Saturday, December 20, 2008

So many fortune tellers in science

There are many in Agriculture who declare that the “potential” for soil carbon as a long term commodity market is small.

In this case the estimation of ‘potential’ involves prediction of the future, an activity which cannot be scientific and of which scientists are not capable. In a version of the “Myth of the Ancient Soils”, these people, among them highly respected scientists, declare the “potential” to be small when a combination of factors are considered:

1. the cost of measurement is high
2. the rate of sequestration is low
3. the price is low

“Potential” in this context is a prediction of the upper limit of soil carbon’s performance. Those who make these claims do not have any evidence on which to base them because they are speaking about a time in the future and about issues of which they have no special expertise.

1. The cost of measurement in a market context does not yet exist. The market has not started. The CCX market does not have a high cost of measurment. There are three factors which can influence the costs of measurement: One. Innovation – new ideas can never be predicted. Two. Competition – between suppliers of measurement services which is very likely to be the case once the market opens. Three. The cost of measurement is relative to the price per tonne of CO2e. The market is currently operating without the world’s 3 biggest emitters, and even now there is a shortage of fungible carbon for trading. The cost structure of every new market is distorted in its early days – eg. PCs, mobile phones, air travel, etc.

2. The rates of sequestration are low when scientists have studied them (until recently). They are higher when they occur on ‘whole of farm’ contexts that more closely simulate the true environment within which the soil carbon dynamic takes place. And they are much higher when soil biology is the variable used to make a difference.

3. The price is likely to increase dramatically when the demand more than triples upon the entry of the USA (first) and then China and India.

Some scientists have assumed the role of market economists and futurists, tasks they are not equipped to perform. There can be only one fact about the future of which we can be sure: The FUTURE will not look like the PAST or the PRESENT.

No comments: