ETS not about reducing emissions

There is an excellent editorial in the Dominion Post about the ETS. It points out that the ETS is not designed to reduce emissions, rather to work out who pays for our Kyoto obligation. And in paying our Kyoto obligation, it is taking money that could be being used to actually reduce emissions.

“There is no question that Labour is well-intentioned. Despite that, the legislation is part of a strategy that remains deeply flawed. It risks concentrating on the accountancy of who ends up picking up the bill for carbon emissions, rather than on reducing those emissions.

The reality is that the scheme, designed to meet New Zealand’s Kyoto protocol commitment, will end up increasing the prices that consumers pay for all manner of things, and damage the economy, without necessarily doing anything about reducing the amount of carbon emitted in New Zealand.”

Assuming humans are causing global warming, the ETS is a waste of money. Assuming humans are not causing global warming, the ETS is a criminal waste of money. You can’t win with this legislation. Yet both Labour and National continue to push it.

Hat tip: David Farrar

3 Responses to “ETS not about reducing emissions”

  1. MIke Perkins Says:

    Another interesting not to mention rational comment.
    When the New Zealand Government first investigated the Kyoto Protocol it was assumed (note the word) we would make a killing out of “carbon credits”.So we rushed into signing only to discover at a later date that our accountancy was severely flawed and in fact we were heavily in debit. Too late to back out.
    As you correctly point out, as does the Dominion in their editorial and as also a multitude of rational thinkers, ET Schemes do not guarantee ANY reduction in emissions, the prime objective of the Kyoto Protocol.
    The purpose of Emission Trading in the Protocol is intended to provide time to change from a situation of high emissions to one of low and obviously that cannot occur overnight. However the danger is simply that having got involved in trading and after a while having passed on the costs to consumers (higher fuel costs, increased charges on power bills etc,etc) there is no motivation to investigate methods of emission reduction, particularly as you point out the cost of such technology is probably high and the money that could have gone towards paying for it has been spent already on some nebulous “carbon credits”.
    However, reading between the lines, I still get the impression that The Family Party is still not convinced of the need to do anything to reduce emissions based on the fact that it has not been proven (and never will be as I pointed out in and earlier comment) that human activity is causing or contributing to global warming/climate change.
    So, Let’s leave climate change completely out of the picture and just concentrate on atmospheric pollution (which may or may not lead to climate change).
    Basic schoolboy chemistry tells us that the burning of carbon containing fuels, be they “fossil” fuels or “bio” fuels produces bi-products, predominantly carbon dioxide but not exclusively. Apart from people who grow tomatoes in greenhouses these bi-products are considered pollutants particularly in congested cities ( we were all witness recently to the pollution in Beijing and the controls that the Chinese Government had to implement to correct the situation…….no emissions trading there!). These pollutants are all man-made…… sunspot activity involved here!
    But worse is yet to come. Again using basic schoolboy chemistry, for every ton of (pure) carbon that is burnt, we REMOVE approximately 3 ton of oxygen from the atmosphere and REPLACE it with approximately 4 ton of carbon dioxide. Any science teacher will confirm that, you don’t need to be a rocket scientist nor do you need 2000 eminent scientists drawn from around the world making up a panel known as the IPCC.
    The worst effect of this is experienced in congested cities.
    Does that sound like a good idea to you?
    How long do you think planet earth can tolerate that?
    It will be argued that the cycle of nature will remedy this situation in that trees etc will absorb the carbon dioxide and photo synthesis will replace the oxygen.
    True, provided that the balance between emission and synthesis (ie trees vs fuel) is maintained. But carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are definitely on the increase suggesting that the balance is not being maintained.
    Energy derived from carbon has been plentiful and relatively cheap and has driven the economy of all “western nations” and the upcoming economies of the so-called emerging nations. It has been the mainstay of our “lifestyle”. Energy demand worldwide is increasing on a daily basis and most of that is carbon derived.At the same time forests are disappearing at an increasing rate again suggesting that the balance is worsening.
    At the risk of repeating myself, whether or not carbon based energy is causing climate change is debatable and always will be since it can never be proven one way or the other
    Whether it is causing atmospheric pollution is NOT debatable and the effects are only too apparent.
    There is only one solution and the sooner the better.
    Move away from carbon based energy.
    This may mean (probably will) foregoing some of what we term “our lifestyle”.
    The direction we take will probably be determined by what we consider the word “inheritance” to mean.
    When we pass on do we expect to leave our children more money or a less polluted planet.
    Where exactly does the Family Party stand on this issue?

