An intriguing look into how the deep state thinks about climate change.
A good read and thanks for doing what most of us don't; go through documents from our Govt departments and comparing them. I was at a AFRA (Aotearoa Food Rescue Alliance) press conference where they released a manifesto for political parties to sign up too, calling for A National Food Plan and mandatory reporting of food loss and value across the food chain. The amount of food waste is apparently a huge carbon waste for our little country. But one statement that you hear thrown about a lot is that "we produce enough food to feed 40 million people". I am not sure that's really true given that much of our dairy product is exported in the form of milk powder and I believe that product largely goes into confectionary products and that's hardly feeding 40 million in a viable way. But I do think many people are cutting back on meat and dairy... those products are very expensive in our supermarkets but also I think people are also thinking of the cost to our waterways and our reputation abroad. We are hardly clean and green are we? Given how many climate events we are seeing across the world, I do think we absolutely have to put climate first and to feed our own first, rather than gather more export dollars. It's a tricky balance but without habitat we are nothing.
Really nice summary of both department's reports.
What I find interesting is that while the MfE report does mention it, neither report really understands the impact of modern biology on our agricultural sector.
There are already companies making dairy products using precision fermentation (eg Perfect Day). In other words we should in the next decade see most if not all of the purified milk proteins being produced in fermentation tanks. That should make them cheaper and almost certainly make them less harmful to the environment and less dependent on the environment. It is worth noting that Fonterra makes a big chunk of it's profit from those purified milk proteins. I don't know whether milk as we know it will be produced in fermentation tanks but if it is then on both price and environmental grounds a lot of people will be keen to switch to it. How both government departments can ignore that potential is surprising.
The outlook for meat is no better, while it's true that replacing a quality piece of beef or lamb (not to ignore chicken and fish) is going to be a hard task, we already have replacements for minced meat. And yes while those are more expensive both in dollar terms and in resources at the moment I would not want to bet that those costs don't come down. What that might mean is that the market for bulk meat (eg mince, burgers, sausages etc) could collapse. That in turn means that the premium cuts need to pay the entire cost of raising the animal. The maths on that will be tricky but I wouldn't be surprised to see premium cuts double or triple in price at the same time as mince substitutes halve. And like with milk many consumers will consider both cost AND environmental harm when choosing plant- or fermentation-based mince substitutes.
The impact of climate of trends like these is simply that much of the dairy and meat substitutes are relatively resistant to climate changes. That resilience is going to become much more significant over the next couple of decades.
Unless New Zealand is part of the change that is coming I can't see any good outlook for our primary industries.
The MPI briefing is sort of jarring when you compare it to what has played out over the last six months in actual reality.
Domestic food prices continue to drive inflation (as a result of the climate events of the flood and cyclone) - meanwhile, milk solid prices have continued to decline on the global market, which will reduce overall farm profits this year, at the same time input costs with things such as fertiliser and labour costs are putting substantial margin pressure of farms in New Zealand.
So at the moment the demonstrated impact of an event has been a significant increase in domestic prices with a corresponding decline in global prices for the majority of products that we export.
I freely admit that this could simply be a particular aberration of a combination of a range of climatic and economic factors, but the lived experience doesn't really seem to be backing up MPI's assumptions to this point.
"New Zealand creates enough food every year to feed itself eight times over, so it is likely that we will have an easier time of increased crop failures than other countries that need to import much of their food."
Why would you even think this? Isn't it obvious from looking at the produce that's stocked in the supermarkets, and the price variations across the Northern / Southern hemisphere seasonal transitions, that- with the exception of the *very premium* end of the quality and price spectrum- the export market ALWAYS gets 'first dibs' on New Zealand produce. This is notwithstanding one can buy NZ produce on the opposite side of the world cheaper than here in a NZ supermarket!
Basically, most of NZ eats 'pack-house rejects', and the likely effect of a climate-induced global food shortage is that the overseas markets will become less fussy about what they will take and when they will take it, resulting in shorter supply of lower quality and higher prices in the domestic market, rather than the opposite.
