Sunday, November 29, 2009

This unique moment

The following is an edited version of a letter to the editor by Glenn Morris, 'Billabong', Inverell:

Never before in the history of Australian politics has there been a leader of a political party with such a comprehensive understanding of Australia’s water systems, soil health and climate security and the way they are interconnected as Malcolm Turnbull. At the time of writing this article Australia is in the fortunate position of having three leaders from different political parties that are genuinely concerned about the future of Australia, as well as future generations. Kevin Rudd, Malcolm Turnbull and Bob Brown have all identified the need to gradually transform society from one based on the exploitation of resources to a society based on the building of a regenerative enterprises.

At present in Australia we are witnessing temperatures that are breaking all records, we have a landscape denuded of permanent vegetation which is leading to a breakdown in the water cycle and water supplies and we have an alarming escalation of disease due to the loss of immunity which can only come from a healthy soil.
But even with all our vital natural ecosystem cycles in breakdown and the highest extinction rates the planet has ever seen, we have the same men that have denied us the truth for over a decade calling for business as usual.
I say this to the national and liberal party politicians that are supposed to be representing all Australians.
Not only are we dealing here in the bush with an increasingly warming climate (the warmest November on record) but we are also dealing with a water crisis that will very soon start to force many rural producers off the land, a situation that will flow very rapidly to the banking sector and food supplies.
There can be no more denial of the truth, the evidence of a poor understanding of natural processes and poor decision making are all around us.
This is ... a time where we need honest and intelligent leadership, men who understand the need to create a future based on regeneration of the earth’s ecosystems.
Men capable of making the decisions necessary to change the course of history, decisions like-
• Understanding that the great biological forces of nature can be influenced to either; create wild climate extremes or the idyllic conditions for life – by understanding that by enhancing plant growth we can restore the world's water cycles and help cool the earth's atmosphere.
• Supporting holistic landscape management - helping to restore the water storage capacity of the landscape re-charging the flow of fresh water down the nations’ rivers.
• Ensuring optimum human health and disease prevention by providing greater support for nutritionally superior natural farming systems.
• Encouraging the uptake of eco-agriculture around the world to enhance bio-diversity while at the same time increasing the production of highly nutritious food.

I call on all Australians to see the truth that surrounds around us, in regard to a changing climate and support our leaders and the changes necessary to create a sustainable society.

November 28th, 2009.

Glenn David Morris
Inverell, NSW.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Fundamentals favour soil carbon

There is only one way to see the way ahead clearly in a sand storm such as has engulfed the ETS Legislation and the Liberal Party: go to the fundamentals. They dictate the outcomes, even though they may be obscured for a time by the dust kicked up by the excited partygoers. The fundamentals in Malcolm Turnbull's "Last Stand" are these: 1. Only the rusted on core 30% of old Liberal voters support the anti-ETS/denialist position championed by Nick Minchin and Tony Abbott. 2. The flood of emails pouring into the inboxes of conservative Liberals are generated by well-organised 'astroturf' operators - experts at creating the impression of grassroots support, using small numbers of people with multiple identities and multiple affiliations. 3. Liberal Party polling reveals that it will lose 20 seats if it fights an election on climate change. This would mean the Party will be reduced to a rump that can expect to remain in Opposition for at least 2 and even 3 elections. 4. Major corporate backers are expecting action on Climate Change. 5. The majority of the Parliamentary Liberal Party want to see the Party modernised and distanced from the old Howard imagery, rejected by the electorate in 2007. 6. Only in the hothouse atmosphere of Canberra could the arch-conservative wing of the Liberal Party believe that it can take control of the Parliamentary Party and install Tony Abbott as Leader of the Opposition. 7. Joe Hockey, were he to accept the Leadership from the hands of the rebels, would be a glove puppet of the Right. 8. Malcolm Turnbull is not John Gorton (who cast his vote against himself, allowing Malcolm Fraser a rails run.) 9. The longer the coup takes to finalise, the less likely the rebels are to win. 9. The longer the delay in actioning the soil carbon solution, the more demand for a solution will rise, the more open to our solution people will become, the less insistent on compliance with strict Kyoto accounting rules will officials become.

Friday, November 27, 2009

2-day Soil Carbon Workshop Series: Dubbo and Moree

Dubbo 9th-10th December, 2009
Moree 14th-15th December, 2009

FarmReady certified (Genuine farmers receive 100% reimbursement)

2-day workshop $550 (includes a copy of the Carbon Farming Handbook, RRP $55)

To register, call (02) 6374 0329 or email

You can be part of the Climate Change Solution, improve your soils and the environment, and enjoy more satisfying farming.
You can. But what are the pitfalls and problems you could face? What are the risks? You can learn all that you need to know to make a safe decision about soil carbon. You will learn:

• What Soil Carbon is.
• How Soil Carbon is Made
• How Soil Carbon Builds
• How Trading Schemes Operate
• Your Responsibilities
• Risks For All Parties
• Price Potentials
• How Carbon Is Measured
• SCOT™ (Soil Carbon Optimising Tool) for Carbon Farming Planning

Soil Carbon is the key to natural farming success. It can reduce your input costs. It can restore your soil structure and reverse the effects of erosion. Put the billions of microbes in the soil to work for you. Join the thousands of land holders who have discovered the excitement of working with a healthy farming system.

