Wednesday, 18 December 2013

An Economist’s Perspective on Value

Post written by C. Will

Motu has just released a Note on “Value and Natural Capital: Examining the Economist’s Perspective” written by Josh Pemberton and Suzi Kerr. The paper considers what economics brings to a conversation about environmental value, and what the limits of its contribution might be.

Many of you will have experienced how different people can view the same problem or issue in various ways. With this in mind, this paper seeks to highlight and examine the assumptions and implicit goals that underpin the way in which economists think about value in general, and environmental value in particular. 

FAO Report

Post written by C. Will

New Zealand (NZ) has relatively low emissions per unit of dairy production. So can NZ farmers share the skills and technologies that allow such low emissions to help lower global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions?

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) released a report in 2010 that looked into GHG emissions from the global dairy sector. Although the report is from 2010, it has some interesting findings worth discussing. In particular, a comparison of GHG emissions per kg of Fat and Protein Corrected Milk (FPCM) across different regions (see graph below).

Source: Gerber, P., Vellinga, T., Opio, C., Henderson, B., & Steinfeld, H. (2010). Greenhouse Gas Emissions from the Dairy Sector, A Life Cycle Assessment. FAO Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations. Animal Production and Health Division, Rome. Page 34.

FPCM is a way of comparing milk produced from different dairy animals on a common basis by equating the level of fat and protein in the milk. The graph highlights where milk production is the most GHG emissions intensive and therefore the least efficient. There is a clear trend showing developing regions (Africa and Asia) having higher emissions than more industrialized regions (Europe and North America). 

We have been told that NZ emissions are even lower than the rest of Oceania; approximately 0.9 per kg of FPCM. This gives an idea how efficient NZ farming is and supports a comment in a previous blog that touched on the difference in efficiency between NZ farmers and farming in Africa. 

Monday, 16 December 2013

Thin Ice

Post Written by C. Will

Thin Ice is a New Zealand created movie that follows Simon Lamb (Victoria University of Wellington) as he travels around the world meeting the scientists behind climate change. The film is intended to help people develop a better understanding of climate change. The film also gives an introduction to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Assessment Report.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Livestock: The answer, not the problem?

Post written by C. Will

Seth Itzkan of Planet-TECH discusses how holistic management can restore grass lands and reverse the effects of climate change in his TEDx talk; “How global warming can be mitigated through holistic management”.

In the video, Seth discusses his experiences in Zimbabwe and how the village herders have changed the way they manage their livestock. Using holistic management, they have replenished grasslands and during the dry season surface water is occurring further upstream than before. Increased availability of surface water has made farming easier and removed the need for water pumps, saving money. Regenerating grasslands also increases soil sequestration, reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

Holistic management uses livestock in a way that mimics wild herds which were a key component in the ecosystem when grasslands thrived. The wild herds would graze, naturally process the grass, fertilise the ground and then move onto a new area. The villagers are now replicating this process by running livestock in dense packs and moving them regularly just as a wild herd would. They also stick to grazing plans to prevent over grazing.         

Although his focus is on environments that have suffered desertification (the transformation of habitable land to desert), parallels can be made between the framework of holistic management and the way farmers in New Zealand manage their stock. Relative to farmers in Africa though, New Zealand farmers have lower emissions per unit of production and are more efficient. However, even in New Zealand many farmers can apply management strategies other farmers are already using to reduce their environmental impact. A recent Motu working paper, looks at such mitigation possibilities.

Holistic management was a way of managing resources originally developed by Allan Savory. Here Allan offers further discussion on holistic management and “how to fight desertification and reverse climate change”.