nitrogen fertiliser …”
Do you know how much fixed nitrogen crosses your farm gate inward in feed, livestock, supplements and permitted fertilisers/soil additives/manures? Do you know how much fixed N crosses out as milk and livestock? You will also have inputs from any N fixing plants in your sward, and some from the atmosphere (lightning strikes). As your soil does not retain Nitrate, that not taken up by plants is going to be leached or lost to the atmosphere – diffuse nutrient pollution.
“… would I be the more sustainable?” Only if the evidence shows you are more sustainable. Perhaps the organic sector could fund a mass balance assessment for N and P so if any sustainability benefit were there, it could be identified. Far better than just claiming you are better because you don’t directly purchase mineral N fertiliser.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

“Do you know how much fixed nitrogen crosses your farm gate inward in feed, livestock, supplements and permitted fertilisers/soil additives/manures? ”

Yes. None!

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 12:32 pm

“Yes. None!” Great, but then you are an outlier, and any significant adoption of your farming model would require lots more land that is at present providing us with different goods and benefits (woodland, arable, habitat etc). The cost of dairy would go up and/or consumption reduce. Both not bad things in and of themselves, but this endpoint could be better served by targeting more intensive production than yours, at land systems that are not sensitive to the production. Tools to look at the land this way are already being developed, and I know the NZ ag research sector is up to speed with efforts such as Psychic

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 3:20 pm

” . . . this endpoint could be better served by targeting more intensive production than yours”.

You lost me there.
What endpoint?

“any significant adoption of your farming model would require lots more land “.

Why? This production model can continue indefinitely.

Are you arguing for less sustainable options?

I can intensify , but at the cost of less resilience and loss of biodiversity.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 3:31 pm

It is interesting that your link focuses on phosphorus and particulates. In NZ these two are the major problems with degradation of waterways, but the public is obsessed with faecal coliforms which are at low levels by world standards, and with NO3-, which is very low compared to other countries where intensive agriculture is practised. The Thames has nitrate at about 70 times the concentration commonly found in our most “polluted” rivers.

NZ is a hilly country , and soil erosion/phosphorus loss is the most important thing to be addressed in the clean up of the water, but it receives the least attention.
So I see that little will be achieved in the medium term.

In all media articles about river pollution it is compulsory to show a photograph of a cow (usually a beef breed) drinking from a stream, and to infer that this is the big problem.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 3:34 pm

“An outlier . .”

I’m inclined , as a long-time dairy farmer, with a good knowledge of all aspects of the industry, to take that as a compliment.

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 9:47 pm

“You lost me there. What endpoint?” higher prices and/or reduced consumption of dairy. It was all the way off in the previous sentence.
“Why? This production model can continue indefinitely.” but if your farming system were more widely adopted by the NZ dairy sector, either output would drop or more land would have to be in dairy production.
“Are you arguing for less sustainable options?” No, I am arguing for the most sustainable option, BATNEEC, an evidence based targeting of land management based on the capacity of land to accommodate and the sensitivity of receptors. Organic, by not following an evidence based approach, excludes itself from this approach, squandering the motivation of so many practitioners and customers.
As for the link, it focuses on phosphate and particles as it is part of a larger research effort. As a hint, the project number PE0202 is the 2nd project of the 2nd Phosphate programme. Last time I looked Nitrate was up to programme 25, add to that pathogens, ammonia, Nitrite – you get the picture. I pointed you to Psychic as it is one example of assessing the landscape, and the passage of a nutrient through it.
“… but the public is obsessed with faecal coliforms …” someone in intensive care after going for a swim or the loss of a previously clean shellfish industry may drive that ‘obsession’. If a cow can reach a watercourse, it will deliver P to it, both directly (cow pat) and by eroding the bankside and land around the stream. It is an effective means of creating a pathway from pollutant to receptor.

the biofarmer December 16, 2013 at 7:30 am

“but if your farming system were more widely adopted by the NZ dairy sector, either output would drop or more land would have to be in dairy production.”

That does not follow.
Output is measured in dollars of export receipts.
I started out on this thread explaining that , but maybe you missed it.
NZ can reduce the land in dairy production, maintain the economic output , and reduce pollution, all at the same time .

That is the paradigm I outlined.
In brief it involved a move to year-round dairying outside at greatly reduced stocking rates and higher returns to farmers by added-value shelf stable (ice cream ; cultured foods) dairy products , returning approximately double the current milk price to the farmer.
That’s what I do. It is scaleable.
Nobody has so far argued the contrary.
Your turn.

the biofarmer December 16, 2013 at 7:34 am

” If a cow can reach a watercourse, it will deliver P to it, both directly (cow pat) and by eroding the bankside and land around the stream. It is an effective means of creating a pathway from pollutant to receptor.”

