I was shocked to learn a few moments ago that Owen McShane, the darling of the Climate Science Coalition, not only endorses low intensity grazing, he believes that the Green’s plan doesn’t go far enough. [Ok, maybe he didn't endorse it. maybe he implied it, or suggested it. Regardless, he seeks to mislead by his misuse of the science.]
Nick is even wrong in his wrongness
Owen then goes on to link to the work of Professor Mark Adams in Australia, claiming that cattle are actually carbon neutral because the soil absorbs methane. This is a common meme used by climate deniers and the Greenhouse Policy Coalition to ‘debunk’ climate change and to try and get agriculture off the hook for their emissions.
Cherry picking the science is one of their favourite tools, and this is a case in point. What Professor Adams really said was:
“Typical methane production by beef cattle is round about 60 kilograms of methane per year, and some of the high country soils are taking more than that out of the atmosphere every day, so one hectare is taking out, or oxidising, more methane than a cow produces in a year” says Professor Mark Adams.
He says low intensity grazing, and sensible fire management, are the keys to success and sustainability for both the environment and farming.
By endorsing Professor Adams, McShane is endorsing a 1 cow per hectare policy to combat climate change, which is a very extreme culling of the herd, to say the least.
Now, we are mixing up beef cattle and dairy cattle here, but their climate change effects are roughly similar.
The Green’s document, Getting There, quotes research showing that farmers can reduce their herd from the average of 2.83 per hectare to 2.3, still be profitable, and not have to pay anything under the existing ETS until 2018.
In contrast, Owen is suggesting a serious cull, down to 1 cow per hectare.
It’s great that Owen is finally referring to some real science, but in his haste to cherry pick, he has endorsed a pretty extreme view. I’m not sure the economics will stack up in Owen’s favour. That’s a shame, coming from an economist.