March 18, 2011

First they came for the Alfalfa, and I said nothing

Then they came for the Brussels Sprouts.....

FROM-The Davis Enterprise

Supervisor and scientist question county’s climate change plan

Part of Yolo County’s strategy for slashing greenhouse gases is “dead wrong,” according to a UC Davis agriculture scientist.

On Wednesday afternoon, alfalfa expert Dan Putnam questioned the science underlying the county’s Climate Action Plan, which the Board of Supervisors passed at its Tuesday meeting on a 3-1 vote. Supervisor Don Saylor voted no. Supervisor Mike McGowan was not present.

Putnam, who works with farmers to implement academic research in the field, is skeptical of the county’s plan to cut emissions by 4,200 metric tons over the next decade by reducing the amount of fossil fuel-based fertilizer spread on alfalfa fields.

The entire plan outlines a way to cut emissions by nearly 6 percent between 2008 and 2020, the state deadline to roll back to 1990 levels. The county’s unincorporated area generated 613,651 metric tons of carbon dioxide that year. In 2008, the number increased 6.2 percent to nearly 652,000 metric tons.

Preparing the plan has cost the county $238,000 so far, said rural Supervisor Duane Chamberlain, and it’s “just a mass of errors.”

Alfalfa farmers, by and large, don’t use nitrogen fertilizer, Putnam said, and reducing what they do use by 25 percent would not result in a crop increase of 0.35 percent as the plan predicts.

“The alfalfa part of that is just wrong — dead wrong,” Putnam said. ”That’s just nonsense. I don’t agree with that at all.”

Moreover, Putnam said he usually needs to see much larger fluctuations in yield — at least around 3 percent — to attribute it to something other than margin of error.

“They’re using modeling to come to their conclusion,” he said of the plan’s architects. “There’s nothing wrong with using modeling … but the question is you have to be realistic about … the vagaries of nature.

“It’s one thing if the model spits out (a number), and it’s another if it’s something we can measure in the field. It’s another thing to ‘ground truth’ it.”

Chamberlain represents the county’s rural areas, farms alfalfa and lets Putnam conduct studies in his fields. He voted to approve the Climate Action Plan, but was the most vocal about his concerns over the underlying science.

Chamberlain said he talked to several UCD scientists, including Putnam, and they all agree carbon dioxide levels are going up. That, however, is about all they agree on. There’s no consensus about whether that’s a good or bad thing.

Board Chair Matt Rexroad said the “large global view” of climate change theory is irrelevant to the Yolo County Board of Supervisors.

“I’m not prepared to argue that today,” he said at Tuesday’s meeting. What is relevant is that the state Legislature and governor passed a law that requires local government, Yolo County included, to cut emissions by 2020.

“We’ve beat this thing to death,” he added.

Saylor, who ultimately voted against adopting the plan, said the science behind climate change is solid.

“It’s unambiguous that change is happening to our planet, and that human actions have led to many of these changes,” he said. “It’s important we begin to correct that.”

Chamberlain not only took issue with climate change theory on a global scale, he also questioned the specific data underpinning the plan’s strategy.

“We don’t have any real science that’s on the ground,” Chamberlain said of the plan. ”We’re still missing the true science. I’m not sure it’s even there. The guys that are doing the on-the-ground science say, ‘We’re not sure. We can’t answer this.’ I don’t want to make decisions based on erroneous assumptions.

“I’d like to see some science in here,” Chamberlain said of the plan. “The science is terrible. We don’t have any science. We have modeling. This is people who’ve drawn pictures.

“We don’t know this stuff,” Chamberlain said of data underlying the plan. “Someone’s made up all these numbers.”

1 comment:

  1. They already came for the corn and turned it into a crappy fuel.

    "Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive"