The human race has never before faced such large and complex threats. As the waters threaten to overwhelm us, we remain fixed on the immediacy of business-as-usual. We cast around for more buckets. Our impulse is to scramble for a mop, to stem the consequences of the flood rather than deal with its source. We experience a global outcome of poor human choices — a domination of small decisions.
The UN issued its Global Assessment Report on the state of the world’s biodiversity. The figures are astonishing and sobering. Extinction looms for one million species; three-quarters of land and two-thirds of oceans have been severely altered by humans; plastic pollution is up tenfold in 40 years; crops worth three-quarters of a trillion dollars could be at risk from the loss of pollinators; 25 million kilometers of new roads are expected in 30 years.
Species are vanishing up to 1,000 times faster than normal: faster than at any time in human history — the consequence of a rising human population and its resource demands. The disappearance of species is the only human impact that is truly irreversible. Extinction is eternal.
SHORT TERM SOLUTIONS
We tinker with technological fixes, weak regulations and mild incentives while we hunt for resources to replace those we depleted.
In our hurried society, we strive for short-term achievements — higher yields and higher profits, with a focus on the next quarter, next year, or next election. Eternity requires a longer view.Continue reading ARE WE SIMPLY MAD?→
It’s hard to get the general public to grasp the vast size of our carbon problem, that we will not only have to stop emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere BUT ALSO find a way to pull vast amounts of CO2 already in the atmosphere and put the carbon genie back in the bottle.
Pick a reason for forgetting about our grandchildren who will all be living in a new world of Global Change: Ignorance; Greed; Denial; Tribalism (following the group thinking); Short-term Thinking.
At least half of our wise leaders don’t even see our carbon emissions as a serious problem. Very few leaders will support any change because no-one in power wants what would disrupt the cosy status quo.
Here are the facts: the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimates that a massive amount of CO2 removal will be required this century — at least 500 billion metric tons pulled back out of the air — if we are to avoid the worst of global warming.
There is no current magical technology to absorb all the harmful CO2 in our atmosphere. But there’s worse news. There are almost no business cases for carbon removal right now. In other words, it still costs nothing to spew CO2 into the sky, so people have no financial incentive to stop dumping, let alone pay to clean up the air. At the very least that we can do now is to requirea price to be put on CO2, making it more expensive to emit.
Nature is our untapped solution.Tropical forests are incredibly effective at storing carbon – providing up to 30% of the solutiontowards climate change. Despite this, nature-based solutions only receive 2% of all funding devoted to climate solutions.
What we need is a Marshall-style construction programs, and an acknowledgment that we have to escape failed paradigms.
We don’t have the luxury of a lot of time: the best science says we have less than 10 years to reduce carbon emissions by at least 90% if we expect civilization to deal with the possibility of extreme global warming.
The irony is that it will take far more funds to recover from carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, if we decide to wait to act. The cost and consequences of inaction are too high to risk.
Hopefully, it will not take a climate catastrophe to motivate such action, such as the drowning of some coastal city like New Orleans.
The deadly weather phenomena, heat wave, is a long period of hot unstable weather. Heat waves have increased in frequency and duration in recent years and will continue to do so.
Carbon Tax is not Enough!
Carbon should not flow unpriced into the atmosphere, any more than you should be allowed to toss your garbage in the street. A rising carbon tax would discourage carbon emissions in every single economic transaction, every day of the year.
Once one major country or region adopts carbon dividends with border carbon adjustments, other countries are compelled to follow suit [to prevent paying border adjustments to countries with carbon taxes]. One by one the dominoes fall.
Since every action of a modern life involves using fossil fuel, the only way to get enough change is to send a price signal through the matrix, so that everyone from investors to car buyers to milk-drinkers will find their behavior changing automatically. Carbon pricing is also one of the tools clean tech entrepreneurs cite as key to supporting innovation.
Carbon pricing plans now cover about 12 percent of the world’s emissions — have been far from earth-shaking. At best, a carbon tax is one arrow in a quiver full of other arrows we’re going to need to let loose in a volley.
Bill McKibben’s “Step It Up!” campaign to stop global warming.
Step It Up, a nationwide campaign to combat global warming, drew thousands of Americans concerned about climate change. Holding 1,400 events around the nation, participants in National Day of Climate Action got creative. In lower Manhattan, protesters formed a line at the place where rising sea levels are predicted to reach. But that was ten years ago. Where is this model now?
If there is a model within American memory of what must be done, it is the civil rights revolution of the 1960s.
Will FORESTATION occur rapidly enough to avert the worst effects of a warming world?