To register, call (02) 6374 0329 or email

Taught By Carbon Farmers of Australia: The Soil Carbon Specialists:

The Principals of Carbon Farmers of Australia are Pioneers of Soil Carbon Education. They have been practicing “Carbon Farming” for a decade, living and working on their 1780 acre wool-growing property in the Central West of NSW.
• Campaigned since 2005 for farmers’ rights to sell carbon they grow in soils.
• Conducted the first study tour of the USA soil carbon industry in 2006
• Secured the first order for Australian agricultural soil from the Chicago Climate Exchange 2006.
• Made sales of Australian soil carbon credits in March 2007
• Organised the first “Soil Science Summits” between scientists and farmers 2007.
• Staged the world’s first Carbon Farming Conference, Mudgee 2007.
• Launched the first formal training program on soil carbon 2008.
• Wrote and published the first Carbon Farming Handbook 2009
• Helped secure $26 million in funds for research to make it easier to measure soil carbon for trade 2009.
• Appointed to FAO-organised rangelands and conservation farming advocacy groups (In USA) 2008/9


Do you feel like the rabbit in the spotlight? Everything we have fought for over 4 years appears to be in peril due to the rebellion in the Liberal Party. We believe we have secured the best outcome from Minister Wong through the efforts of Malcolm Turnbull and Greg Hunt. It is in our interests that Malcolm Turnbull prevails. This struggle is likely to continue over the weekend.


1. Email everyone or anyone who can email or call people with influence in the Liberal Party - especially financial backers of the Party.

2. Email letters to Turnbull's supporters.

3. Encourage your children to email.

4. Email ideas for action to me -

Let's turn the spotlight around.

What We Are Up Against

Two books – SCORCHER by Clive Hamilton and HIGH & DRY by Guy Pearce – reveal an amazing capacity among fossil fuel companies to create faux grassroots campaigns to block or delay any action on Global Warming. They have been exceptionally successful.
And for this they have to thank a close-knit network of activists that includes scientists, journalists, government advisers, and lobbyists. The story is repeated all around the world – but it is in Australia and the US where these networks have achieved their goals, despite public opinion. The big polluters, led by Exxon-Mobil, feed funds to small, usually right wing organisations to conduct “astroturfing” campaigns – using PR firms to create an impression that they are part of a grassroots revolt.
These front organizations pop up like mushrooms, but the same people are behind them – arguing for genetically modified foods, against gun control, against the link between cancer and tobacco, cancer and asbestos, against any form of environmentalism, and of course against the notion of Climate Change. They hold conferences, release white papers by ‘experts’ and fill the pages of the press and the airwaves with misinformation, disinformation, and just plain lies. Some of them masquerade as professors and scientists, but they never have current publications in peer-reviewed journals. These groups have their own journals: World Climate Review and Energy & Environment. They look like serious, peer-reviewed journals.
These front organisations have names like the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), the Australian Environmental Foundation, the Australian Industry Greenhouse Network, the APEC Studies Centre, the Lavoisier Group, the Centre for Independent Studies. They are linked to similar organizations in the USA.
The IPA relies on funding from a small number of conservative corporations: major mining companies, GM foods company Monsanto; and ttobacco companies - Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, oil and gas companies; 15 major companies in the electricity industry; forestry: Gunns, the largest logging company in Tasmania, and Murray Irrigation.
ExxonMobil is the primary funder of 74 climate change denial front groups. Besides a shared goal, these groups often share staff, board members and postal addresses. ExxonMobil has spent more than $19 million on "information laundering," - having a small number of professional sceptics attached to scientific-sounding organizations to push their opinions through non-peer-reviewed websites such as Tech Central Station.
IPA and its related fronts have a choir of journalists and commentators singing from the same song sheet: Christopher Pearson, Alan Jones, Piers Ackerman, Miranda Devine, Terry McCrann, Michael Duffy, Andrew Bolt – all have given speeches to front group events and all parrot the ‘junk science’ line.
Their respect for science is nil. They attack the integrity of the 2500 climate scientists working under the auspices of the IPCC (the UN body established to address the issue – the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change). These scientists are merely toeing the line to gain career advancement, they say.
The communication strategy is tightly held. There are three techniques the PR industry uses: astroturfing, ventriloquism and the echo chamber—to create skepticism about climate change and other issues. Ventriloquism is hiring “independent” scientists to put forward the message. Astroturfing imitates grassroots organizations, but usually they are paid scientists with modest credentials. The “echo chamber” is the repetition of key messages until they get noticed.
The results of all this is seen in the media. Media’s drive to have balance often sees editors and journalists giving more space to sceptics’ views than is reflected in community views. When the mainstream media have covered global warming, they have portrayed it as a scientific uncertainty. But of a sample of over 900 articles dealing with climate change and published in peer-reviewed, scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, none expressed doubt as to the existence or major cause of global warming. However, an analysis of articles in the most influential American dailies found that 53% expressed doubt as to global warming. The strategy of playing up the confusion and controversy, repositioning global warming as theory rather than fact worked well. These public relations campaigns by a small but well-funded group in the fossil fuels industry, reminds us of the tobacco companies' campaign to create doubt about the role of cigarettes in causing disease and the rearguard actions by earlier generations to defend lead and asbestos, slavery and wife-beating.

