Adapting agriculture to a changing climate

This is a guest post by Dr Gavin Kenny1, a New Zealand scientist who has worked on agricultural adaptation to climate change in NZ and world wide. He has a very interesting and informed perspective on the sorts of things NZ agriculture should be doing to address climate change as it happens — exactly the sort of conversation we need to have on this big issue. The article first appeared in the agriculture section at Stuff.co.nz last week.

For more than 20 years I have worked professionally on the “what ifs” of climate change, focused mostly on what it might mean for agriculture. I’ve done this work in New Zealand, Europe, the Pacific Islands and Asia. During that time I have experienced the progression from the hypothetical to real-world responses. Climate change, particularly as experienced through more frequent drought and flood events, is increasingly influencing what farmers are doing in many countries. It is not clear whether this is yet the case in New Zealand, but I suspect so.

With a record summer drought just behind us, and with negative and positive effects that will continue to unfold for farmers, it is relevant to ask: What if we get more frequent and intense droughts in the future? How might farming change and how might those changes affect wider society?

Continue reading “Adapting agriculture to a changing climate”

  1. Gavin has a PhD in agricultural meteorology, managed a European Union climate change project at Oxford University in the early 1990s, followed by eight years with a research group at University of Waikato. He has worked independently since 2001. []

Tackling agricultural emissions: the NZ story

In this guest post, Josh Pemberton, an intern at Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, describes the Ag Dialogue exercise Motu ran last year. This interesting and thought-provoking short film exploring what reducing emissions really means for New Zealand’s farming communities was one result.

New Zealand is, in many ways, an unusual country. We pride ourselves on punching above our weight in international relations and sport; but we cherish the fact that we are a small and uncrowded nation, happily occupying our own little corner of the earth. We admire our rugby and Olympic heroes yet our national symbols are relatively innocuous: an upside down fern frond (the upper side of a silver fern is, of course, green) and a flightless, nocturnal bird. It must say something about our mentality that in recent years we treated an unshorn sheep like a national celebrity, and that a shortage of our favourite spread triggered panic-buying and created ongoing headlines.

Something else which is unusual about New Zealand — considering that we’re a developed nation — is that agriculture is responsible for almost half of our greenhouse gas emissions. Agriculture is, of course, vitally important to our economy – providing jobs and crucial export dollars. These two factors together give rise to a tension which can inhibit conversation about the effect of agriculture on the environment. It’s easy to end up with “naïve greenies” and “conservative farmers” (as they may perceive each other to be) talking past one another, and missing an opportunity to make real progress.

In the past two years, Motu Research has sought to increase the quality of the conversations that people are having on this topic. Motu set up and ran the Ag Dialogue group, bringing together farmers, scientists, iwi, government representatives and other experts to talk through issues around greenhouse gas emissions. There was no specific output in mind, although the Dialogue did catalyse a significant amount of research by Motu economists. The Dialogue also led Motu to release The New Zealand Farming Story: Tackling Agricultural Emissions, the short film embedded above.

Continue reading “Tackling agricultural emissions: the NZ story”

NZ climate policy shambles, and other summer reading

It’s summer down south, and New Zealand’s politicians have embarked on their summer break. It’s summer in Waipara too, and with yesterday topping 30ºC and today heading in the same direction, your blogger has immediate climate concerns of an irrigation and vine management nature to attend to. So, with apologies for what may turn out to be less frequent posting over the next few weeks, here’s a quick round-up of stuff worth reading.

The NZ government will be relieved to be heading to the beaches after being battered by a hail of criticism for their climate policies over the last week. Brian Fallow, the NZ Herald‘s economics editor, was especially direct in his dissection of NZ’s climate policy settings post-Doha:

The Government’s climate change policy is a shambles and a disgrace. Unless, that is, you are happy for the costs of the inevitable adjustment to a low-carbon future to be needlessly increased and pushed onto the young, in which case it is doing a great job.

Gareth Morgan joined in, calling for the government to come clean about what its policies really mean:

Continue reading “NZ climate policy shambles, and other summer reading”

Seven keys to green growth in NZ: Pure Advantage’s new economic analysis

Last week business lobby group Pure Advantage launched [Herald, Stuff] a specially commissioned report, Green Growth: Opportunities for New Zealand, which presents, they say, “an exhaustive, objective economic argument for embracing green growth”. The report was produced by a London-based economics consultancy in conjunction with the University of Auckland Business School, and is the culmination of two years work to identify the most effective ways of implementing green growth business strategies in NZ.

Launching the report, Pure Advantage (PA) chairman Rob Morrison said:

We firmly believe on the basis of this significant macroeconomic report that New Zealand has the potential to generate billions of dollars in new high-value economic growth, whilst at the same time improving New Zealand’s environmental performance.

Morrison said that PA intends to use the report as “a basis to establish, in consultation with industry, seven industry-specific green growth programmes”. The seven key ‘advantages’ are (links go to PA web explanations):

  1. Home Advantage: Retrofitting an efficient building environment;
  2. Geothermal Advantage: Creating a significant geothermal export industry
  3. Agricultural Advantage:
    Investing in sustainable and efficient agricultural technologies
  4. Waste-to-Energy Advantage: Installing bio-energy and waste-to-energy infrastructure
  5. Biofuel Advantage: Establishing a woody mass biofuel and bio-products industry
  6. Smart Grid Advantage: Installing the building blocks of a smart grid
  7. Biodiversity Advantage: Establishing a world-class biodiversity driven ecotourism and conservation education programme.

PA note that the report was “not driven by environmental idealism or fear of climate change”, yet the recommendations look a lot like the sort of joined up thinking on environment and emissions policy that has been so lacking from the present government. By making the business case for green growth, perhaps PA can start a bottom-up change of economic direction that will do for NZ what the government will not. It’s certainly a worthwhile effort, but while there are other lobby groups out there promoting rampant population growth as the way to stop economic decline, it will continue to be an uphill struggle.

Will the last business lobbyist to leave please turn out the light at the end of the ETS tunnel

turn out the light at the end of the tunnelIn this post Simon Johnson aka Mr February channels his inner General Westmoreland and his Vietnam flashbacks to look at National’s latest change to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme (NZETS). Parliament has just (8 November) passed amendments that indefinitely defer any greenhouse gas obligations for agriculture and indefinitely discount obligations to industries.This is a ‘last helicopters off the Saigon hotel roof’ point in the sad history of the always-doomed-to-fail New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.

According to cultural folklore the humiliating end of American engagement in the Vietnam war was foreshadowed by graffiti;

Will the last person out of the tunnel please turn out the light?

Or perhaps:

Would the last Marine to leave Vietnam please turn out the light at the end of the tunnel?

This was in frank contrast to the early (with hindsight, unjustified) optimism of General Westmoreland, who had said in 1968 that he could see the light at the end of the tunnel of the war in Vietnam.

So why am I writing about graffiti from a war that ended 37 years ago? Well, to make a ‘bonkers’ analogy with the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme, of course! Getting the NZETS established was of course more or less a civil war, and when the Labour Government in its final days in office in late 2008 finally coalesced a coalition of compromise to pass the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading) Amendment Act 2008, it seemed there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ in terms of reducing GHG emissions.

However, with the adoption last Thursday afternoon (8 November) of National’s latest emitter-inspired fiddle; the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Act, I believe we can now just be honest with ourselves and see the latest amendments to the NZETS as the last helicopter off the hotel roof and the last act of the NZ emissions trading approach, which was futile from the beginning.

Continue reading “Will the last business lobbyist to leave please turn out the light at the end of the ETS tunnel”