Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hocus Pocus - Decoding Scientific Reports

Scientists – when writing reports for non-scientists – are allowed to use some big words to sparkle-arkle the presentation. But some go further in their desire to convince the world that trading soil C is the AntiChrist. Was there ever a day when ‘scientist’ meant ‘truth’ and ‘objective’? Sadly the following – taken from a paper on grasslands management in Australia, submitted to an international workshop – proves that science has come a long way from that hazy ideal.

“While there is doubtless substantial technical potential to increase C-storage in grazed Australian ecosystems above- and below-ground, (WHILE WE CAN DRAW DOWN MILLIONS OF TONNES OF CO2 BY MANAGING GRASSLANDS, WE CAN’T DO IT FOR ALL THESE IMPORTANT-SOUNDING REASONS – PRODUCE DOVE OUT OF HANDKERCHIEF) an adequate information base for accurately quantifying that expected potential for any specific changed management regime does not exist.” (SLEIGHT OF HAND: ASSUME MODELS ARE THE ONLY SOLUTION) It is not yet clear that reduced animal production is always necessarily a concomitant to achieving increased soil C stocks, although that seems logical for most situations. (THREE CARD TRICK: LOGICAL ONLY TO A NON-FARMER – DOES ‘SEEMS LOGICAL’ QUALIFY AS A SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATION?) This poor state of the information-base will be inhibitory to the uptake of any market-based C-trading or GHG-trading system for grazing land based approaches. (SMOKE & MIRRORS: A SCIENTIST IS AN EXPERT ON EVERYTHING, INCLUDING MARKET ECONOMICS) There are numerous complicating factors that will need to be addressed and dealt with explicitly in any market-based GHG trading scheme that involves C-sequestration into grazed ecosystems. (THESE COMPLICATING FACTORS ARE ALL MAGICIANS’ TRICKS) These include, linked emission and/or uptake of methane and nitrous oxide associated with management changes for achieving changed C-sequestration, (OBVIOUSLY NOT) the impact on C-stocks of wildfire frequency and intensity, (ILLOGICAL KYOTO NONSENSE) compensatory non-domesticated animal grazing, (WE’LL HAVE TO SHOOT THE KANGAROOS) and large scale movement of high-C surface topsoil by flood and wind, (NO MENTION OF INCREASED GROUND COVER?) difficulties of defining baseline C-stocks and baseline GHG fluxes from each patch of land under consideration especially when the requisite baseline is in the past, (GIBBERISH) long time-frames (several decades) required and high expense for measuring change in C-stocks in each patch of land under a scheme, (THE OLD COST OF HUMUS TRICK) the high actual input-value or opportunity-value of the mineral elements associated with increased organic C stocks (ARE THERE NO FREE LIVING N –FIXING BACTERIA), the special status of any lands that have already been defined as “Kyoto Lands” by coming under Kyoto Protocol arrangements (SAW THE GIRL IN HALF), and the interaction of C-sequestration with other environmental externalities that are coming under different management policy arrangements such as interactions with hydrological and biodiversity policies (FALSE ASSUMPTION – ESCAPE HATCH) The existence of the above and other real-life complexities will render market-based C-trading schemes involving pastures, exposed to the risks of complicated, ill-conceived, ill-understood, poorly regulated financial instruments and arrangements that are replete with opportunity for fraudulent scams and inappropriate diversion of community wealth to the personal fortunes of scheme managers and traders, while not delivering the scheme objectives, reminiscent of those involved in the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-2009. (DISAPPEAR IN PUFF OF SMOKE).

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