To see Astroturfing in action, go to

Denial Delusion a Psychological Condition

Why are people so open to the Denialist Delusion? Psychologists have identified a new strain of neurosis called "Learned Hopelessness" where individuals believe nothing can be done about Climate Change and that one person cannot make a difference. Dr Andrew McKinley of the University of Toronto, Canada blames the activist environmental movement for being overly pessimistic and counterproductive. He claims that the old, historic assumptions of a ‘progress paradigm’ that powered the optimism of the past, the shock tactics and pessimistic media campaigns conducted by the Green movement, and the media that capitalizes upon those campaigns, have created a “Hopeless Age” in which there is a widely held assumption that the future will be worse than the present and that the lives of future generations will be harder than our own.
Humans have a psychological need to control the environments in which they function. The opposite of control of the environment is “helplessness”. This comment on a blogsite sums up the sydnrome: “I feel overwhelmed at the sheer scale of environmental problems such as climate change. I often wonder just how much the little things I do really impacts the environment as a whole. At least I see some improvements around my home.”
This feeling of futility is the deepest reason for inaction on climate change. Many people won’t make changes that cost them in any way—in money, time or lost pleasure—unless they believe that enough people also will be making the same sacrifice for it to be meaningful. Most people believe that it simply will not be possible to get enough people, corporations or governments to make the changes necessary to save the world. This is despair. Hopelessness forestalls action. Without action, there is no hope.
This feeling of powerlessnesss, called “low efficacy”, can lead to apathy, says Dr David Sandman of Princeton. If I believe I can’t do anything about your issue, it is sensible for me to focus instead on some other issue I can do something about. So feelings of low efficacy are a major source of apathy: I shrug off your issue in part because I don’t see an effective way to help.
The nature of journalism exacerbates the problem of low efficacy (personal effectiveness). The media tend to define their audience as bystanders rather than players. Gerhart Wiebe coined the phrase “the syndrome of well-informed futility”. Instead of feeling a civic obligation to do something about issues, we feel a civic obligation to know about them.
But the main barrier to action on climate change is Denial: many people are in denial about the crisis because it arouses intolerable levels of fear, guilt, sadness, hopelessness.
This indicates a massive mismanagement of the issue by governments and activists that has prepared the ground for the Denial Delusion.

The Denial Delusion Threatening The Soil Carbon Solution

In an age which has been so well served by science, it is astonishing how easily the credibility of our leading scientific institutions has been undermined by what could be described kindly as fringe conspiracy theorists. Official Science stands accused of falsifying data, manipulating findings, and hoodwinking all the governments and peoples of the world. Thousands of scientists are parties to this hoax, which they are perpetrating in order to enrich themselves by conning governments to spend increasing amounts on research.
This conspiracy has been uncovered by a small band of 'scientists' supported by right wing politicians and think tanks which claim that the hoax is an attempt by the Green Left to destroy western civilisation by deindustrialising economies and forcing us to live a medieval lifestyle like peasants. The "Cap & Trade" system is tagged as a 'massive tax on everything' to pay for a solution to Global Warming that will have no practical effect other than transfer wealth from developed to developing nations, from NATO nations to former enemy regimes China and Russia.
The "Denialists" have denied every aspect of Global Warming - that it is happening at all, that it is man-made, that it can be managed or reduced, or that it is anything more than normal variations in weather conditions. Their solution is to do nothing. Denialism - which threatens to derail an already inadequate global response to Climate Change - is not a sideshow. It is mass delusion of the type that gripped European societies at the turn of the first millennium (1000AD) which many believed was to see the end of the world. Groups of flagellants (self floggers) and pilgrims wandered from place to place, visions were seen and mysticism became popular. The modern Denialists find fertile fields for recruiting devotees in rural districts and among ultra-conservative fundamentalists who already believe a series of conspiracy theories, including the American lunatic right LaRouche Movement and the Citizens’ Electoral Council (CEC). The latter’s claim that Climate Change is nonsense quotes former head of the Bureau of Meteorology William Kininmonth as an expert authority. Mr Kininmonth is not a climate scientist, and his views have respected in the scientific community. He was an administrator. Mr Kininmonth’s anti-climate change propaganda activity has been funded by oil company Exxon Mobil (see “High & Dry” by Guy Pearse). His views are described as “Rubbish” by former head of climate science at CSIRO Graeme Pearman. “He’s not an expert, he hasn’t tested his ideas in the open literature, that’s what scientists have to do.” Mr Kininmonth’s former boss at the Bureau of Meteorology John Zillman described his views as ‘seriously misleading’. Anyone interested in discovering who and what is behind the climate sceptics can go to Wikipedia, or simply Google “Climate Denialists” or visit my blog In it you will also discover that the Citizen’s Electoral Council is linked to the LaRouche organisation in the USA which believes the Queen and the Royal Family are drug pushers and are planning genocide. The CEC was originally created by the Australian League of Rights, an extreme right-wing and anti-Semitic organisation founded by Eric Butler who in December 1939, wrote: "The real enemy is not Hitler and Germany, but the powers which control Britain, and which are working for the complete bolshevisation of the nation." In a 1940 pamphlet he wrote: "A stream of Australian youth is leaving to be smashed to bloody pulp in the second war to 'save democracy', which like the first war, was fomented by Jewish International Finance, will be financed and controlled by the same group and will mean their undisputed world domination." In the 1960s the League infiltrated the National Party by using the Citizens Electoral Councils. This was successful in areas such as Gippsland, the Riverina, the Darling Downs, the Yorke Peninsula and the Western Australian wheatbelt. Butler claimed that Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt and John Curtin were covert communists.
These are the intellectual foundations of the plotters who are tearing apart the Liberal Party.
But the Denial Delusion is more than just fringe lunatic right wing fantasy. It is widespread and spreading fast.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

But what if Barnaby is wrong?

