Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Business roundtable oppose saving the planet

... no bloody surprise there. After all, the Business Roundtable consists entirely of very old rich men (even the ones who might be young, and/or female) and so they don't give a damn about saving the planet. In fact, they probably want to destroy it out of vicious spiute, the same bitterness that drives all capitalists, and stems from the time when some kid snatched their toy away in kindergarten and they vowed that they would not rest until they owned all the toys in the world.

I feel better now that I have got that off my chest. Blame Roger Kerr, the executive director of the Business Roundtable. His comments (1) on a recent report (2) have annoyed me. Indeed, on refering to the report, it also annoyed me. While I may not have the necessary expertise, some things struck me as odd.

The assumption that seemed most strange to me is the idea that New Zealand will go it alone, and major competitors won't institute carbon mitigation schemes:

Countries with which we compete internationally, either with respect to exporting or import substitution, do not have significant emissions mitigation policies. (This likely to be the case at least for China and India, and possibly for the United States.) (3)
That is a huge assumption. Economies seeking to reduce carbon emmissions are likely to trade with each other, and restrict trade with non-compliant countries. There will be an incentive for non-compliant economies to 'join the club.' So the failure to investigate a model with a global or near-global level playing field seems to undermine the report. This is acknowledged in the caveats at the end of the document:

Countries with which we compete internationally, either in exporting or import substitution, do not have significant emissions mitigation policies. Thus the effect of New Zealand’s policies on the international competitiveness of New Zealand’s industries could be overstated ... (4)
Kerr, of course, forgets to mention this part.

Another part I queried was the statement that "In this study sinks are ignored because in the long run forests are carbon neutral" (5). This seems odd in a report covering just 18 years (to 2025). That is not long term, by any stretch of the imagination, unless you're a goldfish, or perhaps a particularly ancient member of the Business Roundtable, to whom 2025 is an impossibly distant horizon. Planting forests now might mean the carbon they squester is released in a hundred years - but that release is beyond the scale of the report. Their potential absorption is not, however - plant trees and they start growing, absorbing carbon. So the potential contribution of reforestation should have been included.

(And in any case, the solution to carbon release from dying trees is simply to plant more trees, re-capturing the carbon. The suggestion they are carbon neutral and hence irrelevant is misleading.)

The report relies on the assumption that nothing much will change over then next 15 years - no new technologies will be developed, there will be no changes in behaviour that affect the situation and, most questionable, the situation vis a vis other economies will remain static, apart from New Zealand electing to impose a punative emmissions policy. Kiwis are known for being a bit batty, but it is far-fetched to suggest that New Zealand will lumber itself with an emmissions policy and maintain it for a decade and a half without anyone else joining in.

And there will be new technologys. Compare the world of 2007 with the world of 1997 or 1987. We've demonstrated a considerable ability to create nasty, polluting stuff, and ingenious means to kill each other. It would be nice if that versatility could be used to save the planet. To ignore it completely, as Kerr does, to strengthen an ideological position is disingenuous.
1 - 'Carbon aims 'too ambitious',' by Nick Churchouse, in the Dominion Post, 6th of February, 2007. Reeproduced on stuff.co.nz. (http://www.stuff.co.nz/4388818a13.html). See also the NZBR press release that accompanied the report, available on their website, released on the 5th of February, 2008. (http://www.nzbr.org.nz/documents/releases/0204CarbonNeutralityMR.pdf)
2 - 'Carbon Mitigation Scenarios,' a report by Adolf Stroombergen of Infometrics, 5th of February, 2008. Available through the NZBR website. (
http://www.nzbr.org.nz/documents/features/NZBR%20PEPANZ%20Carbon%20Mitigation%20Scenarios.pdf)
3 - ibid.
4 - ibid.
5 - ibid.

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