Of course but the effect is insignificant in comparison to the effect of hillside erosion which carries the phosphorus to the waterways where it remains.
We are not, in NZ , addressing the major (along with urban effluent) source of phosphorus enrichment of waterways.

Beaker December 18, 2013 at 1:31 am

Biofarmer “That does not follow. Output is measured in dollars of export receipts.” In the paradigm you outline the NZ dairy sector (a big important sector) progressively transitions to the boutique end of the market. I am not an economist but I am confident that economists would have reservations about such an approach.

“… but the effect is insignificant in comparison to the effect of hillside erosion which carries the phosphorus to the waterways…” But you address such impacts with evidence based solutions, for instance interrupting the path from erosion vulnerable hill side to watercourse with permanently vegetated strips that slow overland flow, trapping the sediment with its adsorbed P. Where evidence shows that cows accessing a watercourse is problematic (as it does in the UK, particularly the dairy rich SW, and as I understand in NZ also) that evidence should be acted on.
Sorry for saying evidence to you quite a lot, but it is important.

the biofarmer December 18, 2013 at 7:27 am

“In the paradigm you outline the NZ dairy sector (a big important sector) progressively transitions to the boutique end of the market. ”

That’s where we disagree then.
I believe that “clean green and fresh” is the mainstream of the world dairy market, and that milk powder manufacture is a “boutique” market that most countries only contemplate as a dumping ground for milk that cannot be sold as fresh “added-value ” products.

Talking though of boutique, how many countries in the world can produce clean , green and fresh added -value dairy products , outdoors all year round , using only pasture, with no nitrogen fertiliser needed, and with minimal impact on the environment?
That might be a niche within the mainstream market, rather than your description of ’boutique”.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 10:14 am

You really are skipping over the biology of the nitrogen cycle . . . the de-nitrifiers, ammonifiers etc.
There is more to be learned here of course; soil biology is not quite comprehensive as yet.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 10:27 am

And you are aware that nitrogen storage/loss in soils is related to Soil Organic Matter (which is why those emphasising the importance of soil carbon called their method organic farming).

“Nitrogen: A soil with 3% SOM contains about 3,000 pounds of total nitrogen per acre. Each percent
increase in SOM adds about 1,000 pounds of nitrogen per acre. Most of this nitrogen is unavailable
until it is mineralized by soil microbes.
Each percent increase in SOM would increase available
nitrogen by about 20 pounds per acre.

Gareth December 15, 2013 at 10:36 am

Soil biology is – complex. This I know, because as a truffle grower what goes on in the interaction between my trees, their mycorrhizae, the soil chemical and structural composition and the flora and fauna therein is of incredible importance. It’s also extremely difficult to tease out all the things contributing (or not) to successful production (or not).

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 10:38 am

How are your truffles doing? Any insights?
We are contemplating this culture .

Gareth December 15, 2013 at 10:50 am

Not too badly, thanks. We are the only small farm in NZ to produce all three commercially important species of cultivable truffle (the most expensive truffle, the Italian white, Tuber magnatum, has never been produced in commercial plantations, though many have tried/are trying). Check out our newsletters for the last season, archived at the farm blog:
…and if you’re serious about trying truffles, use the contact form there to take this discussion offline.

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm

Complex indeed Gareth, you may know about the NERC Sourhope research site in the Borders.
The diversity in the soil is still (ten years later) breathtaking. And these are soil organisms that we like to think that we understand through their functions, for instance N fixing.

the biofarmer December 15, 2013 at 11:03 am

Some comparisons here.

You can extrapolate ( from the tables included) using 0.75 cow/Ha with biological fixation INPUT at about 175Kg/ha, no other additions of N of significance, and OUTPUT of 4000l of milk/ Ha. (say 20Kg N/Ha at a guess)

bill December 13, 2013 at 10:57 pm

I’m going to pop in with one of my ‘favourite’* stats – around half the nitrogen in your body, dear reader, was manufactured in a Haber-Bosch process synthetic fertiliser plant.

Who are Haber and Bosch? The two most influential people you’ve never heard of

*i.e. I’m not celebrating it, but I am awed by it! The book, BTW, is an outstanding read. Highly recommended.

Thomas December 15, 2013 at 7:49 am


As a Physicist I would like to suggest a small change:

around half the nitrogen in your body, dear reader, was manufactured drawn from the atmosphere and made bio-available to your body in a Haber-Bosch process synthetic fertiliser plant.

Otherwise we would indeed speak about the “Alchemy” of Air… ;-)

Rob Taylor December 15, 2013 at 9:19 am

Yes, indeedy; not to detract from the importance of Haber & Bosch to humanity, but nitrogen is actually manufactured in supernovae explosions and the accretion disks of black holes…

Beaker December 15, 2013 at 10:11 am

And as the raw materials are air and water, production migrates to cheap energy. In the 90′s the former Soviet Union got heavily into Nitrate to add value to their natural gas. Now their gas is very valuable and well connected to hungry markets, the N fixing has gone off to countries like Saudi Arabia where without a pipeline to market their gas at the well head is very cheap.
Tax carbon properly and N fixing will migrate to the new cheap power, a distribution of small plants opportunisticly producing at low marginal cost when nuclear and intermittent renewable generation exceeds demand.
Fixed N is already being trialled as an energy store, ammonia being fed back into diesel generators.

Thomas December 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

Yes hat is very interesting indeed and could be a good use of intermittent energy.

noelfuller December 12, 2013 at 10:31 pm

Heard of perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA)? It’s a super GHG produced only by man. The Toronto Uni press release says nothing about its present density in the atmosphere. I wonder if it is used in my heatpump?

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is used as the baseline for comparison since it is the most important greenhouse gas responsible for human-induced climate change. “PFTBA is extremely long-lived in the atmosphere and it has a very high radiative efficiency; the result of this is a very high global warming potential. Calculated over a 100-year timeframe, a single molecule of PFTBA has the equivalent climate impact as 7100 molecules of CO2,” said Hong.

Ian Forrester December 13, 2013 at 6:59 am

Noel, the abstract claims an atmospheric concentration of 0.18 ppt. It also says that the instantaneous radiative efficiency is 0.86 W m−2 ppb−1. They claim a radiative forcing from PFTBA of 1.5 × 10−4 W m−2 caused by the increase in this chemical since the IR. It may indeed be the record for radiative forcing on a per molecule basis but its importance is really very very small.

I wonder if this paper is to somehow divert attention from CO2.

John ONeill December 13, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Sulphur hexafluoride is the greenhouse gas champion, I think. From Wikipedia -
‘According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, SF
6 is the most potent greenhouse gas that it has evaluated, with a global warming potential of 23,900[15] times that of CO
2 when compared over a 100-year period. Measurements of SF6 show that its global average mixing ratio has increased by about 0.2 ppt per year to over 7 ppt.[16] Sulfur hexafluoride is also extremely long-lived, is inert in the troposphere and stratosphere and has an estimated atmospheric lifetime of 800–3200 years.’
It used to be put into double glazed windows, which often leak in a year or so, and was used in the silicon chip industry, including for the manufacture of solar panels. You could probably fend off an ice age with one factory making the stuff ( should an ice age be imminent ), or terraform Mars with some serious output of it. In Europe it’s restricted to use in electrical transformers and such. In America they let it go for fun.

the biofarmer December 14, 2013 at 4:26 pm

I think that Bryce Johnson stands to be disappointed in calling for an “environment first” approach. Legislation will never be enacted if there is the slightest hint that it could compromise economic sustainability.

He is quoted as saying :-

” Dairying desperately needs a new model, starting from the environment and working up, rather than maximising production and making ineffectual environmental concessions. Reduced stocking rates with better-fed cows that live longer, get in-calf easier, suffer less disease and require less inputs, can be as profitable as the current high-stocking rate regime.”

In contrast , the biofarmer tried to argue that only a “market first” approach has any chance of being widely adopted.

the biofarmer December 16, 2013 at 7:42 am

Beaker, I think that you have a bee in your bonnet (are there still bees in England?) over this organic thing. Get over it :-)

Do you have an infestation of hippies in your area? Roma , perhaps?

We agree that it’s about sustainability; who gives a stuff about the unsustainable?
I don’t ; it goes away all by itself.

the biofarmer December 16, 2013 at 7:47 am

No mention of the initial destruction of the Lake Taupo ecosystem by the introduction of trout :-

