Nick Smith’s statistical massage

This is one of the slides used by the Minister for the Environment in the climate change target consultation presentation.

Click for larger image.

The bar graph showing percentage emissions change for sectors between 1990 and 2007 serves to focus attention on the electricity sector, where the emissions have grown over 90% in that time.

But astute readers will notice that the energy half of our emissions is broken down into sub-sectors (electricity, transport, etc.), while the agriculture half is broken down into gases. Why the double-standard? It’s partly technical, but it serves to hide some key areas of emissions growth that we need to deal with.

If you break agriculture into its sub-sectors, you are confronted by the sacred cow of New Zealand ghgs – the large increase in emissions from dairy farming.

You see, the modest looking 12% increase in agricultural emissions is made up of a large increase in dairy emissions, offset by significant decreases in emissions from sheep and beef cattle.

I checked the inventory and discovered that the increase in dairy emissions of enteric methane alone is 70% over the 1990-2007 period, about the same rate of increases as transport emissions, and not much less proportionally than electricity. (Unfortunately the inventory doesn’t break-down all ag emissions into sub-sectors so I don’t know how much NOx comes from dairy rather than sheep, for example.)

More importantly, the real increase in dairy methane emissions is 3.5MtCO2e, which is MORE than the real increase in electricity emissions of 3Mt – in fact, the difference is even greater because the dairy number is only methane (and NOx has increased much more than methane). So, in real terms, the increase in total emissions from dairy farming may well be nearly twice that of the increase in electricity emissions.

The structure of the graph means that one source is accentuated and another hidden: while the pie graph above indicates the relative proportions of each sector, the bar graph above only accounts for relative increases. A better graph is one that combines the two, such as this one in the inventory:

Click for larger image.

However, this doesn’t split energy and agriculture into sub-sectors, so it still hides the large increase in dairy emissions is hidden in the broad agriculture category. Hiding it in the statistics only delays dealing with it. I guess I’ll have to do my own…

Fortunately, the Minister did stand up to those who sought to completely ignore the science and significance of ag emissions at the Napier meeting last night.

Addendum: No Right Turn has crunched the numbers and done the graph I was seeking. Thanks.

Click for larger image.

37 thoughts on “Nick Smith’s statistical massage

  1. Valid point.

    I’ve been astounded across the all counsultation meetings Smith has constantly referred to the costs of climate action – referring to but never citeing the Infometrics report funded by NZ’s biggest polluters, but never talked about the economic costs of climate impacts (like the $500 impact on dairy farmers from the reccent Waikato drought) or the vast economic oportunities of taking action.

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  2. Even so, I would agree to an exclusion of farming from carbon tax regimes – if they had a required clean waterway standard (optimum fencing off of flocks and nutrient runoff protection) for all farms (the cost added to the farm debt and repaid when the farm was sold, if necessary the government raising the loan finance). Otherwise a developing best environment practice policy programme.

    The world market for milk and meat has no better source than grassland farming.

    We simply need to end our subsidy (lack of environment protection) for farming.

    PS

    How much of the increase in dairy methane emissions is offset by the reduction in sheep methane emissions?

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  3. I’ve crunched the numbers; graph here.

    And SPC, I agree entirely with the end of environmental subsidies for farming. but this also includes subsidising their emissions. Those emissions cause environmental damage, and farmers should pay the full cost of that damage. otherwise, we are simply engaged in a massive wealth transfer from the many to the few, while also encouraging pollution.

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  4. When the cows are in a barn, that the barn might be (at some cost) ventilated and the methane extracted.

    How long are the cows in a barn in NZ? Only for milking.

    How long does that take…. we could get a percentage reduction there. Keeping the cows in about an hour and 15 minutes a day would cut emissions by 5% with a need for a barn that could cope with only 5% of the herd at a time. Coincident with the milking.

    The downside is that farming practice where the cows are kept in shelter more of the time and fed whatever feed the farmer buys (rather than grass which they have to be free to graze) would gain a CO2 advantage over our herds.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  5. Nick Smith argued that carbon capture and claims for such by farmers couldn’t work unless farmers were willing to accept liability, should the wind blow soil away following ploughing, or floods wash topsoil away in floods. I was gob-smacked! farmers aren’t penalised by any authority now if their poor practices result in topsoil loss?????
    WTF!!!! THats’ areal crime.

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  6. Hmmm…. transport is very interesting. I think with Steven Joyce’s “throw all the money at motorways” transport policy we can expect that trend to continue.

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  7. bjchip: When the cows are in a barn, that the barn might be (at some cost) ventilated and the methane extracted.

