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IPCC Report Lays Bare Where Blame Lies 

Eloise Gibson’s story today in Newsroom of her interview with Professor Mark Howden of the ANU in Canberra, and the highest rank Australasian on the IPCC that released its Report this week which firmly fixed land-use in its sights as being directly responsible for climate change..

Howden knows as much about farmer attitudes in this country as he does about Australia, and the interview is well worth reading for this reason alone, in regard to New Zealand’s methane debate (see previous Post) in particular, if only because we need to  understand what lies behind ‘denial’ in all its guises.

Here is an important excerpt:

"Newsroom: You gave a great talk recently on the IPCC's special report on land use and you were really careful to say that the report wasn't "calling for" people to do anything, despite all the headlines saying 'IPCC says eat less meat' etc.

Mark Howden: Yes, IPCC reports are not policy prescriptive.

Newsroom: But they do lay out what you might call obvious areas for action. What do you see as the most pressing areas?

Mark Howden: The biggest one is to reduce fossil fuels and not just in agriculture, across the board – energy, transport, industry. That's the first cab off the rank, and to some extent there’s a risk of displacement activity, so that focusing on smaller and more difficult sectors takes the eye away from dealing with the big sector, fossil fuel use.

...[But] methane does add to the net greenhouse gas load, because methane is much more active a greenhouse gas (than carbon dioxide). And most of the nitrous oxide and methane is from agricultural activities."


 “MH: Australian farmers until recently have been fairly out of step with farmers almost anywhere else. I can go to Sri Lanka and talk to a farmer and they will acknowledge climate change, and the same in Vietnam and India, South Africa, in other places there’s a public acknowledgement of the change which legitimises public action as well as private action on the change. Whereas in Australia, up until recently, farmers' public statements have been very biased towards not acknowledging climate change, so for example they were four times more likely than the public average to express views that climate change wasn’t happening or if it was it wasn’t human influenced. There's a strong political driver for these views because there’s strong polarisation in the community. Left/right voting relates to climate acceptance and denial in Australia.

NR: How did we come to this?

MH: It’s a long story. Australia and the United States are outliers in this, the US more so than Australia. But what's happened is that at the same time as the public statements of farmers were biased towards climate change denial, the actions of farmers were actually climate change acknowledgement. The vast majority were doing things that were sensible climate change adaptations. And it's only recently, with groups like Farmers for Climate Action that the conversation has changed. A lot more famers are coming out and saying climate change is real, we have to take action and all of a sudden that’s changed those conversations in the farming community.”




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