Our politicians continue to parrot the fallacy that livestock emissions contribute “nearly half” of the global warming that New Zealand supposedly causes each and every year.
This estimate is, of course, based on several erroneous assumptions – one of which is that each herd of cattle keeps adding more methane to the atmosphere every year.
The reality is that a ‘steady-state’ herd produces steady state methane. For every new molecule it emits an older molecule expires, and there is no increase at all.
Even if the national herd was growing, the changes are trivial compared to the exponential increase in emissions in, for example, the transport sector. In the United Kingdom, the actual figures have been taken out by Cartington Farm as follows:
“In 1950 there were –
• 10.6 million cattle in the UK
• 50,225,000 people in the UK
• 4 million licensed vehicles on the roads
• 9.9 million cattle in the UK
• 66,460.000 people in the UK
• 38 million licensed vehicles on the roads
There were no records of commercial flights in the 1950s but …
• in 2004 there were 23 million commercial flights
• in 2018 there were 38 million commercial flights
I really would love to see the data that conclusively proves that cattle are the game changing contributor to global warming that the media would have us believe.”
It is immediately obvious that cattle have made a zero contribution to the huge increase in UK greenhouse emissions which occurred in the 5 or 6 decades following World War II. Since about 1990, the UK has stemmed this expansion – mainly by replacing coal with North Sea gas – but at a level which is an order of magnitude higher than the 1950 volumes.
Throughout all of this turmoil, the UK bovine population just kept on munching and belching at the same level (in fact, a bit lower) as a half-century earlier. But the townies now say the conflagration of the world is all their fault!
I hope somebody takes out comparable figures for New Zealand. Even more interesting than cattle would be a comparison of the size of our national sheep flock compared with 40 years ago. After all, it’s mainly sheep that the current government are determined to cull with their world-first livestock tax.
Does anybody really and honestly believe that future weather will improve if only we reduce our depleted sheep numbers even further?
Barry Brill OBE JP LL.M(Hons) M.ComLaw is a former MP and Minister of Energy, Petrocorp director, and chair of the Gas Council, Power NZ, ESANZ, and EMCO. He is presently the Chairman of the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition.