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Newman: Signing To Kyoto Protocol Will Be Madness

Signing Up To Kyoto Protocol Will Be Madness

Weekly Column by Dr Muriel Newman MP

Predictions of calamitous events have always been around. Some of the most famous were those of Nostradamus, written in the 16th century, which continue to be re-interpreted to this very day.

As a child I recall being terrified about the 'population bomb', which was going to result in global famine. No one thought to mention that if everyone in the world was given a square metre of land, that they could all fit in an area the size of the Taupo District, or if they stood shoulder to shoulder they would fit on Stewart Island!

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were ominous predictions that the world would run out of oil by the mid-90s. The 90s came and went and the oil continued to flow.

Newsweek magazine in 1972 printed an article, which reported that a new ice age had begun. Part of the evidence was based on the fact that between 1945 and 1968, the average temperature of the northern hemisphere had fallen by half a degree.

Not only did the ice age not engulf us, but now we are being told, probably by some of the same doom and gloom merchants, that global warming is upon us. So concerned is our Government, that it is pushing New Zealand to the front of the queue to sign up to the Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement designed to reduce the world proliferation of the human generated 'greenhouse gases' of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

The Government doesn't appear concerned that the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol will seriously damage our economy. Instead it seems to be driven by a blind ideology, which will result in us signing first, even in the absence of clear evidence that the ice caps are indeed melting or that sea levels are rising. In fact, fresh evidence is now emerging that the opposite is occurring.

Just a couple of weeks ago, scientists in Antarctica reported that the continent is cooling. They found thousands of dying penguins, prevented from accessing their feeding grounds by thickening ice.

A recent study on the effects of the rising sea levels on the small Pacific island of Tuvalu, carried out by French climatologists, ahead of talks on how to save the Tuvualan 'environmental refugees' from global warming, found that rather than rising, sea levels have been falling for the last 50 years. In spite of now knowing that the island will not soon be under water, New Zealand has signed up to take Tuvaluan 'refugees' anyway.

While there is some evidence that the earth has warmed 0.3 to 0.6 degrees Celsius since 1850 - well within the natural known temperature variations over the last 15,000 years - most of the warming appears to have occurred before 1940, while most human-generated emissions occurred after. In fact, global satellite data shows no evidence of warming during the last 18 years, with the earth being significantly colder now than it was between the 10th and 15th centuries when vineyards thrived in England and when the Vikings colonised Greenland and built settlements in Canada.

In spite of the lack of scientific evidence, the Kyoto Protocol is designed to manage this so-called global environmental risk, by requiring signatories to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2012, either to 1990 levels or to some agreed fraction of that level. The idea is that a country's need to cut emissions can be offset by the production of carbon sinks - such as the planting of new forests - which will lock up atmospheric carbon. If the overall effect is a carbon credit, this can then be traded with countries that have carbon deficits.

The whole system is based on the socialist's concept of a transfer of wealth from richer to poorer nations. Most sensible countries - the USA, Canada, Australia, Singapore - have opted out, taking a let's 'suck and see' approach. Developing countries that remain outside the regime will clearly benefit from business relocations, as energy dependent production is shifted from developed countries to escape the high costs imposed by the Protocol.

The New Zealand Refining Company is a case in point. Although they are now one of the cleanest and most efficient refineries in the world, they will still be expected to reduce emission levels down to pre-1990 levels, even though at that time their production was far lower because fewer New Zealanders owned cars! As a result, they face the choice of either paying heavy carbon taxes, which will erode their profitability, or relocating their refining to Indonesia, with the consequential loss of jobs and wealth.

Many New Zealand forests were planted on land on which livestock failed to thrive. The identification of soil trace element deficiencies has meant that once forests are harvested, they can be returned to more productive agricultural uses. However, under Kyoto, forestry companies that do not replant the trees they harvest will be forced to pay massive carbon taxes.

While 45 percent of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels, agricultural emissions account for 55 percent. Farmers are outraged at talk of flatulence taxes, with rates from $25 to $60 for dairy cows, $20 to $50 for beef cattle, and $4 to $15 a head for sheep, being proposed. Since agriculture produces over half of our export earnings, crazy schemes that undermine the sector's global competitiveness, are totally irresponsible.

New Zealand is a small island nation surrounded by millions of miles of plankton bearing oceans. Plankton is the world's major converter of carbon dioxide into oxygen. Of all countries, we have the least need to sign up to any scheme to reduce greenhouse gases. To have pushed to the front of the queue to sign, even though the estimated cost is $20 billion over 15 years, is simply madness.


Dr Muriel Newman, MP for ACT New Zealand, writes a weekly opinion piece on topical issues for a number of community newspapers. You are welcome to forward this column to anyone you think may be interested. View the archive of columns at

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