Why soil carbon credits matter

Payment for farming in a less exploitative manner has been a long time coming. It acknowledges that farmers were not soley responsible for degrading the landscape. Out market economy has conspired to pay less that fair value for produce while our society has enjoyed the luxury of cheap products, at the same time demanding the producer go easy on the soil. Soil carbon credits are the logical way to redress the imbalance while the reconstruction of the natural resource base is underway. How we avoid returning to the same perverse system of market failure and destruction is yet to be seen. But paying farmers to exercise their skills in conserving and encouraging Nature to be bountiful must become part of our culture if our civilisation is to continue to be so described.

Initial Response to Minister Wong's Offer

This offer from the Government is either a winning first division Lotto ticket or a notice of foreclosure - it is all in the details. The mailed fist in the velvet glove. So far these are just words on paper. It's not what is on paper that will determine our fates, but what is in Penny Wong's heart. How she will interpret those words.

"Agriculture excluded ... indefinitely from the CPRS". This means that Agricultural enterprises will not be subject to the 'cap and trade' system - which is a compulsory emissions reduction scheme that applies to the top 1000 emitters in our economy and which covers 75% of national emissions. Leaving Agriculture out is not a curious development: no other sector of small to medium size enterprises was targeted for inclusion. The floor for entry into the cap-and-trade system is 25000 tonnes/year.

Even if set in stone in legislation, it is an easy thing for this Government or a new one to change the deal: The Wong Offer Document admits this point: "The Government makes a policy commitment to exclude agriculture... The Government will amend the CPRS bill to explicitly exclude agriculture emissions from the scheme: – this means that a future act of Parliament would be required to reverse this decision, providing additional certainty to the sector." How hard is it to pass a BIll and reverse the decision?

When Agriculture was left out of the CPRS, it was never going to be "business as usual". Those emissions have got to come down some other way. Using an Big Brotherly tone, the paper promises that "The Government will work with industry to: • monitor world‟s best practice in reducing agricultural emissions and consider a range of ways in which the agriculture sector can contribute to the transition to a low-pollution economy; and • introduce voluntary emissions reporting trials in 2011 to allow the sector to better understand and manage its emissions." To keep us all honest the Productivity Commission will review the industry in 2015 to see "whether the sector is at world‟s best practice mitigation and an examination of the potential measures to achieve this." There is no escape.

But there's a lot of carrot: credits for emissions reductions. "The Government will introduce amendments to provide for crediting of abatement from agricultural emissions ... that are counted towards Australia‟s international climate change obligations...'.

THERE IS a poison pill in the deal, as we predicted when the negotiations started. The offsets must "meet internationally accepted principles of permanence, additionality, measurability, avoidance of leakage, independent audit and registration" - which, under the distorted Kyoto Rules, will never be workable. The Copenhagen Solution must be accepted or this offer is a charade.

The Government is to appoint "an independent expert committee ... to vet offset methodologies and recommend robust methodologies". It will accept or reject recommendations, but it promises not to tinker with them. Anyone can submit a standard or methodology to this committee which will become a focal point (taking the heat off the Department and the Minister. It is a tacit admission that the Department does not have the smarts to do this kind of work - hence no Voluntary Standard yet.)
The independent expert committee will be very busy - it will approve projects and credit abatement from commencement of the CPRS; it will set the ground rules - including monitoring, reporting, record-keeping, auditing and enforcement; and allow new sources to be included once they are "recognised in Australia‟s international commitments."

• CPRS credits will be given for emissions reductions "that are counted towards Australia‟s international commitments" and that are covered by "robust methodologies". These include: methane from livestock and manure management, reduced N2O from more economical fertiliser use, the burning of savannas by traditional owners, burning crop trash, rice cultivation , avoided deforestation, a new term called " legacy waste".
No soil mentioned in the CPRS system because of the absurd Kyoto Rules (in section 3.3 and 3.4) that say any country wanting to claim carbon has to count emissions caused by 'acts of God", not humanity - another piece of Kyoto madness. Our Government "will continue advocating" for an end to this lunacy. While we can't play in the big sand pit, the Government will build a smaller one - it will promote voluntary market offsets by implementing a National Carbon Offset Standard (NCOS). This will provide scope for a market for abatement from "agricultural soils (grazing and crop land management), including biosequestration through soil carbon and biochar; and non-forest revegetation and vegetation management."
The plan is to transition to the CPRS market once the 'accountants who are deciding the world's fate' realise what's at stake. (Prime Carbon should send the Department a Bill for policy development work.)

NCOS methodologies would be assessed by the same expert independent expert committee, further adding to its workload.
The question arises: who is "independent" among experts and what is an 'expert'? Will it be a committee full of science, chasing the min-min light of exactitude. Or will it include market and commodity economists, and when will the buyers get a turn?

As a footnote, there is a few million for (more) research into measurement and just as much again for 'stewardship and biodiversity' projects. It is to be hoped that there is some sort of strategy behind all this. It all looks and feels like there isn't.

Payment for farming in a less exploitative manner has been a long time coming. It acknowledges that farmers were not soley responsible for degrading the landscape. Out market economy has conspired to pay less that fair value for produce while our society has enjoyed the luxury of cheap products, at the same time demanding the producer go easy on the soil. Soil carbon credits are the logical way to redress the imbalance while the reconstruction of the natural resource base is underway. How we avoid returning to the same perverse system of market failure and destruction is yet to be seen. But paying farmers to exercise their skills in conserving and encouraging Nature to be bountiful must become part of our culture if our civilisation is to continue to be so described.