George June 23, 2014 at 8:43 pm

Fed Farmers’ Vice President and spokesman Dr William Rolleston had an Op-Ed in the DomPost today,
He makes that noteworthy claim that whereas CO2 from farm animal methane is taken up by plants, CO2 from fossil fuels is cumulative.
Obviously this is wrong, plants don’t discriminate in any significant way between CO2 from different sources (isotopic carbon ratios aside).
To give him credit, he is making a point about the methane cycle, whereby plant -> ruminant -> methane -> CO2 -> plant. But this is deliberately misleading on his part — it is like reporting a company’s balance sheet only in terms of its income and ignoring its expenditure. Farming has a carbon budget like any other activity. Emissions figures for agriculture consider the entire budget, including fossil hydrocarbons used in fertiliser production and transport, absorption and emission by soil and grasslands, as well as ruminant emissions.
Rolleston admits that livestock farming is a net emitter when he says that “farmers already pay for their carbon-dioxide emissions in the current Emissions Trading Scheme.” If he were to be consistent with his misleading methane cycle argument, he would not admit to having any emissions to pay for.
NZ’s Emissions Trading Scheme is broken, at the current carbon price no-one can seriously claim that it pays for their emissions. If livestock emissions are as low as he claims them to be, Rolleston shouldn’t have any worry about farming coming into a Carbon Tax at full tariff. What he reveals in his Op-Ed is that Federated Farmers are simply a gang of polluters who don’t want to pay for their mess.
The best argument he can come up with is that apparently all other producers around the world are more polluting than NZers. Just because other people may be worse, does not itself grant a right to pollute.
Apparently Fed Farmers membership only accounts for a small percent of farmers in NZ. I hope the majority are more understanding of their environmental responsibilities.

andyS June 23, 2014 at 9:21 pm

No, William Rolleston is completely correct that the methane carbon dioxide loop is a closed one. When he says that the farmers already pay their fair share via the ETS, he is referring to the fossil fuels that go into running a farm, not the emissions directly from cattle

Thomas June 24, 2014 at 6:57 am

Once again AndyS demonstrates that he has no comprehension whatsoever of the issue: “No, William Rolleston is completely correct that the methane carbon dioxide loop is a closed one.”
Has it ever occurred to you AndyS that all the land on which now Ruminants convert grass to methane with abandon once were carbon sink forests?
The huge number of animals raised on the same lands now results in a significant additional burden – world wide – of GHG emissions.
AndyS, as sooo many times: Before putting finger to keyboard to boast about what you think you know, why don’t you do some research first? It would prevent you from looking like a dork so often…

Agriculture is the third largest contributor to global emissions by sector, following the burning of fossil fuels for power and heat, and transportation.

andyS June 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

Naturally, it did occur to me before putting fingers to keyboard that there may have been forests where there is now grazing land.

It also occurs to me that a thousand years ago, there weren’t any mammals in NZ, other than the fruit bat

Nevertheless, it also occurred to me, before putting fingers to keyboard, that methane breaks down into CO2 and water in a decade or so, which given that is where it came from in the first place, doesn’t add to the net stock of methane in the medium term.

Perhaps you could put your fingers to the keyboard and let me know (preferably in the most patronising way possible) why you think this might be incorrect?

Gareth June 24, 2014 at 9:43 am

There are not now, nor have there ever been, fruit bats in New Zealand.

Your biology is obviously as good as your climate science.

andyS June 24, 2014 at 9:58 am

Short tailed bats that eat fruit, to be more specific, then

We say “land without teeth” because New Zealand has no native land mammals. Except of course, that creature of the night, the bat. We have two native species of bat in New Zealand, the long-tailed and the short-tailed bat.
Short-tailed bats are amazing because instead of heading to the sky to feed on insects like most bats around the world (including the long-tailed bats), they swoop out of their colonies at night, fly DOWN to the ground, fold up their wings, and scrabble around on the forest floor on their elbows, eating nectar, invertebrates and fruit. Bizarre bat behaviour indeed, unless of course you evolved in New Zealand, the land without teeth, without native rodents, and therefore the forest floor provides a veritable smorgasbord of culinary delights.

Rob Taylor June 24, 2014 at 10:57 am

What, pray, do you mean by “the medium term”, Andy?

10^3, 10^4, 10^5, 10^6 years, or longer?

Like, in the medium term, our sun will become a red giant and destroy the Earth?

andyS June 24, 2014 at 11:00 am

By medium term I refer to the few years we have been engaged in agriculture.

Of course, if you wish to impose a carbon tax on methane emissions in NZ, and be the only country in the world to do so, be my guest.

As the article states, NZ has some of the most carbon efficient agriculture in the world, and by imposing a carbon tax on agriculture, you will end up offshoring that production to less efficient regimes.

Rob Taylor June 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm

We have been engaging in deforestation and agriculture for 10^4 years, Andy….

Please can you try not to be so ingenuous in future?

andyS June 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm

10^4 is “few” in geological terms

Macro June 24, 2014 at 10:12 pm

That’s why geologists are now referring to the “anthropocene” because humans are changing the Earth so dramatically – way more quickly than natural processes.

Macro June 24, 2014 at 11:39 am

Just for clarities sake – “New Zealand has only two native land mammals, and they are both bats – the long-tailed bat (Chalinolobus tuberculatus) and the lesser short-tailed bat (Mystacina tuberculata). They have bodies the size of a person’s thumb (5–6 centimetres from nose to tail) and a wingspan of nearly 30 centimetres. The Māori name for both species is pekapeka.”
“They are the only bat species that forages for food on the ground, …Lesser short-tailed bats feed on almost anything, including insects, fruit, pollen, seeds and nectar. They often scurry around on the ground like small mice, fossicking under leaf litter in search of bugs. They rely on sound and smell to locate food on the ground, but use echolocation to catch flying prey. They do not usually fly until well after dusk, and typically stay within 10 metres of the ground.”
So bats “yes” – fruit bats “no”.

