Last week on my radio show I threw a hypothetical scenario at the Minister of Agriculture and Trade, Damien O'Connor:
So it's 1990 and I'm living alone on a tropical island, say Madagascar, and I'm surrounded by three million bison cattle and 60 million goats.
But I'm getting lonely in my tropical paradise so I invite some people to fly in, bring vehicles, build cities and factories and urbanise my island.
Trouble is, my carbon footprint has now gone through the roof. My transport emissions alone, from fossil fuel burning, have gone up by 85 per cent in the past three decades. In the meantime, my ruminant livestock emissions have gone up 7.5 per cent since 1990, because I swapped goats for cattle in the bison boom. However, those emissions have been dropping slowly since 2005.
To make matters worse I'm getting no credits for all the carbon my tropical jungle shelter belts are sequestering because they're not deemed forests, even though they comprise several billion trees.
I've had a moan about that to my industry-good bodies, Dairy Madagascar, Beef + Lamb Madagascar and Federated Tribesmen. But they're too busy engaging with government in a process called HCEN (He Canoe Eke Noa) where they all seemingly sit round in a circle, holding hands, singing Kumbuya.
I did briefly contemplate joining the wild rebel tribe from down south, Groundswell Madagascar, but some people reckon they're cannibals who chop people's heads off. Especially if you're a left-leaning urban politician!
Besides, in a faraway Kingdom called New Zealand, the all-powerful Queen Jacinda says small countries like Madagascar have to do their bit to get the world to carbon zero by 2050. And that's despite some much bigger countries doing bugger all for the cause.
So, here's my dilemma. Do I cut my bison cattle herd by 15 per cent (as championed by the jungle-dwelling Green Party) and suffer the subsequent drop in food production? Even though the methane they're emitting produces considerably less warming than CO2?
Or do I cut my CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning, back to 1990 levels, using new renewable energy technology?
So, which is the easiest, most efficient and sustainable way to save the planet while feeding its inhabitants, Damien?
The point of this parable is that New Zealand is no different to any other country on planet Earth. We've all got a collective responsibility to do our bit to mitigate climate change and resultant global warming.
No other country, thus far, has imposed a carbon tax upon its farmers. New Zealand will be at the bleeding edge when it does so in 2025.
Admittedly our emissions profile is different from any other country I'm aware of. Nearly half of ours come from agriculture. That's because the primary sector is our biggest export industry. We are a nation of five million people feeding 40 million people globally.
There's also an argument to be had that emissions should be paid for at the point of consumption (much like oil) rather than at the source of production.
I'm not arguing that farmers shouldn't do their bit when it comes to paying for their emissions. But Article 2b of the Paris Agreement says agricultural emissions reductions should not threaten food production.
What I would like to see, and what Minister O'Connor has agreed to pursue, is farmers being given credits for everything on their farms that sequesters carbon.
That includes shelter belts, native bush, woody vegetation and - some scientists argue - grass. I talked to a farmer with in-excess of 200,000 trees in shelter belts on their property. As it stands at the moment, there are no carbon credits for shelter belts, because they're not wide enough to be deemed a forest.
I would argue that most sheep, beef and deer farms on extensive properties are already carbon neutral, or positive. And they are farms most likely to be hit hardest by the He Waka Eke Noa recommendations.
So don't blame cows. Ruminants have been roaming the planet for millennia. Blame people. Climate change is a man-made problem.
The primary sector is responsible for 80 per cent of our export income. This pays the bills for a country which, in the next few months, will depressingly have 80 per cent of the population receiving some sort of state benefit.
There are factions in this Government who would gladly see the back end of farming. But like farming seasons, what goes round, comes round. Winter for this lot, could well come in the spring of 2023.
You reap what you sow.