    That’s what they’re doing in Europe. But our whole dairy system is based on keeping the cows “free range” and feeding them outdoors on grass. Which means we can’t control their emissions like that (or collect their waste and process it to prevent nitrous oxide emissions).

    Jarbury: Yup – though the rise in petrol prices had an effect in 2007, and there’ll be a few years where they stay fairly static.

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  8. I/S – yeah 2008 traffic volumes on state highways were well down on 2007 levels due to higher petrol prices, which probably had a good effect on emissions from the transport sector. Heavy vehicle volumes on state highways in May 2009 were also down by about 10% on the year before – largely due to the recession. This might also have some effect on transport sector emissions.

    It does make me wonder whether Nick Smith and Steven Joyce ever talk to each other. I can’t see anything in the government’s transportation policies at all that actually seeks to reduce CO2 emissions from that sector. In fact, the Government Policy Statement on transport said that a mode-shift from private vehicle reliance to a more balanced transport sector that happened too quickly might have some negative environmental effects.

    Ummm….. like what I wonder?

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  9. Those emissions cause environmental damage, and farmers should pay the full cost of that damage. otherwise, we are simply engaged in a massive wealth transfer from the many to the few, while also encouraging pollution.

    While farmers may well be paying the extra costs for those emmissions, the true payer will be the public, the costs are simply passed on to the consumer.

    I guess when the block of cheese costs $50 we might stop eating it and the farmers change from milk production to growing trees.

    But the truth is that ALL costs will be passed to the consumer. So the cost will ALWAYS be passed onto the many from the few.

    Unless you want to run state owned farms when the cost of the many will be paid by the many.

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  10. I’d be very surprised to find that Joyce is a BlueGreen, and could easily believe he and Nick talk little if at all.

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  11. I’d be very surprised to find that Joyce is a BlueGreen, and could easily believe he and Nick talk little if at all.

    I agree with that. I think Joyce spends most of his time with the Road Transport Forum actually.

    The transport sector does seem like one where significant cuts could be possible. It would require an enormous change of funding priorities away from building motorways and towards public transport – and also significant effort getting freight off trucks and onto rail (good thing we own the railways now huh?) but it could be done. In many ways that would be simpler than cutting emissions from energy generation or agriculture.

    The UK is offering significant subsidies on new electric vehicles to ensure that they can become affordable to more than just a tiny number of people. Compared to a few thousand pounds their government will knock of the purchase price of an electric vehicle, our removal of RUCs seems a bit feeble.

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  12. Thank you Idiot/Savant… I thought that might be the case. It suggests at least one change we MIGHT make.

    Even keeping PART of the herd in a barn (getting that waste gas and product for recycling) PART of the time gives a gain. It basically means enclosing areas, and shifting cows in and out during the day. Got to do it to milk them anyway, no?

    Free range except for a couple of hours a day.

    It is a cost, but it is not perhaps, an unbearable thing from the taxpayer perspective to not only require some such measure but to provide assistance in getting the needed structures built.

    respectfully
    B J

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  13. Jarbury: In fact, the Government Policy Statement on transport said that a mode-shift from private vehicle reliance to a more balanced transport sector that happened too quickly might have some negative environmental effects.

    Ummm….. like what I wonder?

    Reduced profits for oil companies. Which of course would be a Very Bad Thing.

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  14. Gerritt: Sure, the cost will be passed on to consumers. But in the process, we’ll find out what farmers really cost us, and through the market provide an incentive for them to clean their act up, in that cleaner production will be able to avoid those costs and thus either make higher profits or provide goods cheaper (or both).

    At present, we’re simply engaged in wealth transfer. If we internalise environmental costs, we can actually set about reducing them.

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  15. # idiot/savant Says:
    July 17th, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    > At present, we’re simply engaged in wealth transfer. If we internalise environmental costs, we can actually set about reducing them.

    And the foreigners who benefit from New Zealand farming by eating food from here will be paying the full costs associated with it, which they currently aren’t.

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  16. >>will be able to avoid those costs and thus either make higher profits or provide goods cheaper (or both)

    Much more likely go out of business, and we’ll be importing milk from Argentina.

    BTW:Seen what’s happening to the price of dairy farms lately?

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  17. Not if the Argies are signed on to the same target. That has ALWAYS been a condition.

    The price of dairy farms isn’t relevant. The sector got overbought when the price of milk went ballistic and now at more realistic levels it has to retreat.

    I have no idea what the “correct” value of those farms is, but it is almost a certainty that the banks weren’t doing the farmers any favors by making up justifications for outsized loans to buy them.