24 November 2009

The following is the section of the Australian Government's offer to the Opposition to wintheoir support in the Senate for the CPRS Package.

Agriculture excluded
• The Government makes a policy commitment to exclude agriculture indefinitely from the
• The Government will amend the CPRS bill to explicitly exclude agriculture emissions from
the scheme:
– this means that a future act of Parliament would be required to reverse this decision,
providing additional certainty to the sector.
• The Government will work with industry to:
– monitor world‟s best practice in reducing agricultural emissions and consider a range of
ways in which the agriculture sector can contribute to the transition to a low-pollution
economy; and
– introduce voluntary emissions reporting trials in 2011 to allow the sector to better
understand and manage its emissions.

• The Government commits to conducting a Productivity Commission review in 2015 of
whether the sector is at world‟s best practice mitigation and an examination of the potential
measures to achieve this.
- Legislative amendment in the November sitting.
- Policy commitment to be incorporated in Hansard or laid before Parliament.
- Government will work with stakeholders to revise the work programme to incorporate policy
• The Government will introduce amendments to provide for crediting of abatement from
agricultural emissions and other sectors not covered by the CPRS (for example, legacy waste)
that are counted towards Australia‟s international climate change obligations, with the
following features:
– a policy and legislative framework that ensures any domestic offsets meet
internationally accepted principles of permanence, additionality, measurability,
avoidance of leakage, independent audit and registration;
– promotion of best practice standards;
– an independent expert committee will be established to vet offset methodologies and
recommend robust methodologies to the Minister for approval: This means that the Minister would accept or reject methodologies, but would not be able to modify the committee‟s recommendations
– provisions for interested persons to refer methodologies for assessment by the
independent expert committee;
– approval of projects and crediting of abatement from commencement of the CPRS on
1 July 2011;
– compliance requirements, including monitoring, reporting, record-keeping, auditing and
appropriate enforcement mechanisms; and
– legislation would be flexible and would allow new sources to be included once they are
recognised in Australia‟s international commitments.
• CPRS permits will be provided for abatement from the sources that are counted towards
Australia‟s international commitments, subject to the development of robust methodologies:
– livestock
– manure management
– fertiliser use
– burning of savannas
– burning of agricultural residues
– rice cultivation
– avoided deforestation
– legacy waste
– emissions from closed landfill facilities.
• The Government will continue advocating in the international climate change negotiations to
ensure the post-2012 accounting rules only require countries to account for emissions and
removals of greenhouse gases resulting from human activity.
• In the meantime, the Government will promote voluntary market offsets through
implementation of the National Carbon Offset Standard. This will provide scope for a market
for abatement from the following sources that are not counted towards Australia‟s
international commitments:
– agricultural soils (grazing and crop land management), including biosequestration
through soil carbon and biochar;
– enhanced forest management; and
– non-forest revegetation and vegetation management.
• Abatement from these sources will transition into the CPRS once abatement is internationally
recognised and provided that other CPRS requirements are met.
• To facilitate this, NCOS methodologies would be assessed by the same expert independent
expert committee responsible for advising the Minister on CPRS offset methodologies and
NCOS requirements would be consistent with those of the CPRS wherever possible.
• To further enhance the environmental outcomes from the CPRS, the Government will also:
– provide credits for regrowth forests on deforested land (legally cleared between 1990
and 31 December 2008);
– provide credits for soil carbon on deforested land (for land legally cleared between 1990
and 31 December 2008) from 2013;
– include conditions for forests earning forest credits to have adequate water entitlements
and planning approvals; and
– require that offset projects do not involve, or include material obtained as a result of,
clearing or harvesting of native forests.
- Offset chapter to be included in amendment in November sitting and detailed in supplementary
Explanatory Memorandum.
- Regrowth forests to be included in amendment in 2010.
- Other environmental enhancements to be included via amendments in 2010.
- NCOS to be implemented outside of legislation. Government to advocate improved international
accounting in international negotiations.
- Policy commitments to be incorporated in Hansard or laid before Parliament .
R&D into agricultural abatement
• To assist farmers to take advantage of these expanded offset opportunities, the Government
will provide additional R&D investment of $50 million into the development and on-farm
testing of emissions reduction options, including biosequestration and livestock, supported by
the voluntary reporting trial. This funding would include support for the development of a
global alliance on agricultural mitigation research proposed by New Zealand.
Green Carbon Fund
• The Government will establish a $40 million Green Carbon Fund to build the resilience of
natural ecosystems that are under threat from climate change.
• The first stream of the fund will provide support to monitor and plan for the impact of climate
change on biodiversity and land and water resources. The second stream will support initiatives to encourage environmental stewardship and biodiversity where there are carbon co-benefits.


- Program appropriated in future Budgets.
- Policy commitments to be incorporated in Hansard or laid before Parliament .