The 2020 gap is, according to a recent United Nations Environment Program report, the difference between global emission levels consistent with the 2°C and emission expected if country commitments are implemented. “Global emissions should not be higher than 44 Gt CO2. However the range of expected global emissions (median estimates) from the pledge cases is 52 – 54 Gt CO2 in 2020. The gap in 2020 is therefore 8 – 10 Gt CO2.” This gap can be CLOSED by FORESTATION.
Tropical forests are incredibly effectiveat storing carbon – providing up to 30% of the solution towards climate change. It has been estimated that 8 – 10 Gt CO2 could be stored in tropical plantations.
Despite this, nature-based solutions only receive 2% of all fundingdevoted to climate solutions.
Politicians are completely overwhelmed by the sheer complexity, size and number of crises in the world at present. Politicians should not be lurching from crisis to crisis like a drunk. They lack the leadership that Winston Churchill brought to the Second World War.
The Copenhagen Accordcommits developed countries to the goal of sending $100 billion per year to developing countries in assistance for climate change mitigation and climate change adaptation through 2020. If ten per cent of this went to African farmers this would be around a micro finance support of $800 per farming household per year, which could provide a powerful incentive to change.
There was also a collective commitment by developed countriesfor $30 billion in “new and additional” resources in 2010-2012 to help developing countries reduce emissions, preserve forests, and adapt to climate change; and a goal of mobilizing $100 billion a year in public and private finance by 2020 to address developing county needs.
Aside from saving the planet, Are Tropical Nurseries a Good Investment?
Planting trees remains one of the most cost-effective means of drawing excess CO2 from the atmosphere. Therefore, reforesting the tropicswill act as carbon sinks, alleviating the greenhouse effect. There are millions of acres of tropical pastures available. When given proper care, orchard tropical trees bear fruit up to 50 years or more.
PLANT MORE TREES around the world — because… trees are carbon storage (sequestration) experts.
The United States has cut down over 50% of its original forests in the last 400 years, which would have absorbed 50% of its carbon emissions. Once carbon dioxide goes into the atmosphere it stays there for a long time. About 33% continues to cause damage after 100 years.
It is estimated by the U.S. Forest Service that all the forests in the United States, combined, sequestered approximately 309 million tons of carbon each year from 1952 – 1992, offsetting approximately 25 percent of human-caused emissions of carbon during that period in theUnited States.
The world’sforests remove over one quarter (27%) of current annual human carbon emissions from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of about 2.4 billion tons of carbon according to the latest published scientific research.
The tropical zones of the world seem particularly attractive for forestation because of the high rates of productivity that can potentially be attained there, and because there appear to be large areas of land that would benefit from tree planting.
Young trees absorb CO2 at a rate of 13 pounds per tree each year. Trees reach their most productive stage of carbon storage at about 10 years at which point they are estimated to absorb 48 pounds of CO2 per year and one acre of trees absorbs 2.6 tons of CO2 every year.
For every ton of new-wood growth, about 1.5 tons of CO2 are removed from the air and 1.07 tons of life-giving oxygen is produced.
POSITIVE GROWTH OF TREES IN THE TROPICS
Borial zone trees absorb 0.5 Pg C/yr compared to Temperate zone trees at 0.7 while tropical trees grow at the rate of 1.3 or 185% more efficientlyyear-round than trees in a temperate zone
Younger and faster growing orchards generally have higher annual sequestration rates and they are given higher personal care of proper fertilizer and water: add a further 25% increase. We conclude there is an additional (185% + 25%) or 210% increase in the value of CO2 absorption.
This map shows solar-induced fluorescence, a plant process that occurs during photosynthesis, from Aug. through Oct. 2014 as measured by NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2. This period is springtime in the Southern Hemisphere and fall in the Northern Hemisphere. Photosynthesis is highest over the tropical forests of the Southern Hemisphere but still occurs in much of the U.S. Grain Belt. The northern forests have shut down for the winter.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (Australia), CSIRO forests researcher Dr Canadell estimate that tropical forest re-growth is removing an average of 1.6 billion tons of carbon per year. Combining the uptake by established and forest re-growth plus emissions from deforestation, the world’s forests have a net effect on atmospheric CO2 equivalent to the removal of 1.1 billion tons of carbon every year.
In terms of cutting emissions a 53% reduction in 2010 emissions is equal to almost 20 Gt of CO2 emissions. For some perspective, global emissions from coal fired electricity generation were about 9 Gt CO2in 2010.
