Thursday, October 21, 2010

Come back James Porteous

("Trading carbon" in ECOS 14 September, 2010) ECOS spins the prayer wheel: [our responses in brackets]: "Several hurdles need to be cleared if Australian farmers are to become carbon traders. First, there is no well-established, cost-effective method of accurately measuring and monitoring soil carbon." [How many resources have been devoted to it to date? The injustice. Starve a problem of research attention then criticise it for having made no progress. Besides, Veris On-The-Move NIS Probe technology can measure soil carbon with a 90% confidence rate.] "Second, while NCOS offers guidelines for voluntary trading, there is no guarantee that the scheme will take off." [There is no guarantee that the Sun will rise tomorrow.] "And third, scientists still don’t have a very good idea of how effectively the various ‘carbon-friendly’ management strategies actually increase soil carbon." [So what? Ben Norton's work on the collective inability of scientists to reproduce soil and vegetation responses to management that thousands of farmers on three continents have experienced - in the McClymont Lecture 1998 - suggests Science will never recognise the potency of Carbon Farming.]

Prayer wheel: "... accurately monitoring changes in soil carbon is currently prohibitively expensive." [One proposed methodology eliminates a major cost factor by setting Bulk Density at a constant of 1 - which eliminates the need for expensive analysis while favouring the buyer. This is the type of creative, imaginative thinking needed for solving this and the other puzzle.

Prayer wheel again: "Central to the third problem – the question of effectiveness – is the issue of ensuring that sequestering soil carbon is indeed a good way to mitigate or reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Ultimately, this will depend on how policy dictates that farmers who plan to trade carbon use their land." [Government cannot dictate land management practices for trade. ANy farmer who wants can submit a methodology to any one of the string of certifying bodies in the world (VCS, Gold Standard, etc.) can trade under their standards. "....There are a number of approaches that, although they will increase the amount of carbon sequestered, will also increase emissions –which farmers don’t need to account for in the current iteration of Australia’s voluntary market." [Current Government policy is to incentivise farmers to reduce emissions rather than to 'dictate' to them what they will do. This pathway was chosen because the measurement of emissions at enterprise level is more problematic than measurement of soil carbon. No one has suggested that farmers will be forced to account for their emissions under any scheme proposed. Why does this issue continue to be raised as a barrier to trade?]
And so on... This article is just another iteration of the Complexities Syndrome that afflicts those suffering Future Shock. As Rattan Lal told the soil science community in 2007, "The train is leaving the station. Get on board."

PS. Whatever happened to James Porteous? He "got it."

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