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Robust Science of Methane

Your robust criticism of Matt Cawood (The Land) and Charles Armstrong (NSW Farmers') for misreading a scientific paper invites a reply, if only to congratulate you for your enthusiasm. I endorse your intention to engage the farm community in the issues, and in this same spirit of bridge-building I offer this defence of Matt and Charles:

While they erred in using the Californian figure for methane as a global figure, their crime pales into nothing when measured against the 2006 FAO report called “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, famous only for being an embarrassment for the organization. The use of the 'data' by Animal Liberation and WWF was scandalous. The University of California study of the U.N.’s data, titled "Clearing the Air: Livestock’s Contribution to Climate Change," politely accuses it of almost being ‘junk science’ in the hands of those ideologically disposed to politicise the methane issue.
“For example, the statement that 18 percent of anthropogenic global GHGs is caused by livestock production and that livestock produces more GHG than transportation (FAO, 2007) is based on inappropriate or inaccurate scaling of predictions,” says lead author of the study, Frank Mitloehner. The sleight-of-hand to reach a point where cattle contributed more emissions than the entire global transport industry involved two subtle shifts of the data: 1. The FAO “Long Shadow” Report included in livestock’s list of liabilities the massive clearance of forest in South America and elsewhere to graze cattle. The UCal report notes that the chief source of greenhouse gases from livestock production isn’t the animals themselves but deforestation for livestock production. 2. At the same time, when making the comparison with the transport sector, the FAO report did not take such a whole of lifecycle approach, thus lightening the sector’s load. And making methane look worse.
So, the argument that “methane is such a big problem, we can’t let farmers get off scot free” loses momentum. Where does it represent 18% and compared to what? The truth is that nowhere does it represent 18%. The authors of the FAO report were too quick on the trigger to be credible.
An even bigger credibility problem for those who promote the “Big Methane Problem” syndrome: Cattle may not cause methane increases at all, according to research sponsored by the FAO. “Since 1999 atmospheric methane concentrations have levelled off while the world population of ruminants has increased at an accelerated rate,” it reports at “Prior to 1999, world ruminant populations were increasing at the rate of 9.15 million head/year but since 1999 this rate has increased to 16.96 million head/year. Prior to 1999 there was a strong relationship between change in atmospheric methane concentrations and the world ruminant populations. However, since 1999 this strong relation has disappeared.” Since 1999, there was an atmospheric increase of 0.3 ppb methane/year. This contrasts with the 10.8 ppb/year for the previous time period of 1979 to 1999.
How can this be? No one can explain it. Even Australia’s most senior scientists say “It might be this… It might be that…” What is a farmer to think? How credible does this tangled story sound? "Trust us, we're scientists."
Science claims to be able to tell us what our global methane emissions and our national emissions are, but not our herd emissions. Why? How did they get the global number? By adding up the national numbers? How did they get the national numbers? They have no herd numbers. They estimated it? Based on what? Whose Science? What was the predisposition of the individual scientist who did the estimation? In a report from the very frontiers of methane measurement science, Dr Ed Charmley (CSIRO Livestock Industries) has developed a laser that he shoots over the top of a herd. But he despairs of 100% accuracy. “You’re never going to have a definitive answer, but compared to the way methane is estimated currently, we’re looking for more elegance in the way it’s done.”

More elegance. More Dinkum Science.
Australian farmers won't shirk their duty. But give us something we can believe in.

Climate Institute celebrates Agriculture's good fortune by handing Wong another bullet

Agriculture dodges bullet, and the Climate Institute calls for another one to be loaded into the chamber. It doesn’t do much for the Institute’s standing with farmers.

Here's how it celebrated the good news: "Government and Opposition now need to put forward an alternative strategy for reducing agriculture’s carbon footprint, following the decision to permanently exempt farmers from any liability under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), The Climate Institute said today. “If it’s not going to be the CPRS, then Government and Opposition need to commit to an alternative that will reduce farm emissions, and ensure taxpayers and other businesses aren’t left carrying the burden,” said Corey Watts, The Climate Institute’s Regional Projects Manager.Mr Watts said that, currently, the rural sector is the country’s second biggest source of carbon pollution after electricity.

Corey, how do you justify bending the rules to shoehorn Agriculture into a cap and trade system when the vast majority of farm enterprises don't qualify for the 25,000t CO2-e floor on emissions? Why choose one group of small businesses and not any others? Why impose further burdens on an already over-burdened sector of the economy when the world's leaders are calling for a Herculean effort by farmers simply to feed the world when the population doubles in 40 years time? When the world's leading military and international security strategists predict massive global conflict sparked off by famine and flood resulting in mass migrations, especially in our region?
Why not call for incentives to encourage emissions reductions in agriculture? Have the same effect.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


"Agriculture excluded from ETS: govt" screams the headline this Sunday morning. And Penny Wong is on ABCTV's Insiders program discussing the 'OFFER' that farmers be exempt from emissions caps for methane and nitrous oxide... and that they will be given the opportunity to earn carbon credits for changed land management. The OFFER is on the table, conditional on the Opposition supporting the ETS legislation. SO the bird isn't in the hand, yet. It is not time to celebrate yet, but the signs are good


1. Penny Wong looked relaxed and comfortable making the announcement, as though it is a done deal.
2. It allows the Government to go to Copenhagen with an Agriculture positon that reflects the Obama Administraton's preferred outcome.
3. Kevin Rudd is meeting right now (this minute) with 17 of the top 20 nations at breakfast at which President Obama will be present. (Giving him a chance to shine in public. He loves it.)
4. It allows Turnbull to wedge the dissenters over the ETS and makes people like the Barnaby Nationals look silly.

Congratulations should go to Greg Hunt (Shadow Environment Minister) who first introduced soil carbon to Turnbull. Congratulations also to Turnbull. And Congratulations to Ian Macfarlane, the surprise package in the Opposition's Climate Change response. A former denialist, he proved to be a skilled negotiator, charming the stoic Wong by giving what appeared to be sincere praise from the gravel-voiced old farmer.