The larger predictions from climate models are due to the fact that, within these models, the more important greenhouse substances, water vapor and clouds, act to greatly amplify whatever CO2 does. This is referred to as a positive feedback. It means that increases in surface temperature are accompanied by reductions in the net outgoing radiation – thus enhancing the greenhouse warming. … Satellite observations of the earth’s radiation budget verify this fact.
VALUE OF TROPICAL TREES
Moisture created by the rain forests travel around the world. America’s Midwest is affected by the forests in the Congo which is roughly a distance of 6000 miles. Moisture from the Amazon falls as far away as Texas.
As water becomes ever more scant the world needs to conserve it, use it more efficiently. Researchers from MIT predict that by 2050, more than half of humanity will live in water-stressed areas, where people are now extracting unsustainable amounts from available freshwater sources. We can expect a water crisis that will go viral into a catastrophe if we continue with business as usual.
Many people have a strong moral aversion to paying for the life-sustaining liquid. Some feel that water is a right, and should therefore be free. Others lobby governments to subsidize its distribution to favored groups. This results in vast, but preventable waste.
To make matters worse, few places price water properly. Usually, it is artificially cheap, because politicians are scared to charge much for something essential that falls from the sky. This means that consumers have little incentive to conserve it and investors have little incentive to build pipes and other infrastructure to bring it to where it is needed most.
In many countries people can pump as much water as they like from underground aquifers, because rules are either lax or not enforced. But it is unsustainable: around a fifth of the world’s aquifers are over-exploited.
India appears to be headed for a very great water crisis because of the inexpensive available pumps together with a large population:
People do not drink much water—only a few liters a day. But putting food on their tables requires floods of the stuff. Growing 1 lb of wheat takes 125 gallons of water; fattening a cow to produce the same weight of beef involves 12 times more. Overall, agriculture accounts for more than 70% of global freshwater withdrawals. Farmers in parched places grow thirsty cash crops such as avocados, which could easily be imported from somewhere wetter.
More than 92 percent of all nurseries catering for villages are still located at regional and district levels. As a result, seedlings have to be transported long distances, sometimes even beyond 50 km. The inadequacy of transport is one of the major setbacks in tree-planting, in terms of both availability and cost. All efforts must be made to decentralize nurseries as much as conditions allow.
To bridge this energy supply-demand gap, a massive amount of tree-planting is needed. The natural forest is shrinking very fast, and most alternative energy sources have had no significant impact so far.
One of the main reasons tree-planting is failing among some African communities is that they are often given species only for firewood, like eucalyptus.
Weak village leadership contributes directly to delays over deciding whether to plant trees or not; and then, even if trees are planted, it can retard or neglect maintenance.
THE NEXT STEP: ORCHARDS AND BIOCHAR
Each woman farmer and their family will begin the task of preparing to plant 300 fruit and nut trees on their leased 1.5 acre farms, Every tree will need a 2- 3 feet diameter excavation, where a biochar earth mound will be built of branches.
EARTH MOUND KILN
The earth mound kiln is built in the following manner:
The bottom of the base is covered with logs forming a grate or crib on which the wood is piled vertically. The grate forms a free space between the bottom and the wood charge through which the air necessary for the carbonization process passes. The piled wood is covered with leaves and grass and then earth about 20 cm (8”) thick.
The pile has an outside stack made of steel drums, which is connected to the pile through a flue cut into the ground, running under the pile and covered with round logs. The pile has a number of air vents located around the circular base.
The carbonization process is started by introducing a torch into the firing flue opposite the stack. This type of pile is reported to be easy to operate to produce good charcoal quality with a yield of 55% charcoal to wood by volume. The pile’s volume varies from 100 to 250 m³ of wood. The whole cycle takes 24 days; four days for charging, six days for carbonization, ten days for cooling and four days for discharge.
Preventing deforestation is our best chance to conserve wildlife and defend the rights of forest communities. It’s one of the quickest and most cost effective ways to curb global warming.
Worldwide, two billion hectares of land are currently degraded – an area larger than South America. Of this, 500 million hectares are abandoned agricultural land.
The amount of under-utilized and degraded land available in the region to accommodate for future agricultural expansion is estimated at 0.7-1 million hectares.
TheSuitability Mapperenables users to identify potentially suitable sites for sustainable palm oil production in the following area:
How do we prevent further deforestation?
It is still economically valuable to clear the forest for plantations. As current agricultural land becomes more and more degraded, producers move on to pristine, more productive land, with often harmful consequences such as the loss of forest cover.
If we’re going to stop deforestation, we need governments to do their part. That starts with cracking down on corruption and ensuring fair enforcement of forest conservation rules. Corruption fuels illegal logging and unsustainable forest management.
