Is New Zealand warming neutral?

For those of you with an interest in climate change, this makes for an interesting thought exercise…

New Zealand’s physical GHG budget would show we are very unlikely to be contributing to any warming of the atmosphere. We currently exclude pre-1990 trees, but this rule may be changed at the upcoming COP24. If so, then we may be able to legitimately claim, using agreed IPCC standards, that New Zealand is warming neutral. Even assuming all the science is correct, we could still win the debate (in theory).

Is New Zealand being a bit hard on our emissions profile? I don’t expect politicians to change direction, but it’s some interesting context.


Well, we now have a scientific consensus that our current Methane emissions are not adding to further warming of the climate (recent reductions are greater than the 0.3%/yr required to be warming neutral)
N2O is expected to be offset by farm trees.
The end result is that no warming is coming from 46% of New Zealand’s recorded Ag emissions.

As we all know, the Paris Agreement has focused on stopping warming, not emissions per se.

So how does that effect NZ’s emission situation?

We have roughly 78,000,000 ha of forest and 44,000,000 t CO2-e of long-lived GHG emissions which add to warming (mainly CO2 and N2O)
The CO2 sequestration rate would only need to be 5.6 t CO2/ha/yr to offset all New Zealand’s warming. (Typical pine forest is 30 t CO2/ha/yr and typical native bush is 15 t CO2/ha/yr. Granted some of the area is mature forest and not actively sequestering CO2)

This won’t be easy for other countries to replicate either as the massive Russian boreal forests and the Amazon etc are largely mature and not actively sequestering CO2. This is a uniquely New Zealand advantage.

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A guest post submitted to Whaleoil and edited by Whaleoil staff.

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