Thursday, December 31, 2009


What A Year! It was the Year of Soil Carbon. The Gods played Spin The Bottle with our fates. Some great things happened. We started the year facing this situation: the Government was intending to give farmers a BILL for Methane, a BILL for N2O, and no way to OFFSET THESE BILLS with Soil C. At the end of the year we have all sides of politics (except the Nationals) support a “Special Status Arrangement” for Agriculture tht recognizes its unique capacity to be both a sink and a source of carbon emissions and its starring role in the twin global challenges of Climate Change and Food Security. The new arrangement is the complete reverse of the first draft: NO BILL for methane (incentives instead), NO BILL for N2O (incentives instead), and soil C OFFSETS to trade. What a Trifecta.

The Year started amid the atmosphere of the FAO’s slow, deliberate campaign to build a coalition around soil sequestration for food security that was supposed to crescendo at Copenhagen, and did - with 4 separate side events for land use and land use change. But the Chinese and Indians came looking for a fight – and the rest is history. The Kyoto Protocols might be dust-binned, replaced by a “Pledge & Review” system – it won’t matter. The Soil Carbon Solution will happen.

Here at home the year commenced with an historic announcement by Dr Peter Fisher that the soil carbon models would need to be recalibrated – Roth C could not digest the soil C results he was encountering. This confirmed Christine Jones’s findings – and was historic for that reason alone.


The next blessing appeared in the shape of Malcolm Turnbull who discovered Green Carbon, thanks again to Christine’s efforts in Parliament House. We eyeballed Greg Hunt to see how deeply he had ‘got religion’ and he passed muster. Greg’s role is acknowledged in an earlier post. It shouldn’t be forgotten that Malcolm fought to the death for a farmer-friendly ETS that Ian MacFarlane managed to charm out of Penny Wong.

WHO ‘GOT IT’ IN 2009?

A lot of important people ‘got it’ in 2009: Tim Flannery finally ‘got it’ and said so in his book Now Or Never. The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists “came out” for the Soil Carbon Solution. (Are there any ‘unconcerned scientists’?) Al Gore finally got it. Paul Gilding, ex-Executive Director of Greenpeace International gets it. The EU gets it. The World Bank gets it. The Ministry for Agriculture gets it. Minister Tony Burke gets it. Former Governor General Major General Michael Jeffrey got it and picked up the ball and is running with it, as Chairman of Outcomes Australia. Sadly the Soil Carbon Mythbusters don’t get it. Even sadder, the Climate Institute doesn’t get it, by their recent comments on farmers ‘pulling their weight’.


What’s to be got? This: If the immediate climate disasters are caused by the historic load of CO2 and farmers have the only means of extracting it from the atmosphere at the volumes required, in the time necessary, it becomes a matter of negotiation, not command from on high about moral obligations. Farmers won’t take any old deal. Not too many people ‘get’ this. The question is: how bad does Climate Change have to get before decision-makers are so desperate that they will call on the farmers of the world to commence carbon farming in earnest? Shift their mindset from "The Mitigation Solution Must Fit The Accounting System" to "The Accounting System Must Serve The Mitigation Solution".


Hurrah for Tony Burke. He listened to our petition on collaborative science. Congratulations to all those who ‘signed’ our petition. See how powerful you are! While governments wait the obligatory 3 to 5 years for science to confirm the unconfirmable – ie. take all the risk out of decisions – the climate deteriorates at an accelerating pace and the cost of each year lost is $500billion, according to Sir Nicholas Stern. Someone soon must stand up and say: “Stuff it! Let’s just do it.” The Government has done this by introducing “Collaborative” Science in its latest round of research funding. Teaming scientists with farmers, food processors, and policy professionals, the Government hopes to ‘achieve outcomes that make a difference’ and that ‘commercial realities are taken into account’ to see the outcomes are likely to be adopted by farmers.


Finally the moment of the year for mine was hearing a scientist remark, just as the conference rose for lunch after hearing Ken Bellamy present his paper on in soil photosynthesis and the role of autotrophs and phototrophs, “Astonishing. That was amazing.”


To everyone who did the smallest thing and those who moved the Heavens for the cause, you know who you are – and so does Mother Nature. In 2006, DR Lal described the Coalition’s Mission as “your noble cause”. And we now know that it is the people who support the cause that make it ‘noble’ by being there.

1 comment:

David Allen said...

Many thanks to Michael for being so passionate and persistant. It was always going to be a big quest but now soil in well and truely on the agenda and let us hope that farmers can really help with this global problem. Our farms will be and need to be even more productive in the future. A big THANKYOU.