Congratulations to all of us. And shame on those who peddled worst case scenario visions of the future to those whose greatest need is hope.

To those inevitably outraged by this special treatment for Agriculture - which by some twisted arithmetic is responsible for 51% of world emissions - consider the following;

Farmers are small business operators.
Farmers emit less than the 25000 tonnes CO2-e over a year - which is the threshold entry point for other businesses into the ETS. No other small businesses are included.
Farmers are the only people who can feed the world. Famine is a major cause of world armed conflict.
Emissions estimations have been based on questionable science.
Most opponents of the farm sector are ideologically incapable of assessing its contribution and the nature of its emissions profile.
Farmers genuinely work in a unique environment.
Farmers are expected to perform socially-valuable environmental work (with no compensation) by a society which at the same time refuses to pay the full value for what they grow.
Farmers are the only hope we have got to stall Climate Change long enough for renewable energy alternatives can reach critical mass.

The soil carbon credit is the first recognition of this special role of the farmer. They are bearing the brunt of climate change. They deserve support.

Well done, Minister Wong.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

To Market, To Market

The following factors have become clear to us as we are recruiting farmers for baselining in preparation for measuring their soil carbon increases for the voluntary market that is soon to open and reports coming back from negotiations with buyers (big emitters) overseas and locally...

1. Ultimately only two parties will decide the shape of the voluntary market: buyers (emitters) and growers (sellers). If either party refuses to play, there is no game. The rest of us are spectators.
2. Growers will not get involved if the risks are too great (permanence), the costs too high (measurement), or the rules too strict (additionaiity).
3. Buyers will get involved if The Objective is to stall climate change for a period of 30-50 years while the world shifts from coal to renewables. Lal thinks it can be done.
4. To reach the Objective we need almost universal switching to carbon farming practices immediately.
5. The preferred method of incentive for change among growers is a market-based instrument (soil carbon offsets). There is no faith in government stewardship payments.
6. Issues of additionality, permanence, measurement, etc. are barriers to achieving the objective of universal grower involvement.
7. Issues like additionality, permanence, etc are decided by buyers and growers in these voluntary markets, not governments or brokers or wholesalers.
6. Kyoto was never meant to apply to Agriculture. The application of rules designed for industrial environments to Agriculture was an afterthought. The issue of food security and national and international security have left the Protocols behind.
9. The burning sense of urgency that is gripping the world community is tearing up the rule book. The market is frustrated by official dithering.
10. As Lal warned his colleagues: the train is leaving the station. (Soil & Tillage Research, 96, 2007) The unregulated voluntary market will become the defacto main market if the bar is set too high for Agriculture's involvement in a cap and trade system.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Conspiracy by environmentalists against soil carbon?

Ever wondered why the Green Groups have never endorsed or supported us? Andrea Koch - a Gore presenter based in Sydney - sends us a link to an article about Al Gore’s latest book OUR CHOICE. "It confirms my suspicion about why the Climate Change lobby (i.e. NGO’s like ACF) wont engage on soil carbon sequestration, which is because they know that it will work so well, that it will take the heat off the emissions side of the equation. They want to get the world off of oil before they let farmers get due credit for sucking up CO2."

The line to look for in this extract is: "If you tell people soils can be managed to suck up lots of our carbon emissions, it sounds like a get-out-of-jail-free card, and could decrease what little enthusiasm there is for reducing those emissions."

The Evolution Of An Eco-Prophet
By Sharon Begley | NEWSWEEK
From the magazine issue dated Nov 9, 2009

'The potential for soils to absorb more of the CO2 that our utilities, factories, and vehicles spew poses a dilemma for Gore, one of two where his scientific and political instincts collide. With better management, soils could sequester much more carbon than they do now. The question is how much more. Soils scientist Rattan Lal of Ohio State University was surprised to get a call last summer ("Vice President Gore would like to talk to you") that began, "I have 15 or 20 questions about soils and climate for you." Lal calculates that if more farmers adopted mulching, no-till farming, and the use of cover crops and manure, 3,700 million acres worldwide could sequester 1 gigaton per year of CO2, roughly 12 percent of annual global emissions. Other experts are even more sanguine. "If we feed the biology and manage grasslands appropriately, we could sequester as much carbon as we emit," says Timothy LaSalle, CEO of the Rodale Institute, who presented at two summits. The political clash is this: if you tell people soils can be managed to suck up lots of our carbon emissions, it sounds like a get-out-of-jail-free card, and could decrease what little enthusiasm there is for reducing those emissions—as one of Gore's assistants told LaSalle in asking him to dial down his estimate. (He didn't.)
To his credit, Gore sides with the science, letting the political chips fall where they may. He writes that soils could sequester an additional 15 percent of annual global CO2 emissions from fossil fuels. That could cut 50 parts per million of CO2 from the atmosphere over the next 50 years. (We are now at 387, up from 280 before the industrial era, with 450 ppm or even less a dangerous level.) To encourage changes in agriculture that would foster carbon sequestration, Gore advocates moving away from price supports and toward paying farmers for "how much carbon they can put into and keep in their soil," he says.

Two admissions by Penny Wong

Reading the entrails on Penny Wong's statements on 4 Corners last night is instructive:

She said two things about the prospect of soil carbon offsets: "We need more research on that. And we need it to be counted in the international accounting rules so that it counts towards Australia's target."