    BJ

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  18. >>Not if the Argies are signed on to the same target. That has ALWAYS been a condition.

    You have more faith in politicians than I.

    I don’t think they’ve got a hope of arranging equitable positions.

    Even now, we’re seeing the 40%ers demanding we do the “same” as Britain – they’re fixated on a number.

    They can’t see that some countries are more capable of cutting emissions (think near-redundant manufacturing/power infrastructure) than we are, because we never developed polluting infrastructure in the first place. Their economies aren’t based around that infrastructure.

    >>the “correct” value of those farms is,

    They’re in the c**p now. Loading further costs just sees that production shifting elsewhere. We lose.

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  19. BP

    You miss my position.

    We HAVE to try… and if equitable solutions aren’t negotiated we can always give up…

    I don’t expect to see agreements happen at all. I DO reckon we need to come up with a hefty decrease. Green Party policy is 30%, which is IMHO, going to fall short, but I can live with it and we then watch for signs that it didn’t work.

    I don’t expect them to agree on 30% OR 40%. I want an aggressive opening position because the negotiations are going to be rough no matter what.

    Anything less than 30% I have to reckon as more likely to fail than to succeed. Go with it but start some parallel work on adaptation immediately. At 18% or less I would regard the effort as a “failed-to-start”, unsupportable and we go for maximum adaptation. We have that option, we’ll have farmland above water and we have few enough people that we can PROBABLY feed them, and we’re in the middle of the southern ocean which is going to buffer us.

    The rest of the planet is not so lucky.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  20. So why are they getting so hostile when I say that 40% is nonsense. They’re not even serious about it themselves?

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  21. The only reason some dairy farms are in the cr@p (figuratively – the reason they’re in the cr@p literally is due to different factors) is because they bought overpriced farms and borrowed too much money to do so. By historic standards, payouts are still quite high.

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  22. BP

    Because it is not nonsense as a TARGET going into negotiations. Nor is it nonsense that we could meet such an obligation IF WE DECIDE TO DO SO. It’d be damned hard but it would be just as hard or harder for many of our trade competitors.

    We could argue reductions in OUR target based on our history of renewables and all sorts of other stuff, but it is unreasonable to expect others to take extreme measures, and they WILL have to do so, much as we do, to get to 40% reductions.

    These negotiations are going to be a lot like going to court “You go in as a pig and come out as a sausage”…. and what I personally expect is not relevant to what others think.

    If the rest of the world signs up for 40% and we don’t I reckon the trade sanctions and tourism boycotts slapped on us will cost us more than the reductions would have anyway.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  23. >>reckon the trade sanctions and tourism boycotts slapped on us

    Same difference. We’d be finished either way, and most people will be off to Australia.

    I think the target should be to play the silly game just enough to avoid trade sanctions. No more.

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  24. Yeah… I have a bad habit of trying to emphasize the important bits. I THINK that way, so I post that way. See… did it again…. it is easier than bolding and it may date me in away. I’ve been posting since before the editing tags existed. :-)

    respectfully
    BJ

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  25. BP

    You spoiled it by calling it a “silly game”. It isn’t. It is deadly serious to everyone here. Including you or you wouldn’t be here.

    People going off to Australia will find that they will have drought to beat anything imaginable here. Not likely to be a good long-term move.

    The reverse flow will start when the water flow stops.

    BJ

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  26. >>You spoiled it by calling it a “silly game”.

    No, because I genuinely, honestly believe that cap n trade is a silly, expensive game.

    >>that they will have drought to beat anything imaginable here

    Meh. That will take a generation, if it happens at all. Whereas living in a third world economy would effect people right now.

    They ‘aint going to stay if New Zealand production moves to Argentina.

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  27. Cap & Betrayed is not the same as a 40% reduction target.

    Once again, moving production to Argentina is not going to happen if everyone has signed on to the same cuts.

    Since the dairy industry capacity globally exceeds demand by as much as it does, and it DOES exceed demand, I posted about the problems they have in the US trying to sell milk at prices that can’t be supported and losing money because THEY paid too much to get into the game… I know I did, but I’m blessed if I remember where.

    It isn’t just here, it is a global issue. With or without warming the herds are too large. Here, the USA, Argentina. I can’t guess what form it will take, but you can bet there will be attempts made to protect those farmers too.

    All of which contributes to my cynicism, but I will not agree to “playing a game” (unless the agreed target is in the “non-starter” range). You seem to want to go in with a lame target. No. Take on, and advocate and negotiate for something that will make a difference if it is achieved. If it is agreed to, then watch your partners, the planet and the competition and do whatever it takes to get there. It could astonish us and all work out, we could fail…. but not trying is guaranteed to fail.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  28. >>everyone has signed on to the same cuts.