Thomas June 24, 2014 at 5:46 pm

No Andy, you do not comprehend the issue.
Let me make it clearer still: With much of NZ’s land now used for grazing, we are creating a very active carbon cycle loop with a lot of Methane and additional CO2 airborne compared to the pre-grazing times.
Even if, in principle, the grazing cycle is a closed carbon cycle, the fact remains that due to the intensive grazing we now have we are placing a significant (compared to the rest our emissions) extra burden of Methane and CO2 into the loop. Lets not forget N2O either! Having a loop as such is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card as the speed or level of activity at which you drive that loop causes significant extra CO2 and Methane being airborne at any given time.
I guess this simple insight has been lost to you and also Mr. Rolleston.

andyS June 24, 2014 at 6:06 pm

No Thomas, you do not understand the issue. Let me make it clearer

Yes, I acknowledge that without humans in NZ, the country would have looked somewhat different

However, for a given herd size the methane-CO2 loop does not change the atmospheric composition over the long term

This is different to burning fossil fuels, which increases the stock of CO2 over time.

Lets’ not forget N02 either!
Lets not forget CFCs either!

Having a loop as such is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card as the speed or level of activity at which you drive that loop causes significant extra CO2 and Methane being airborne at any given time.

However, if the speed of that loop is not changing, then the composition of Co2 and CH4 is not changing either.

Perhaps, before you put fingers to keyboard, you could learn some elementary chemistry and stop looking like a dork in front of your friends, Herr Thomas

I guess this simple insight has been lost to you.

Thomas June 25, 2014 at 7:23 am

Rubbish Andy, the world’s herds have been increasing roughly in line with population growth. And if you add into the equation that farming ruminants converts in many countries carbon sink forests (South America, think Amazon for example) into grasslands with soil erosion and the release of soil stored carbon also, then you will agree that we are constantly growing the amount of airborne CO2 and Methane. For NZ this is a point in case if you look at the growth of the NZ pastoral farming over time, especially dairy and the large scale forest to dairy conversions we have seen.
While due to improvements in efficiency the per kg milk solid or meat emissions have dropped, overall we have been increasing our emissions steadily.

So not only have we world wide made the airborne CO2 and Methane from pastoral farming larger, we have also removed carbon sinks or, especially in the case of the Amazon, released stored soil carbon also.

andyS June 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

From your MfE link

Absolute emissions from agriculture have increased however the emissions intensity of agriculture produce in New Zealand has decreased. Between 1990 and 2012 these improvements have led to an 22 per cent decrease in emissions from dairy cattle per kilogram of milk solids (an annual average reduction of 1.2%); a 25 per cent reduction in sheep emissions per kilogram sheep meat (an annual average reduction of 1.4%); and a 24 per cent reduction in beef emissions per kilogram of beef (an annual average reduction of 1.3%) (Figure 1).

andyS June 25, 2014 at 10:58 am

From AR4, chapter

Emissions from anthropogenic sources remain the major contributor to atmospheric CH4 budgets. Global emissions are likely not to have increased since the time of the TAR, as nearly zero growth rates in atmospheric CH4 concentrations have been observed with no significant change in the sink strengths.

I don’t have the AR5 version of this to hand

Beaker June 24, 2014 at 6:44 am

Farmers tend to be well aware of the Mass Balance approach and accounting for what crosses the ‘farm gate’ in and out. For a Vice President and spokesman to have committed these errors to an article suggest duplicity, incompetence or perhaps both.

George June 25, 2014 at 12:51 pm

[1] The improved greenhouse gas efficiency of NZ agriculture since 1990 is a great result and we should all view it positively. From the producer’s point of view it also means less carbon tax to pay per unit of production. Well done. (
[2] People should still pay for their pollution. It’s been costed out by BERL and even the lowest decile dairy farms will remain well above break-even in the face of an emissions levy. (
[3] andyS hasn’t changed in three years apart from the avatar. (
[4] The thing that matters is net emissions and William Rolleston is wilfully blind to this. He joins the large cast of motivated misinformers of science. What a shame.

andyS June 25, 2014 at 1:00 pm

The improved greenhouse gas efficiency of NZ agriculture since 1990 is a great result and we should all view it positively

Which is why, NZ alone in the entire world should tax its farmers and result cause production to be offshored to less efficient regimes.

