Climate change and carbon tunnel vision

Conversations | 20th May 2024 | By Chris Lawlor

Independent Contributor

Now unlike some other climate change sceptics I believe in climate change, in fact climate change has been constant for millions of years. What has changed in the last 100 years is the plague of humanity affecting the planet, it doesn’t matter which species on the planet goes from a population of 1 billion to 7 billion or increases 700%, they will affect the environment.

The fact that it was humans exponentially increased this impact due to our intelligence leading to a never seen before evolving of a species. Wind the clock back 100 years and most of us were walking or riding other mammals and living off seasonally grown and hunted food. Look what we have done in 100 years! We now burn over 7 billion tonnes of coal and 4 billion tonnes of crude oil every year.

Clearly the planet is warming up and whilst we cannot stop this we have agreed to attempt to slow it down, and todays focus, at the expense of other sustainability factors, is to have as many of us as possible neutralise our carbon footprint. So Australia and NZ in their infinite wisdom are hastily implementing all sorts of methods into agriculture too basically offset carbon pollution from other areas or industries or justify the direct effects of a wealthy population enjoying a comfortable life.

When I was travelling through the Serengeti in 1994, we stopped for a BBQ lunch in a game park, out of nowhere a couple of Masai warriors with their spears came and patiently watched 25 young Kiwis, Aussies and Europeans eat. All they wanted was our empty mayonnaise jars……what do you think the carbon footprint of these guys is compared to our four person family living in a 200sqm house with two cars?

But back to our offsetting and how our population of a combined 30 million or 0.5% of the world’s population is going to help slow the planet heating. Most carbon sequestration methods involve the natural cycle of photosynthesis where plants or trees take carbon in from the atmosphere and store it in their root’s, or use it to grow and either feed ruminant animals or grow trees for timber or fruits/nuts to eat. This actually makes a lot of sense. However, in a desperate attempt by the government to basically cover their ass or meet lofty climate goals many of these methods are farcical. The picture below shows carbon tunnel vision at the expense of other sustainability issues.

I will elaborate on two, firstly farmers can claim credits for changing from set stocking to rotational grazing, good farmers have been doing this for years but now others are doing it and obviously improving the soil carbon levels and amount of vegetation. The good farmers can’t because they were already doing it.

The other main methods focus on growing more vegetation or trees, a lot of it happening on productive farmland that’s been growing crops or feeding livestock. This is working very well and clearly carbon is being stored in the tree trunks etc, unfortunately rules are made where this can only be claimed for a certain period and as has happened for millions of year’s they will either be harvested or fall down one day and decompose in some form releasing the stored carbon.

On the surface this is assisting in reducing a very small amount of carbon in the atmosphere, but remember Australia has had four seasons of La Nina weather pattern with good rainfall in almost all areas and enjoying the associated growth. Now imagine what will happen to all this new vegetation when we get an El Nino weather pattern and droughts as has always happened. Yes, horrific bushfires again, and the associated soil carbon reduction with poor growth and perennial plants dying.

All this is affecting world food production, a classic disastrous example is the buyback of Dutch farmland to reduce livestock numbers at the same time the South Americans are increasing their beef herds with newly renovated pasture from the Amazon.

In our comfortable western nanny state societies people with nothing to complain about turn to climate action, unfortunately we are only about 20% of the world, the other 80% in South America, Africa, China and India are more concerned about their next meal and shelter. Our nanny state attitudes probably won’t even allow us to analyse the net carbon effect of a couple of wars that have used 10’s of thousands of bombs offset by the deaths of over half a million people.

To summarise, developed countries do need to do more than poor countries to cool the planet, but growing trees for bushfires instead of food for humans defies logic.


  • Weather
  • Climate Change
  • GHG Emissions
  • Carbon