    It simply isn’t possible.

    They could *all* sign up for 40%, but that will affect every country very differently. Some will barely notice (“shutting down” old, unused infrastructure), whilst other countries will lose their economies.

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  29. bj said:

    The reverse flow will start when the water flow stops.

    But ought to have said:

    THE REVERSE FLOW WILL START WHEN THE WATER FLOW STOPS.

    (Because he was sooooo right!)

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  30. @jarbury

    Do you know if the reduction in traffic on the state highways has improved travel times through congestion alleviation ..?

    Joyce and Key (to a lesser extent) have both said that investment in highways will reduce emissions by reducing travel times, it’d be interesting to compare this data to the data produced when the electrification and double tracking project is finished and see what is most cost effective…

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  31. What we can do something about is within our own national sphere and thus requiring farmers to be accountable for environment practice here is what we can and should do.

    However in the matter of agriculture emmissions, I am still inclined to wait for a global policy on this before committing our farmers to this cost.

    We should expect and ask for nothing more and nothing less than fair free trade in agriculture (an end to subsidy would reduce production in some Kyoto nations). If our Kyoto partners offer us this and apply an equivalent emmissions tax policy, then so be it. But until then … .

    And lets note that if this was done – we would be increasing the price of food in nations where this was either afforded or the poor ate less meat and consmed less dairy products. Otherwise production would simply transfer to developing nations not subject to the Kyoto regime.

    In view of this there is no reason to go unilateral on this issue – in fact we should accept a 40% target – but exclude agriculture from this calculation in the meantime (like when are the EU and the US going to give us free trade in agriculture).

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  32. PS

    Lets be cogniscant of the consequences of simply enacting a new policy response without forethought. Remember the consequences of using arable land for bio-fuels on the cost of food – we ran down world food reserves, pushed up the cost of feeding stock and many in the Third World are now back in food poverty.

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  33. @jarbury

    Do you know if the reduction in traffic on the state highways has improved travel times through congestion alleviation ..?

    Joyce and Key (to a lesser extent) have both said that investment in highways will reduce emissions by reducing travel times, it’d be interesting to compare this data to the data produced when the electrification and double tracking project is finished and see what is most cost effective…

    Anecdotally I think congestion is much reduced in Auckland since the 2002-2004 period. I do think that the reduction in vehicle numbers has led to easing congestion.

    The problem with Steven Joyce’s argument that “less congested traffic reduces CO2 emissions” is that it’s only true on an individual basis. Yes, a car that is not stuck in traffic will emit less CO2 per vehicle per kilometre. However, generally the least congested cities in the world are cities where people drive the furtherest and most often. So even though the individual emissions from one car may be lower, because there are more cars on the road and the cars are travelling further, CO2 emissions are actually higher.

    And… regarding what I said about the government policy statement above, this quote is from page 12 of that document:

    The government in general terms supports the overall intent of the NZTS, but considers that moving too quickly on modal shift [from auto dependence to greater public transport use] will have a negative impact on environmental and economic efficiency.

    http://www.transport.govt.nz/news/newsevents/Documents/Final-GPS-May-09.pdf

    What is “environmental efficiency”? And how could that possibly be negatively impacted by a fast modal shift from auto-reliance to a more sustainable transport system?

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  34. Farmers work long hours, weekends, early starts, late finishes, during public holidays and in all weather conditions. They provide export income & their pay rates and tax get hounded by the authorities.

    Let’s consider urban populated over fart taxes and nitrogen leaching into our ecosystems. The way i see it farmers are subsidizing urbanites 40 hour week lifestyle.

    In Japan, farmers get two votes & urbanites get one. Without food people will starve. I agree that we need to undergo major changes for the future for our planet as it does belong to our children and their children and so forth. The blame game is not an assisting variable to achieve this incentive, we need to address solutions immediately.

    If you need to know ‘What am I going to do about it?’ At the moment, I am currently researching ‘How to set up a Charitable Trust’. The vision is to assist farmers and urbanites into environmental studies to find solutions to minimize our carbon footprint.

    Ecoinnovations is an excellent web site. It is the most economical website in the world that has the technology and materials to produce a grid tied eco-power system, that is, solar,wind and micro-hydro power for $15,000.00. The price of a modest family car or new kitchen. With a ‘DIY’ knowledge kit provided by this site, one can reduce there power bill by 80 to 90%. (A must view website: http://www.ecoinnovation.co.nz).

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