George June 25, 2014 at 2:13 pm

See [2] above. No need for alarm.

Gareth June 25, 2014 at 3:27 pm

Blame the international agreements on emissions. The Kyoto rule framework makes no exceptions for ag emissions in any form. Ag accounts for ≈50% of NZ emissions, so not including those emissions in domestic policy amounts to a direct subsidy to farmers because the rest of the economy has to pay those costs.

If future international agreements were to exclude ruminant emissions, then there would be no issue with excluding that portion of ag emissions from domestic policy.

I would not be hugely averse to that, to be honest, because they are a tiny part of the global emissions picture, and it’s much more important to get fossil carbon under control.

I would not be in favour of excluding NOx emissions, however, because we have a big problem in NZ (and globally) with nitrification caused by excess nitrogen entering ecosystems. Nor am I in favour of continuing unfettered growth in the dairy business in NZ, for lots of reasons.

andyS June 25, 2014 at 6:31 pm

Funnily enough, I agree with much of that. Particularly the last paragraph

Rob Taylor June 24, 2014 at 4:58 am

Nonsense, Andy, that’s no different from saying that fossil fuel emissions are a closed loop, as they will eventually, over millions of years, be absorbed back into the Earth via geological processes.

A fraction of all CO2 emitted (including that resulting from the decomposition of methane from ruminants) remains airborne for millenia, as I’m sure you are well aware.

Unfortunately, we can’t afford to wait that long.

Meanwhile, even Hank Paulson (remember him?) is calling for a carbon tax:

Thomas June 24, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Andy: Go and get your $10,000 reward! If you can that is….
Surely for a person like yourself with so much conviction behind the idea that AGW is not real, this should be an easy $10,000 to grab. You could even team up with Treadgold, Brill and Co and see if you can earn $10,000 towards the legal costs of your side of the battle against NIWA… Now that would be a ‘charitable’ deed (and a headline to be beholden): Anti Climate Science Trust earns $10,000 by employing the scientific method to earn $10,000 in bet and uses the proceeds to lessen their legal fees areas incurred in quixotic battle against countries foremost climate science institute… ;-)

andyS June 24, 2014 at 7:37 pm

Great idea Thomas ;-)
I can get $10,000 if I disprove the theory

Remind me again ;-)

What is the theory? ;-)

Thomas June 24, 2014 at 9:38 pm

Ah, yes, I realize, you ain’t got what it takes, in fact, you don’t even know what we are talking about… :-)

Thomas June 24, 2014 at 9:44 pm

Oh Andy, here is a little reminder: May 2014 was the hottest May globally ever and 2014 is on track to become hottest year ever so far….
Thats Andy, what it is about……

andyS June 25, 2014 at 9:34 am

Conjecture A.

The Earth is heating up at an unprecedented and dangerous pace

Proof: May 2014 was the hottest May globally since records began (150 years ago?)


Conjecture B

Pizza will cause a catastrophic and unstoppable obesity epidemic

Proof: I saw a fat guy leaving Pizza Hut


Thomas June 25, 2014 at 9:46 pm

Oh, that’s rich Andy:
The whole (almost) narrative of the denilerati of late has been this so-called global warming pause which, according to said denilerati, should be reason to sincerely doubt the AGW theory…

Of cause as your Pizza comparison aptly shows, this is nonsense. And yes, another blown record in the historic temp record is no proof, but, and this is significant, when seen in the context of the historic temp series, surface and ocean (and related series such as Arctic sea ice volume etc), it is another data point that extends the pattern and adds to the mountain of evidence we have.
And if global surface temps should indeed add a new max for this year and perhaps the next, as the ocean heat content makes itself felt, this surface warming “pause” you so love (love makes blind did you not know) will melt away also….

Back to your Pizza picture: If the median body mass index of people coming out of the Pizza place is statistically significantly higher than that of the average population, then you may have some evidence for some relationship….

Btw: when will we see a preview of your $10,000 paper to disprove AGW? We are so spellbound….

andyS June 25, 2014 at 9:50 pm

I’ll be spellbound when you claim your $10,000 to prove AGW that has been offered.

Yes we hope that El Niño arrives and gives your theory a much needed leg up too.

So, file up the mountain of evidence that Co2 is causing dangerous global warming, send it off and claim your money. It is rightly yours.

bill June 26, 2014 at 1:00 am

You’re losing it, andy. As is obvious to anyone reading the above.

I’ve asked you before what you imagine you’re achieving here. I still wonder…

andyS June 26, 2014 at 6:47 am

Bill, someone has offered $10000 for anyone who can prove that most of the warming in the last 50 years is caused by CO2

My link never gets past moderation, so google it for yourself and take the money.