"We need more research on that" is the classic filibuster strategy. Politicians know it well. If you have a live issue that has supporters and you want to slow it down or kill it, refer it to a subcommittee where it can die from lack of oxygen. Or bury it in 'research' - 3 year trials that take a further 2 years to see the light of day. By which time who will notice?

Penny Wong fails to feel the urgency. Science fails to feel the urgency.
By putting off a decision on Agriculture til 2013, she is prepared to wait 4 years while Climate Change gets worse and soil carbon could be hard at work slowing it down.

Another way to strangle an unwanted initiative is to demand thad it meet impossible standards. It is clear that the international community have condemned the Kyoto Protocols as irrelevant for Agriculture. why continue to refer to them - bring out your dead: additionality, permanence, measurement...

IPCC Lead Author plugs soil carbon offsets

DR DAVID KAROLY of Earth Sciences, Melbourne, declared for soil carbon offsets last night on 4 Corners: "Agriculture is also a massive opportunity in terms of not only reducing emissions but storing carbon through changes in agricultural practice because there are opportunities to store carbon in soils, or to store carbon through changes in vegetation." He was speaking on Sarah Ferguson's report "Malcolm and the Malcontents", first broadcast 9 November 2009.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Peter Andrews is a landscape psychic.

Former Governor General, Major General Michael Jeffrey delivered the first "Farming For The Planet" Oration at the Carbon Conference & Expo Official Dinner.(Extracts will be posted soon.) He also presented Peter Andrews with a plaque commemorating his induction into the Hall of Heroes of the New Agricultural Revolution.

The dedication is as follows:

Peter Andrews is a landscape psychic. He sees things in Nature that the rest of us cannot. He has made a significant contribution to our understanding of the unique landscape that we have in our care, at significant personal cost. He has inspired many to follow the Natural Sequence. But Nature cannot wait for heresy to become canon law. For unwavering pursuit of his vision of the nation’s waterways and soils restored to their natural potential we declare… Peter Andrews A Hero of the New Agricultural Revolution.

Christine Jones is A Hero of the New Agricultural Revolution.

Christine Jones is a hero to many, many people. Even those who disagree with her theories cannot disregard her impact and the impetus she has given to the transition to sustainable agriculture in this country. At the Landcare conference in Yass a fortnight ago we presented Christine with a plaque to signify the important role she plays in the growing community coalescing around the philosophy of Natural Farming.

The dedication on the Plaque reads:

Dr Christine Jones risked all to realise her vision of the nation’s grasslands and farmland perpetually green and their soils rich with carbon. Her great compassion for the land and those who work on it led her to develop many successful theories to explain the rapid accumulaton of carbon in soil. Her ability to communicate the drama of the soil carbon story inspired many to dedicate their energy o the soil carbon solution in an era when they are most needed. Now. C

"The best conference I have ever been to."


"The best conference I have ever been to." This is the word from John Lawrie, soils expert and CWCMA stalwart, referring to the Carbon Farming Conference & Expo this week at Borenore, near Orange NSW. More than 400 attended the Coference or the half-day "Soil Carbon 101 Workshop" or the dinner or all three. Exhibitors numbers were up 100%. Attendance at the 101 workshop rose from 30 to 100 this year. We had more scientists than ever before. And this was the first of our conferences to attract a former Governor General (Major General Michael Jeffery).

The event had many emotional high-points (for me): the induction of Christine Jones and Peter Andrews into the Hall of Heroes of the New Agricultural Revolution; the emergence of Paul Newell with his gentle approach to healing the land that he calls "Landsmanship"; the decision by CSIRO's top soil carbon scientist Jeff Baldock to attend every session of the conference (unlike the 'seagull'* approach of some last year); the shockwave that went around the room when Ken Bellamy revealed his new interpretation of the chemistry of photosynthesis; the awe-inspiring and equally shocking implications of Prof. John Crawford's insights into the 'thinking soil'; the presence and the presentations delivered by the two men behind the "Soil Carbon Mythbusters" national tour David Waters and Clive Kirkby; the presentation of a dozen eggs - biodynamic, organic, free range - by farm innovator and visionary Tony Coote to the Carbon Coalition's Michael Kiely; the rain dance master-minded by Nick Ritar; the excitement in the voices of the Carbon Cocky winners when talking about how their attitude to farming has changed... The "hits" of the conference (based on the 'Rest Room Index of Speaker Mentions') were Gary Lewis, Paul Newell, Dr Carole Hungerford, Robert Pekin and Algae.... and 'all these young blokes, how can they know so much at their age?'

The gap between the past and the future is only a moment. But such a moment...
Dr Andrew Rawson seeks divine inspiration to give him an answer to the question we put to him at the end of his Chairman's introduction presentation. The title of his presentation was, 'Does Science feel the Urgency?' He started his address with a sense of urgency: saying we did not want to hear the same-old same-old about SOIL CARBON, such as soil health, water holding capacity, etc. No reciting of the old litany of soil carbon's benefits. Unfortunately broke his own rule when he recited the litany of 'difficulties' or blockages to soil carbon offsets trading - measurement, permanence, additionality, etc., which we thought we had left behind. How difficult it is to see in ourselves that which we can see so clearly in others. His response, when asked - how far have we moved in Soil Carbon Science in 12 months? - he said 'We are another year ahead.' We'll catch up with ourselves soon. There was a genuine clash of ideas between scientists and farmers this year, proof that the experiment in creating a safe debating environment based on respect, integrity and collaboration is working.

* (ie. fly in, mess all over everything and everyone then fly out)