Emissions down 11 per cent in one quarter but 12-months decline was just 0.4 per cent

Seasonally adjusted greenhouse gas emissions from industries and households fell 11 per cent over the September 2021 quarter according to new Stats NZ figures.

That followed a 4.7 per cent increase in the June 2021 quarter.

The September 2021 quarter fall in gross emissions was largely due to a reduction in coal use for electricity generation. COVID-19 alert level restrictions and nationwide/regional lockdowns also contributed.

Emissions decreased across all industry groupings in the September 2021 quarter, as COVID-19 restrictions took hold in the second half of the quarter.

The largest industry contributors to this decrease were electricity, gas, water, and waste services, down 33 per cent (969 kilotonnes); manufacturing, down 10 per cent (273 kilotonnes); and transport, postal, and warehousing, down 17 per cent (156 kilotonnes). Continue reading

Experts comment on latest international report on climate change – NZ Minister says Govt will be equal to the science

Human-induced climate change is already affecting weather and climate extremes across the globe, according to the latest report from Working Group 1 of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The evidence has strengthened – not only in the observed changes in heatwaves, heavy rains, and drought extremes, but also in their attribution to human influence, since the panel’s previous report, published in 2013.

The report has been written by thousands of scientists and reviewers from more than 100 countries, including New Zealand.

The findings provide the starkest warning yet of the risk facing our children, our planet, and future generations, unless urgent action is taken, this country’s Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, said in a statement in response to the report.

The Minister said a collective effort involving every sector of the economy, every community, and almost every government agency and their Minister will be needed to avert a climate crisis.

“Right now, Ministers and agencies are discussing what action they will take to bring down emissions in their sector, which will form the basis of our forthcoming Emission Reduction Plan. We must use this chance to review progress and make sure the actions we are committing to will cut emissions in line with what the latest science requires. Anything less will not be enough.

“The findings of the IPCC reaffirm those of the Climate Change Commission and confirm why this Government is right to prioritise climate action.”  Continue reading

What a dry winter would mean for the ag/hort sector – and for the country

New Zealand may be heading into a dry winter following a month of near record-breaking dry patches across the country.

What are the flow-on effects if insufficient rain falls during the cold season?

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on how the potential dry season may affect …

  • Rural communities and agriculture
  • Hydro energy production
  • The environment

These experts have responded: Continue reading

Experts comment on the Climate Commission’s 15-year decarbonisation blueprint

The Climate Change Commission (as we posted yesterday) has outlined its advice on how New Zealand should reshape its economy to mitigate the climate crisis.

The report says current government policies do not put the country on track to meet its 2050 targets.

To achieve those targets, the report sets new emissions targets and recommends a transition to electric vehicles, accelerated renewable energy generation, climate friendly farming practices and more permanent forests, predominantly natives.

The draft proposal will be open for public feedback starting tomorrow until 14 March.

The Science Media Centre asked experts to comment on the report.  Here is the feedback – Continue reading

Review of the funding and prioritisation of environmental research in New Zealand

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Simon Upton, is urging the Government to reconsider the way it funds environmental research in New Zealand.

In a new report, he says public investment in environmental research is fragmented and funding for New Zealand’s environmental collections and databases has been inadequate. This makes it harder to respond appropriately and in a timely fashion to the country;s many environmental challenges.

The report examines how public funds are invested in environmental research in New Zealand.

The Commissioner recommends an environmental research strategy to be developed by the Ministry for the Environment and dedicated, long-term funding for environmental research to be ring-fenced.

He proposes two models for disbursing the research funds, one of which would involve the establishment of a dedicated Environmental Research Council.

The council would provide funding similar to how health research funding is managed. Continue reading

What farmers think about biodiversity on their land – and what experts think about the survey findings

More than 90% of sheep and beef farmers who responded to a recent scientific survey – acknowledge the benefits of managing biodiversity on their farmland.

The  benefits were mainly social or environmental, such as protecting land for future generations.

But a majority of the respondents also identified barriers to conservation efforts, such as financial costs or time investments.

The survey of sheep and beef farmers around New Zealand received nearly 700 responses that described advantages to managing and protecting biodiversity on their land.