  2. Mr Dennis Says:

    “However, reading between the lines, I still get the impression that The Family Party is still not convinced of the need to do anything to reduce emissions based on the fact that it has not been proven”
    We are not convinced either way, I can tell you that straight up without needing to read between the lines, we also state it explicitly in our policy:

    The need to reduce emissions to prevent global warming is so deeply entrenched now that you need a certain degree of scepticism before you consider it might be wrong. But as outlined in our policy, we are open to being convinced in either direction, based on the result of our enquiry.

    Whether carbon dioxide emissions are pollution really depends on global warming. If they are not causing increased temperatures (which you agree is debatable), in what way are they pollution? Carbon dioxide is a basic compound essential to life. In greenhouses the carbon dioxide content is often artificially increased to promote plant growth. Unless it causes global warming, carbon dioxide can better be regarded as a fertiliser than a pollutant.

    Obviously carbon monoxide, other gases and particulates are pollution – the problem pollution in Beijing, and Christchurch for that matter, is particulates (smoke), not CO2. CO2 is invisible, it has no role in smog. It is important to keep CO2 emissions and air pollution with particulates and other pollutants separate, as they are two completely different issues. Particulate pollution actually has a cooling effect on climate. And particulate pollution can be reduced and even prevented while still using fossil fuels – moving to efficient logburners rather than open fires for example. This has nothing to do with CO2 emission.

    All the additional carbon we are putting into the atmosphere is from fossil fuels – the remains of life that grew in the past, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere (reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration) before being buried. With this carbon underground we now have an unnaturally low atmospheric CO2 concentration. If we were to return all this carbon to the atmosphere, we would simply be returning the atmosphere to its original state, not polluting it.

    The issue is whether if we rapidly return the atmosphere to its natural level of CO2 from the current low levels, this rapid change will have negative climatic effects. And this is a very serious concern. Just as water is not a pollutant, but too much water in the wrong place can be a problem, CO2 may cause problems too.

    So it all comes back to the effect of CO2 on climate. And we need to have a scientific answer and a scientific plan to deal with this potentially serious problem.

  3. Mike Perkins Says:

    All the additional carbon we are putting into the atmosphere is from fossil fuels – the remains of life that grew in the past, absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere (reducing atmospheric CO2 concentration) before being buried. With this carbon underground we now have an unnaturally low atmospheric CO2 concentration. If we were to return all this carbon to the atmosphere, we would simply be returning the atmosphere to its original state, not polluting it.
    A very interesting statement indeed. So at least you acknowledge that scientific fact ( For my part, I am a retired professional chemical engineer, former chemical adviser to the New Zealand Fire Service (1974 to 1979) and former Test Certifier under the Hazardouis Substances and New Organisms Act. No. 112 should you care to check.So, putting it bluntly, trying to teach me the chemistry of combustion (in other paragraphs is called teaching granny to suck eggs!On your part, I see that you are working on your PhD in the Agricultural Sector which in my humble opinion will have much greater value to this country than any ETS)
    Back to your statement relating to the origins of planet earth and it’s very early atmosphere.
    If you do your research a little further you will very quickly establish that the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere at that time was such that it would NOT support life (human or otherwise) as we know it. That being the case I am a loss to understand your definition of pollution. Now obviously it took a hell of a long time for nature to create an atmosphere of just the right balance (Oxygen/ Nitrogen and minor constituents) for life to exist on earth (too much oxygen and fire would ravage the planet, too little and like climbers on Everest mankind would have problems breathing etc. etc) and it will take a hell of a long time to return to those circumstances but let me assure you,as the CO2 levels increase and the oxygen level declines again with the increased burning of fossil fuels no one will be alive on this planet to worry about “global warming” a hell of a long time before that occurs. And, as you correctly point out, it will all be due to Carbon Dioxide.
    But on the other hand, as you correctly point out from a scientific perspective, Carbon Dioxide is a very essential component of life. When humans breathe in air, they exhale approximately 4% Carbon Dioxide and nature takes over via plants, trees etc and photosynthesis, uses the carbon for plant growth and returns the oxygen to the atmosphere.(obviously I’m being very simplistic and I hope not insulting as I am certainly not trying to tell you something you know better than me but just to establish areas of probable agreement),
    However the balance is important and no one knows the tolerances.
    I am certain everyone is aware that the population of the world is increasing rapidly (increasing the rate of human emissions of CO2 (probably insignificant on it’s own) and at the same time demand for the comforts and luxuries of life are increasing at an even greater rate (India and China wanting to catch up with Western lifestyles along with our own insatiable perceived needs for an even better “lifestyle”).
    The energy demands to achieve all this “wellbeing” are increasing exponentially……..most of it from fossil fuels emitting Carbon Dioxide (among other pollutants.)
    At the same time , man is cutting down rain forests at an alarming rate.
    The balance is shifting, very much the wrong way!
    Another property of Carbon Dioxide (again basic schoolboy chemistry) is that it is slightly water soluble and acidic by nature. In other words, the oceans of the world can and do absorb CO2 but with an increase in acidity. I understand that there are many eminent marine biologists who consider that this (increased levels of oceanic CO2) will have an adverse effect on the marine food chain and in this context, Carbon Dioxide would definitely be considered as a marine pollutant.
    All this brings me to one point.
    All your comments regarding CO2 are pretty explicit and demonstrate to me that far from being neutral on the topic as to the positive or negative effects of pumping ever increasing quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, you are already convinced that it is indeed beneficial to mankind. On the other hand, I am trying to demonstrate that too much CO2 is definitely a pollutant
    So…..back to your final sentence……….”we need to have a scientific answer”
    Once again……… this moment of time …….using current scientific knowledge available………….that’s what you got from the IPCC.
    Sorry……..neither the IPCC nor any other scientific body
    or individual nor any Royal Commission of Inquiry (since you want a scientific answer, you still haven’t told me your proposed(Scientific?) candidates for this commission along with their required credentials) can give you a categorical answer because it is not “scientifically” possible. With your scientific background in your own discipline, you should know that.
    So you may well ask “how does one satisfy the skeptics?” ….and the answer is………You can’t! Many of those skeptics were participants in the IPCC, had their say there, and feel that their views were being ignored or given little weight.
    Put it another way…………it’s like at the conclusion of any debate……..a vote is taken…..and should the decision comes down heavily in favour of one side, some of those from the other side will accept the decision (while still disagreeing) and some others will cry “Foul”.
    There is no categorical “scientific” answer for or against. there can be none.Without applying sound scientific principals which require all theories (essentially that is what man induced climate change is in the scientific world) to be tested by experimentation which can be duplicated by any other worker in the field and still produce consistent results, until then the theory remains just that. Untested theory.
    (again;;;;;just establishing common ground as stated earlier…..I am fully aware that you know the rules. At least, those were the rules when I was engaged in research back in ’64, 65. I presume they haven’t changed)
    If one needs to design policies “for such a potentially serious problem” (which you acknowledge) then one needs to result to best risk management practices. Anyone who practices in this profession will tell you that risk management is based on probability.
    For me, the “debate” is over. (I have actually attended a very good presentation from a “skeptic” earlier this year, much more scientific but not as elaborate as Al Gore’s. At the end he was asked…..”the inference of your paper is that man-induced global warming is a myth and consequently we need do nothing (about man-induced pollution)?”, He very hastily withdrew from that standpoint and stated that he should have made that clear at the beginning of his paper)
    Neither party convinced me categorically but I was swayed by the weight of the evidence against mankind being the culprit probably as a result of my own experience in industry together with the undisputed facts that mans’ activities have polluted the soil, the sea and the air and I would be naive to believe that it just ended there without any carry-on effect!
    Once again ………..the IPCC Report concluded that…………
    “….there is a 90% probability that climate change is induced by excessive emissions of greenhouse gases which in their “humble” opinion include Methane, Nitrous Oxide, CFC’s (many other halogenated hydrocarbons such as Methyl Bromide were not specifically mentioned but in my opinion for what it is worth because of their chemical similarity should be included ) AND Carbon Dioxide.” All these emissions are essentially “man-made”.
    Your requirement that……”a scientific plan” is necessary to deal with the situation is of course the crux if the issue and here we both agree……….with no room whatsoever for disagreement!.
    Any form of ETS be it from the current government or the (current) opposition is based purely on some political agenda.
    There is absolutely no guarantee that it will lead to the reduction of emissions of any nature at all. So in this instance, the much-maligned news media got it right!
    Sam…..I think we are both on the same side essentially. The only disagreement is the degree of urgency and whether or not there is time for more “talk the talk” and what benefits that might bring. In the meantime, day by day, inaction means the situation is deteriorating.

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