Wednesday, 24 February 2021 12:55

Absurdity on steroids

Written by  Owen Jennings
The Climate Change Commission has suggested reducing ruminant methane by over 10%. The Climate Change Commission has suggested reducing ruminant methane by over 10%.

OPINION: F.A.R.M. (Facts About Ruminant Methane) is a group of farmers and scientists who question the need for drastic cuts in ruminant methane. They argue that there is a natural cycle where the emitters of a GHG (methane) use as much as they emit to grow the grass the cows need to produce the methane and thus puts ruminant methane in a different category to fossil fuel emissions.  

Owen Jennings prosecutes FARM’s argument in part one of a two part opinion piece…

It is beyond comprehension that otherwise intelligent and erudite adults can believe that reducing methane from NZ’s agricultural sources will make even the tiniest jot of difference – other than signalling, internationally, how virtuous we are.

Let’s do the numbers.

The Climate Change Commission (CCC) proposes reducing ruminant methane by 10% over the next 9 years or 1.1% per year.  Ruminant methane, according to NASA/NOAA, is only 12% to 15% of all global methane emissions.  NZ has just 1% of the world’s ruminants.

Therefore, every year, the CCC’s suggestion will lead to a reduction in the planet’s methane by 1.1% of 1% (our share of ruminants) of 12% – 15% (the share of methane emissions caused by ruminants).   That is a reduction contribution of 0.0000132% - 0.0000165% of all methane emissions per annum. 

It is immeasurable, absurdly insignificant and any suggestion of warming is a fantasy.

We all know that the trace gas, methane is just one of several Greenhouse Gases (GHG) that allegedly can impact temperature.  All the GHGs together make up only 1.52% of the total atmosphere of which water vapour is the 1.5%. 

Water vapour varies around the globe from 0.5% to 4%.  But just for the GHG portion of the NZ atmosphere (1.52% total) the proportion of these GHG’s are:

Water Vapour – 97.3%         CO₂ – 2.69%

Methane – 0.012%               Nitrous Oxide – 0.0019%

This means water vapour is 36 times greater in concentration than the total CO₂ and more than 8,000 times greater than the TOTAL methane concentration.  (See table)

Methane is already a very minor player in the atmosphere and we are proposing to remove 0.0000165% of it by taking an axe to our most successful industry.  Utterly absurd.

There are at least two counter arguments that might be raised.

The first is that methane is a very powerful absorber of radiation – as much as 84 times stronger on a weight-for-weight basis than CO₂.Therefore, we need to take action.

However, the claims of potency for methane are highly dubious.

Scientists, including our Dr Jock Allison, and international physicists including Dr Tom Sheahen, Dr William Wijngaarten, Dr Will Happer and others, assert that the absorptive capability of methane molecules is not greatly different to CO₂ molecules – which Tyndall discovered way back in the 1860s.  The molecular structure of these trace gases is remarkably similar.

Furthermore, the scientists who first hypothesised that methane was radiatively more powerful than CO₂ and incorporated the idea in their models were very unsure of their findings. 

They said, “uncertainties remain”, “there is still a substantial range in the absolute level of emissions”, and “further work is warranted.”

A lead author for the IPCC, Dr Myles Allen, an earlier supporter of the theory of methane being a powerful player, now says the claims are 400% over-stated.

He and his fellow researchers are pushing for the GWP 100 formula that underpins the methane potency theory to be abandoned.  

Allen now believes a methane molecule may have just seven times the radiative absorptiveness of CO₂.  Our Government and the Climate Change Commission chose to ignore this critically important finding.

Even if the strong methane molecule theory is used the outcome in warming is little changed. 

Proposing that methane is X times more potent than CO₂ doesn’t make a scrap of difference – water vapour dominates anyway and reducing our methane emissions by a puny portion to save the world is futile and irrational.

The second part of this piece will run in the next issue.

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