Lead author Dr Fleur Maseyk, from The Catalyst Group, says the study showed many farmers associate a range of values and benefits with biodiversity on-farm, spanning social, environmental and economic themes.

Social advantages were the most commonly recognised –  47% of the responses described benefits such as advantages to the farmer, their family and staff, and benefits beyond the farm gate such as inter-generational equity and meeting the responsibility of land management. Continue reading

Science Media Centre consults the experts on the state of biosecurity in NZ

One virus has caught the world’s attention this year, the Science Media Centre reports today.  It’s COVID-19 (for readers who haven’t been paying attention) and the Government yesterday announced further measures to secure the border.  It is increasing the number of defence force personnel supporting the Managed Isolation and Quarantine System and maritime border, further bolstering protections against community COVID-19 spread.

Around 500 more defence personnel will be deployed taking the total to about 990 defence personnel at our managed isolation facilities following ongoing checks and assessments of the managed isolation and quarantine system as part of a continual improvement process.

But the SMC reminds us that the government’s focus (and the media’s) on COVID-19 by no means means efforts to keep New Zealand’s ecosystems safe from other pests haven’t stopped.

The SMC has asked experts to comment on what they think are New Zealand’s biggest biosecurity concerns, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected their research.

These fields include:

* Overall views of NZ’s biosecurity threats
* Myrtle rust
* Marine biosecurity
* Freshwater

The SMC received these responses o its questions –

Continue reading

Govt declares NZ coronavirus lockdown – Science Media Centre records expert reaction

We were tempted, here at AgScience, to liken the government’s response to Covid-19 to a biosecurity response.

We found we were not alone in drawing such a comparison.  DairyNZ chief executive Dr Tim Mackle did the same when he spoke to The Country Early Edition’s Rowena Duncum about the coronavirus outbreak and how it relates to biosecurity threats faced by farmers.

“Dairy and beef farmers will have some grasp of what’s being attempted here on the human side with coronavirus in terms of some of the testing processes and trying to understand the extent of the spread,” he said. 

Fighting biosecurity threats was often a long game as farmers were well aware, after dealing with foot and mouth, Mycoplasma bovis and TB, Dr Mackle said.

He identified two key points when creating a contingency plan.

“What do you do as an individual and how do you work together as a collective?”

Ultimately, the whole community needed to work together.

The community response will be critical to the effectiveness of measures announced by the government today after confirmation of  36 new coronavirus cases  and two previous cases being treated as community transmission. Continue reading

Psst. If you don’t want to share your science with others, try jargon to keep them in the dark

Hats off to the Science Media Centre’s senior media advisor, Dr Sarah-Jane O’Connor, for an article she has written on the matter of jargon.

She describes jargon as the cruellest Catch-22 in science: you spend years learning the intricate jargon about your specific area.  But the same jargon makes it nearly impossible for ‘outsiders’ to understand what you’re on about.

In fact, the public finds it a turnoff – contrary to what the scientist, keen to share his or her findings with the public intended.

Dr O’Connor has research findings to demonstrate the awful truth of this.

Her article posted on Sciblogs says: Continue reading

Experts comment on Govt’s announcement of world-first plan for farmers to reduce emissions

The Government today announced that it and farming sector leaders have agreed to a world-first partnership to reduce primary sector emissions in one of the most significant developments on climate action in New Zealand’s history.

Farming leaders and the Government unveiled a five-year plan to join forces “to develop practical and cost-effective ways to measure and price emissions at the farm level by 2025, so that 100 per cent of New Zealand’s emissions will be on the path downwards”.

The  five-year plan will aim to measure and price farm emissions by 2025, with a backstop for Government to bring the sector into the Emissions Trading Scheme if insufficient progress has been made by that date.

The  joint action plan includes:

  • Improved tools for estimating and benchmarking emissions on farms
  • Integrated farm plans that include a climate module
  • Investment in research, development and commercialisation
  • Increased farm advisory capacity and capability
  • Incentives for early adopters
  • Recognition of on-farm mitigation such as small plantings, riparian areas and natural cover.

Continue reading