Great story, Henry. The other thing that fails to make anyone’s radar is impending energy scarcity.
Without getting in to an argument, or a thesis, this is real, and there’s no way around it (there is mineral and material scarcity, scaleability and timeliness constraints, and complexity and supply chain reasons for this).
With less energy (fert, PKE, electricity to move water), our PI volumes are going to look very different.
Fascinating and more than a little disturbing. It seems to be pretty short-sighted, head-in-the-sand kind of view. You're absolutely right that the questions we ask, and they way we ask them, are crucial.
Interesting and relevant. I am marginally in the MPI camp. I read a lot especially on issues related to Climate Change and Politics.
From what I have digested, it is likely that areas such as Canada and NZ will be less impacted by climate change. I cant remember the details but it has to do with weather? patterns at these latitudes'. Particularly more so in NZ as we are maritime islands.
So we do stand to make more in future particularly vis a vis China who has a major problem with Food Security and who is likely to be particularly impacted by Climate Change.
But as usual in NZ, the Government Agencies are siloed and short term in their thinking. Why are we not having joint meetings between Environmental Agencies, Economic and Land Use Agencies, Emergency Management, Energy Security, Local Govt, Immigration, Education,Transport and Defence looking out to the next 50 years? We plan for earthquakes and Tsunamis but not for Climate Change which will be all encompassing.
It is time to stop arguing about the cause of climate change and small short term things we can do to make it better. Too much time has passed and the time is here for future planning and adaptation to a changing climate.
We should be looking at likely climate impacts and planning for coastal risk, draught, flooding, biosecurity and land use - eg: incentivising farming in the west, moving people back from the Coasts, maybe finding ways of transporting water from the west to say the Canterbury plains? We should look at the options and cost them and figure out how we are going to pay for it and who is going to pay for it.
And we cant forget Defence, if we can feed 40 Million and China will be starving, do we really want to gamble on them asking nicely to buy food from us. Our milk powder may currently be used for confectionary but in desperate times, milk is the ultimate food.
Also to future proofing vis a vis the artificial food industry but currently the markets are getting push back on artificial foods especially Meat. Seems there was a novelty blip but Consumers are not yet interested in them. So again, MED or similar need to be researching at what price food needs to rise worldwide before artificial food becomes more in demand than the real thing. Also competitor analysis, what other countries will fare better or worse due to climate change? So much we can be doing other than planting trees for carbon credits and giving rebates on EV's. (And BTW thats where energy security comes into it. we are switching to EV's without the capacity to fuel the numbers we want to put on the roads, and other issues such as transport, identifying what roads and networks are critical to agricultural production vis a vis more natural disasters. How do we protect these networks?
This is what our government should be focusing on simultaneously with our very real bread and butter , health and housing issues.
If two ministries with scores (hundreds?) of analysts between them can't get their stories right then I think it is unrealistic and even unfair to expect ministers to be across it.
You credited MfE with a "broader" look and that is fair. From your report, though they alluded to commodity price changes, they didn't try to quantify them. But ultimately the numbers matter, and from a purely economic perspective it's not hard to imagine commodities price changes dwarfing all the other changes. So, ultimately, I don't see how a responsible minister could find either report actionable in terms of relying on their predicted economic outlooks.
I think one needs an appropriate level of decoupling (http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2022/01/decoupling-contextualising-and-rationality/) here. It's a bit unfair to suggest MPI's report is "evil" based on a false suggestion their report says climate change is a "net positive". I think everyone in the room acknowledges the report was narrowly focused on the economic outlook. We could easily imagine a future where NZ agriculture's economic outlook does improve due to climate change, alongside rising food insecurity in Aotearoa and major mental health distresses for a minority of coastal farmers whose produce is entirely wiped out due to regular flooding in their areas. That is not a net positive for NZ, or even for farmers, in terms of wellbeing, even if they're earning more cash.
Last small point--its hard to imagine how EU tariffs could restrict NZ's meat and dairy exports more than they already do! Dairy and meat exports to the EU currently sit at a near-zilch level, and the recent FTA is not going to open up those sectors all that much.