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Past them trees

13 Mar 2019 | OP ED Watch

Bjorn Lomborg says when it comes to carbon emissions, we need to be very skeptical of government accounting. New Zealand, for instance, has consistently claimed success in meeting its carbon targets… by counting new forests. But only recently. Not that politicians would ever utter self-congratulatory half-truths, of course. Unfortunately reducing emissions of reliable data does not help reach genuine climate goals.

Lomborg rightly notes the terrible paradox for climate alarmists in power that the only way to meet their airy promises of major CO2 reductions is to use less fossil fuel: “reducing emissions is hard, because it leaves countries worse off. Emissions are largely byproducts of productivity, and curtailing them implies higher costs.” And bear in mind here that Lomborg believes in man-made global warming and wants to try to do something about it. He just thinks we need to understand what we’re doing and talk honestly about it.

For instance, “A government-commissioned report by the respected New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) shows that just reducing emissions to 50% of 1990 levels in 2050 would cost NZ$28 billion ($19.2 billion) annually by 2050…. about what the government spends now on its entire education and health-care system. And that’s only the cost of getting halfway to the carbon-neutrality target. According to the NZIER report, getting all the way will cost more than NZ$85 billion annually, or 16% of projected GDP, by 2050.”

To be sure, if we can find reliable, efficient alternatives this problem will be solved or drastically reduced. But thus far there’s been far more hype than substance to wind and solar. The same is, therefore, true of various claims to reduce emissions, like those the previous Liberal administration in Ontario planned to make by buying credits in California rather than by actually, you know, giving off fewer GHGs. And the question is: What exactly is the point of all this hype, if not to burnish the reputation of politicians at the expense of… oh dear… the environment.

As Lomborg observes, in the Paris Agreement “countries made a grandiose commitment to keep the global increase in temperature well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, but all their promises together add up to less than 1% of what’s needed. New analysis shows that only 17 countries – including Algeria and Samoa – are actually meeting their commitments, in most cases because they promised very little. The second lesson is that because honest and deep carbon cuts are staggeringly hard, achieving carbon neutrality anytime soon is an empty ambition for almost every country.”

In New Zealand, Lomborg notes, the trees that the government successfully negotiated to have included in its official emissions figures were planted privately. (The country also bought credits from Russia and Ukraine that would be unlikely to withstand scrutiny.) “But growing forests also reduced New Zealand’s emissions in the comparison year of 1990. If we – more honestly – include the impact of forests and land use on emissions across the entire period from 1990 to 2008-12, the country’s net emissions during this period actually increased even more, by 38%.”

It’s almost as if they were serious only about the optics, and didn’t really believe in the severity of the crisis on which they were virtue-signaling. If you really thought man-made global warming driven by emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse cases was a threat to civilization, you would talk frankly to people about this. Instead they start massaging the data and when that doesn’t work they start beating it up.

3 comments on “Past them trees”

  1. Until recently Canada’s forests have been ignored as a net CO2 sink. However in the “State of Forest 2018” report issued by the federal government comments are made that the forest carbon sink will be used in the future to reduce Canada’s net emissions. The report calculates that all of Canada managed forests (226M hectares) removes just 20MT of CO2e or 0.088 Tonnes per year per hectare . This seems to be a very low estimate. Other official sources estimate that between 0.8 to 2.4 .Tonnes per year per hectare is sequestered. If we use the lowest value 0.8 instead then Canada’s managed forest sequester 180MT annually. If you include all forest ( 347M Hectares) then 277MT would
    be sequester annually. (Offset by forest fires that the same report estimates at 98MT in 2017)

  2. I find it interesting how in the age of the Paris Climate Agreement many countries, as noted in your post, look to find ways to meet standards on paper while not actually altering emission outputs. You mentioned New Zealand has begun counting forests not previously included in records, helping them to meet standards. Because so many countries are finding ways to purchase credits from other countries and exploit loopholes in policy, it begs the question of how productive some of these policies actually are when politics and government get involved. Reducing emissions is very difficult, as noted by your post, with New Zealand potentially paying up to 20 billion a year just to reduce emissions fifty percent from 1990 levels.
    Because of all of this, and the difficulty that exists with drastically reducing carbon emissions, is global environmental policy really the most effective way to reduce emissions? Or is all of this just so governments can keep appearances that their respective countries are doing their own part to fight climate change? It seems that renewable and clean forms of energy are the only way towards reducing emissions. Instead of bringing more money into the hands of national governments (who are known to not always use taxpayer money wisely), I would argue that investing in the private sector to spur advancement in clean forms of energy may be the most logical and efficient path towards reduced emissions worldwide.

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