Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Nick Smith's gross emissions

As noted before (here and here (1)), it's a commonplace piece of misdirection to talk about New Zealand's emissions in gross terms. Nick Smith does it again, in a speech at the Australia-New Zealand Climate Change and Business Conference:
For those concerned it is not sufficiently ambitious, I would note that with our gross emissions up 24% on 1990 levels, and the age of our forests in 2020 not providing any net benefit by 2020, this target equates to a reduction from current emissions of between 34% to 44%. Be in no doubt that this is going to be a very big ask for New Zealand over the next decade. (1)
The bit Nick fails to mention is that the net emissions - once mitigation (that's trees and stuff) is taken into account - is that net emissions are up by less than 5% on 1990 levels. Which mean's Nick's target of a 34% to 44% reduction is really only 15% to 25%.

Obviously, I wouldn't complain if National were planning to cut CO2 emissions by 34% to 44% CO2, relative to the current net figure. That would make for a credible reduction, relative to 1990. But somehow, I don't think that is how it will work out.

Why are the right some people persistently using the gross figure and forgetting to mention that, hey, things aren't really that bad? They might be really stupid, and just not understand how numbers work, but I think that's unlikely. More probably they're just trying to encourage inertia by making the problem seem intractable - we can't do that, really, can we, so why bother trying - and avoid having to make the unpleasnat decisions until it becomes someone else's problem. That this strategy also makes the green and the green tinged left seem like raving fruitloops for suggesting (supposedly) massive cuts is abn added bonus.

The downside, of course, is that it will mean we're contributing to a massive problem that will unfold over decades - the social consequences (meaning mass migrations and wars) resulting from climate change - but, hey, that's going to be on someone else's watch and won't affect people likely to vote National at the next election cycle, whereas taking some proper action will.

That's probably the bottom line. No massivbe Exxon funded conspiracy, just a bunch of politicians trying to cling on to power, even if it means doing nothing and hoping everything comes out okay somehow, in the end.

And they write off the greenie-left as naive dreamers.
1 - As described previosuly on lefthandpalm: and
2 - From a speech by Nick Smith to the Climate Change and Business Conference, Tuesday, 25 August 2009. (


David Farrar said...

I'm sorry but you quote has Nick explicitly referring to the net emissions. He makes the point that by 2020 net emissions will equal gross emissions, and hence the reduction he cites is needed.

You are aware trees get cut down aren't you?

lurgee said...

Fair point that he was massaging the stats to suit, though I don't see much difference between flat out ignoring the net influence of mitigation and claiming that it will no longer be a factor.

I suspect Smith's statement is based on the idea that new plantings will be discouraged by other National policies, and current plantings will be harvested over time.

It ain't necessarily so, however.

The Kyoto Forestry Association suggest we could meet the government target through planting a million hectares of new forest, and doing nothing else beyond keeping things as they are.


Of course, to do that, the industry would need some certainties not currently being given.

lurgee said...

I should add that I don't think complete dependence on forestry to achieve the targets is a Good Idea. We should be cutting back on emissions as well.

The economic argument is largely chimerical, if everyone agrees to take the hit. Of course we shouldn't fuck ourselves up by setting strong emissions targets, out of step with other countries. But we aren't, and there's no point pretending we are. At the very least, we should be aligning ourselves with the EU and going for 20%-30%. That would put us in a far better position to demmand more concessions from other countries.