(CNSNews.com) – In a speech in India on Sunday, Secretary of State John Kerry cited as an example of the global impact of climate change a recent drought in New Zealand that was so dire, he said, farmers had been forced to kill "all of their dairy cattle and sheep."
It's not true.
New Zealand did experience a severe drought in 2013 – the worst in nearly 70 years in some regions, according to the country's climate research center – but it did not result in the wholesale slaughter of dairy herds.
In fact the 2013/2014 season accounted for a record level of milk production in New Zealand, surpassing the 20 billion liter mark for the first time, according to a new report by the industry body, Dairy NZ.
Moreover, 2013/2014 also saw a small increase in the number of dairy herds, with milking cow numbers rising by 138,600 animals to 4.92 million.
With a population of just 4.47 million, New Zealand has more cows (4.9 million dairy and about four million beef cows) and many more sheep (around 30 million), than it has people.
The sheer number of cows and sheep prompted a Labor government in 2003 to propose introducing a tax on flatulence – methane emitted from both ends of the animals is considered a "greenhouse gas" – but it backed down in the face of a farmer-led protest campaign under the slogan Fight Against Ridiculous Taxes, (FART).
A longstanding advocate of the campaign against global warming during his almost three decades in the U.S. Senate, Kerry as secretary of state has prioritized the issue, which he says is at least as serious as other major global threats, including terrorism, epidemics and nuclear proliferation.
"New Zealand recently experienced a drought that was so bad that farmers had to slaughter all of their dairy cattle and sheep because they didn't have enough food and water to be able to keep the animals alive," he said.
"So these are the problems that global climate change is already causing," Kerry continued. "And there isn't a scientist worth his or her salt who won't tell you that the problem is going to grow more severe."
Secretary of State John Kerry addresses an audience including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon at a summit in Gujarat, India, on Sunday, January 11, 2015.