The evidence is overwhelming, it must be like stealing from a kid.

Personally I find these arguments puerile.
AGW is not a true or false proposition, so I don’t rise to the challenge.

bill June 26, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I did. Saw nothing. Who the hell is this ‘someone’? They clearly already owe that money to the IPCC – it’ll add a nice bump to the Nobel cash.

And, I repeat, I have the IPCC, NOAA, NIWA, the BoM, the Met Office, and all the world’s academies of science on my side. You have a handful of ideologically motivated renegades, an ocean of cranks, noise and distraction.

bill June 24, 2014 at 11:31 pm

Remind me again. What is the theory?

Meeting your usual standard on obdurate incomprehension, andy? It’s fascinating that none of you muppets has been willing to take up the challenge – well, a couple have tried, but their ideas, have been frankly, a little, um, crankish. And Monckers just popped by and spouted a lot of Latin, because that proves he’s a very, very clever chap, don’chaknow?

And yet, as the man says, you lot keep saying it’s all so easy.

Maybe you should reassemble the court-case team, since they’re, y’know, brilliant (more brilliant than NIWA, anyway!), and then use the inevitable winnings to reimburse taxpayers. Just a thought.

andyS June 25, 2014 at 8:37 am

I don’t know what your theory is. The IPCC don’t state it
The IPCC claim that “most” of the warming since 1950 is “likely” caused by greenhouse gas emissions.

Is that the theory that you want me to disprove? Maybe it is correct? What does it mean for the rest of this century?

How can anyone disprove a “theory” that is couched in such vague terms?

bill June 25, 2014 at 12:00 pm

Yawn. Still dissembling andy?

One rather wonders why you’re here at all, then. Let’s face it; your behaviour is inconsistent with your – really rather contemptible – claim. Global warming is real, dangerous, and we’re causing it; why can’t you – or any of your fellow-travellers – establish it’s ‘not warming’ or it’s ‘not us’? Even when there’s ‘easy money’ at stake?

I think the point is to prove that you lot are a lot like the folks – dowsers, astrologers, homeopaths etc. – who can never manage to claim James Randi’s $million despite their absolute conviction that they possess supernatural powers… and their armies of credulous followers…

andyS June 25, 2014 at 12:03 pm

You want me to prove that the zero degrees of global warming that we have had this century is real, dangerous, and caused by us.

Ok, I’ll get back to you on that

Ian Forrester June 25, 2014 at 2:31 pm

More lies and misinformation from andyS. Here is a graph of warming since 2000:

I’ve even used data from two well known pseudo skeptics to show how wrong you are. Their data show a rate of temperature increase of 0.09 K per decade. Seems to me that is a lot more than the “zero degrees” you are spouting out.

And just for your information, scientists who are a lot more knowledgeable and honest than you know that the increase is mostly, if not all, caused by humans.

andyS June 25, 2014 at 12:16 pm

Maybe Bill, you’d like to step up to the plate and prove why “global warming is real, dangerous, and caused by us”..

$10,000 awaits you

bill June 25, 2014 at 2:44 pm

No, it doesn’t, does it? Relational logic really isn’t a strong suit, is it? Ironically.

I have the entire IPCC, and the peer-reviewed literature, to back my position.

You, on the other hand, have the kind of sciencey, noisy ‘backing’ common to homeopaths and dowsers. And creationists.

What you’re doing here is acting as a footsoldier of reaction; keeping up the noise to try to obscure the facts from the public. With more success than any of you deserve. As shown here.

This global misinformation campaign is shaping up to be history’s most Pyrrhic victory. No-one, and I do mean no-one, is going to thank you for this in the future.

And that’ll be the least of their responses…

noelfuller June 26, 2014 at 1:26 am

Astrologers: one predicted that at a certain time I would receive an unexpected financial increase. I picked up a £1 note off the seabed – probably the same one the Scotsman lost before he found a sixpence!

Our Government claims the Green carbon tax will wreck the economy. Consider our Government’s view, embodied in law, that Climate change may not be taken into consideration with respect to the Resource Management Act because out placebo ETS deals with that. Does tyhe Astrolerger have more credibility than our Government with respect to Climate Change.

Supernatural powers: I extracted money from our government one time over and above regular legal entitlements. :)

What of people who believe that refusing to face the evidence that the action of greenhouse gasses is key to maintaining or changing our planet’s temperature and therefore climate will somehow make things all right? Surely they believe in supernatural powers?

andyS June 26, 2014 at 7:04 am

It’s amazing that after all these years, no one seems to understand the basic sceptic arguments about feedbacks, climate sensitivity, etc.

Doesn’t require astrologers,

CTG June 26, 2014 at 1:03 pm

Which basic argument would that be? The one that says there hasn’t been any warming at all, the one that says there has been warming but it’s due to UHI, the one that says it has been warming but it’s the sun, the one that says it has been warming and it’s CO2, but it’s stopped now, or the one that says we’re about to go into another ice age?

Actually, astrologers would be quite useful to work out exactly what you chaps are on about. It’s certainly beyond the understanding of rational people.

andyS June 26, 2014 at 1:12 pm

The same argument that the IPCC use.

Thomas June 26, 2014 at 3:35 pm

Now come on Andy, CTG phrased a very well put question. What is that grand theory of yours that explains the observed changes in earth’s heat content, explains why the known effects of GHG are not to blame and how they are neutralized somehow, and makes a forecast of where things go against which we can measure your theory?
Surely, after all these years you will have THAT worked out? ;-)

andyS June 26, 2014 at 3:39 pm

Are you referring to the 0.3 degrees of warming that occurred between 1976 and 1998?

(i.e the “most’ of the warming that the IPCC attribute to AGW?)

It would really be nice for you to define your problem in numerical terms

Anyway, Thomas, I thought you’d be getting your mountain of evidence off to Scotland to claim your $10,000

CTG June 26, 2014 at 4:07 pm

So you’re saying that ECS is likely to be in the range 1.5°C to 4.5°C, and extremely unlikely to be less than 1°C, is that it?

Or are you thinking about a completely different IPCC?

andyS June 26, 2014 at 4:10 pm

The IPCC lower bound is 1.5 degrees C. Last time it was 2 degrees, so maybe in AR6 it will be one degree.

So I think it’s a bit premature to say “extremely unlikely” that it is 1 degree

bill June 26, 2014 at 8:59 pm

The IPCC lower bound is 1.5 degrees C. Last time it was 2 degrees, so maybe in AR6 it will be one degree.

andy can has a trend detected! Science-y! That’ll show those people who wondered what you were doing at Cambridge…

CTG June 27, 2014 at 8:50 am

So, not the same argument as the IPCC, then. The wording “extremely unlikely” for the lower bound to be less than 1° is directly from AR5, as you know very well. Misrepresenting that as being likely to move to 1° or less is very dishonest of you, as usual, andy.

andyS June 27, 2014 at 9:03 am


So I am “misrepresenting” the IPCC, and I am dishonest.

How, exactly?

andyS June 27, 2014 at 1:25 pm

So, not the same argument as the IPCC, then. The wording “extremely unlikely” for the lower bound to be less than 1° is directly from AR5, as you know very well. Misrepresenting that as being likely to move to 1° or less is very dishonest of you, as usual, andy

Nice try. I never said anything about anything being likely or unlikely. I said that it is premature to make assumptions given that the goalposts have moved since AR4 and AR5

I get a bit sick of people making up statements that I didn’t make and then calling me “dishonest” for making these statements that I didn’t make

CTG June 27, 2014 at 7:30 pm

Contradicting yourself within 4 posts – that has to be a new record for you, andy. And we are all mightily sick of you misrepresenting the science, so if you would just stop that it would be just dandy.

As you are playing dumb, I will spell it out. The IPCC says that ECS of less than 1° is extremely unlikely. You say that it is likely. Therefore, you are not using the same argument as the IPCC.

Macro June 27, 2014 at 7:45 pm

I’ve been reading this exchange andy and it does seem here:
“So I think it’s a bit premature to say “extremely unlikely” that it is 1 degree”
that that is exactly what you mean especially when you go on to say
” so maybe in AR6 it will be one degree.”
The words “extremely unlikely” are defined by the IPCC for those who lack statistical backgrounds as – “less than a 5% chance”. That is, there is less than 5% chance that global warming will be less than 1.5 Degrees.

To say you agree with the IPCC and then say that warming could be as little as 1 degree is being extremely disingenuous.

CTG June 27, 2014 at 7:48 pm

I have to say, andy’s latest tone-trolling reminds me of the old Tommy Cooper joke:

I went to the Doctor, and said “Doctor, it hurts when I do this” [raises arm above his head]. The Doctor said, “so don’t do it”.

andy, if you are sick of being accused of being dishonest, then stop being dishonest. It’s easy if you try.

Macro June 27, 2014 at 8:26 pm

“The use and abuse of statistics” is a book that is an oldie but a goodie. I strongly recommend andy read it sometime concentrating on how statistics might be used and not abused.

Rob Taylor June 24, 2014 at 8:19 pm

Whoo-hoo! Free money, folks!

C’mon Andy, Monckton, Watts, Nova et al, what have you got to lose?

Just fire up your trusty zero-point-energy-powered perpetual motion machines and rock on down to collect the inevitable fruits of your astounding genius!

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