We hear this last 24 hour news cycle Peter Cosier - sincere earnest scientist of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists - urging inclusion in any government scheme the opportunity for carbon sequestration via soil and other biomass fixation by big agriculture. He wants to leverage our natural advantage of large land mass while sanitising our real land use history:
Here he is quoted on ABC World Today show yesterday: Scientists cite soil as significant at http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2009/s2717777.htm
ELEANOR HALL: The Coalition may want agriculture excluded from the ETS but the nation's top climate scientists are calling on the Federal Government to include soil and vegetation in Australia's emissions trading scheme.
A report released by the Wentworth Group of Scientists says that unless this is done, it will be "next to impossible" to achieve the emissions cuts needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
The ABC's environment reporter Sarah Clarke has been speaking to Wentworth Group scientist, Peter Cosier.
PETER COSIER: Well, our analysis shows that if we increase the amount of carbon stored in vegetation and soils across our landscape, it has the potential not only to make a profound contribution to meeting our carbon pollution reduction targets but it also presents a unique opportunity to address a raft of other seemingly intractable environmental problems.
In other words we can use soil and vegetation carbon to help address climate change but we can get win-win outcomes if we design our institutional structures properly.
SARAH CLARKE: Is that the problem - that there are no institutional structures in place now?
PETER COSIER: Well at this stage we don't have those structures in place because we don't have a terrestrial carbon market but if we do introduce a CPRS and if the Government does extend the ability for polluters to offset their pollution by storing carbon in soil and vegetation then we will create a very large terrestrial carbon market.
SARAH CLARKE: How effective is soil and vegetation? How effective are they in storing carbon?
PETER COSIER: Well the analysis that we have looked at which follows on some work by CSIRO for the Queensland Government is that if Australia were to capture just 15 per cent of the biophysical capacity of our landscape to store carbon, you would offset the equivalent of 25 per cent of Australia's greenhouse gas emissions every year for the next 40 years.
SARAH CLARKE: Are other governments recognising soil and vegetation as an effective way of storing carbon?
PETER COSIER: Some governments have recognised it. In the United States for example the legislation going through the United States does recognise soil and vegetation offsets as part of their legislation but Australia is rather uniquely placed because, because we are relatively small economy with a large landscape the contribution that terrestrial carbon can make to our carbon pollution reduction targets is actually far greater relative to other nations.
SARAH CLARKE: What is the market worth then?
PETER COSIER: Well, if we were to achieve, capture 15 per cent of the potential that CSIRO estimate is possible, we could potentially create a terrestrial carbon market in Australia of between $3 billion and $6 billion per annum as I said, every year for the next 40 years.
The actual market created would depend of course, on the size of the reduction target the Government commits to.
SARAH CLARKE: How would farmers do this though? Would they have to put land aside to simply use that soil to store carbon or could they continue farming and producing fruit and vegetables and their produce?
PETER COSIER: Well, at the moment the CPRS does allow offsets into carbon forestry as it is called, Kyoto-compliant forestry. If farmers chose to, they would be able to use some of those opportunities to plant carbon forests or biodiversity plantings if they chose to on parts of their property and that would give them a new income stream.
Of course there is a risk that if we don't properly regulate the market we could also see large areas of agricultural land taken out of food production and converted into these carbon forests so we need a balance but if we get the balance right, the potential benefits to agriculture in terms of new income streams, the benefits for restoring degraded landscapes and biodiversity conservation are enormous.
ELEANOR HALL: That is Peter Cosier from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists speaking to our environment reporter Sarah Clarke.
Here he is for instance quoted 3rd of August:
According to Peter Cosier, executive director for the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, terrestrial carbon must be taken into account if Australia is to meet its carbon reduction targets.
"If we increased sequestered carbon stock in terrestrial landscapes by 15%, it would offset emissions emitted during the entire industrial revolution," he said.
Cosier pointed out while Australia was best placed to take advantage of terrestrial carbon offsets, we were still suffering under a "perverse rule" from the Kyoto Protocol to counter all emissions from soils, not just human use.
"Australia is unique; we have a massive advantage with terrestrial carbon. We have 20 million people on a continent of 7.5 million square kilometres. The proportion of the potential for offsetting carbon is vastly greater than any other developed country in the world," he said.
"What's stopping us is that if we have a drought and soil carbon is lost, we have to pay for it."
Cosier is so right in theory but the political economic history is way against him.
What he is not facing up to is that the famous PR programme called Landcare alliance between the National Farmers Association and Australian Conservation Foundation pioneered by former ALP Prime Minister Bob Hawke in the late 1980ies involved just 10% of farmers as members. Only 10% nationally at best supported environmentally friendly farming by that measure, though this report suggests as high as 1/3 in Victoria:
The good farmers are in the stark minority. The bad farmers are proceeding with record land clearing to the tune of millions of hectares in Queensland and New South Wales. In other words as the good book says - know them by their actions.
Cosier at best is speaking wishfully for 10% of farmers, maybe more given the greater awareness up to 2009. Or even with a doubling to 20% is still an 80% dinosaur cohort majority: See these credible figures 1991 to 2000:
The findings clearly show more favourable environmental attitudes with increasing level of involvement in landcare, although among all rural landholders with income from agriculture and/or properties larger than 50ha, those who rated themselves as ‘actively involved’ amounted to eight per cent of landholders. The marked difference between the eight per cent figure and the membership levels of 28 per cent and 43 per cent mentioned above highlights the sensitivity of estimates of landcare group membership to both the definition of the base population and of participation in landcare.
in Australian Farmers' Attitudes to Rural Environmental Issues.
Reeve, I. 2001 Australian Farmers' Attitudes to Rural Environmental Issues. 1991-2001. Final Report to Land and Water Australia.
That's why farmer traditional political representation in the National Party state constantly they won't vote for an Emissions Trading Scheme under any circumstances.
This is the real record of those carbon storage champions in big agri in Australia:
ACF - Facts About Land Clearing in Australia Australia has the fifth highest rate of land clearing in the world. We clear more bush each year than poverty-stricken countries like Burma, Mexico
The Wilderness Society — New data on Australian landclearing rates ...New research from NSW and Queensland has found that Australia's landclearing rates are much higher than reviously estimated. The independent research ....