The seriousness of carbon emissions and the resulting impacts of those emissions are starting to have a strong effect on our global environment. From the melting of glacial systems around the world to the increasing intensity of storms and droughts, never has humanity faced a greater challenge than what lies before us today. One only has to observe the historic CO2 levels over the last 800,000 years and compare those numbers to where we are today at 400 ppm to get a clear picture. We need mitigation of emissions.
ONE SMALL STEP
Replacing “three stone” stoves with pyrolytic stoves provides a health dividend equal the eradication of malaria & AIDs combined. Mitigation of the emissions is the primary aim of these innovative cook stoves.
THE COOK STOVE
* About 30% biochar production * 3 to 4 days for a batch of charcoal production * Continuous hot water access (pot 1) * Highly suitable for institutional cooking and as well making biochar * Additional heat generated by flaring the pyrolysis gases, used for cooking * Mitigation of the emissions during the pyrolysis by flaring * Costs about Rs. 3000 (US$45)
Mwoto TLUD Cookstove is made of sheet metal: fabricated by skilled tinsmiths. Price approx. US$20 (Kenya: $22). The primary air control permits significant turn-down of fire intensity. (Mwoto Factories Ltd., Kampala)
The Progress Ahead Dr TLUD estimates that only about 20% of what can be known about TLUD gasifiers has been discovered. 80% awaits our efforts. By 2020 there needs to be 30 million TLUD micro-gasifier istoves into the developing societies. Currently there are fewer than one million.www.Mwotostove.com
This is a good example of Mitigation of Emissions:
More productive African farms could help both people and emissions.
Boosting the efficiency of Africa’s productive lands is not only necessary for feeding larger populations, but also a possible means of reducing emissions.
An article in the Economist, “World climate talks address agriculture” identifies the problem.
SINCE the 1960s farm production has risen fourfold in Africa. But the continent still lags far behind the gains seen in South America and Asia. The extra food has appeared largely because more land has been planted or grazed, rather than because crop yields have improved. Instead, poor farming methods progressively deplete nutrients from soils; almost all arable land in Africa lacks irrigation, for example. This is a particular problem in a continent whose population is set to double by 2050 and which faces regular droughts, floods and heat waves.
The world is already 1°C warmer than it was in pre-industrial times. As it heats further, weather cycles are set to speed up, leaving wet parts of the world wetter and dry parts drier. At either end of the scale, extreme weather events will probably intensify. By 2050, even if temperature rise is successfully limited to 2°C, crop yields could slump by a fifth.
The costs of climate change already come each year to 1.5% of the continent’s GDP, according to the European Commission, and adapting to it will cost another 3% each year until 2030. This is in spite of the fact that, overall, Africa is responsible for just 4% of global emissions annually.
Soil: potential carbon sinks
Fertilizer is extremely important. We cannot feed people if soil is degraded. The production of fertilizer in a form of biochar is absolutely huge which help to absorb carbon in the soils.
Soil in a long-term experiment appears red when depleted of carbon (left) and dark brown when carbon content is high (right).
Scientists say that more carbon resides in soil than in the atmosphere and all plant life combined; there are 2,500 billion tons of carbon in soil, compared with 800 billion tons in the atmosphere and 560 billion tons in plant and animal life.
Well-nourished soils are better at absorbing carbon dioxide rather than allowing it to enter the atmosphere. But the continent’s over-grazed, over-used soil currently means Africa only stores 175 gigatons of carbon each year of the 1,500 gigatons stored in the world’s soils. Smarter farming could change all that. The world’s cultivated soils have lost between 50 and 70 percent of their original carbon stock, much of which has oxidized upon exposure to air to become CO2.
If we treat soil carbon as a renewable resource, we can change the dynamics. Restoring soils of degraded and desertified ecosystems has the potential to store in world soils an additional 1 billion to 3 billion tons of carbon annually, equivalent to roughly 3.5 billion to 11 billion tons of CO2 emissions. (Annual CO2 emissions from fossil fuel burning are roughly 32 billion tons.)
Soil carbon sequestration needs to be part of the picture. Currently deforestation takes place where vast areas are cleared for new fields because too little grows in existing ones.
Vast areas of deforested land that have been abandoned after soil degradation are excellent candidates for replanting and reforestation using biochar from the weeds now growing there. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, grasslands, which cover more than a quarter of the world’s land, hold 20 percent of the world’s soil carbon stock. Much of this land is degraded.
The biochar solution for small farms involves branches of fruit trees, which are cut every year to facilitate the harvest, weigh about 50 tons/ha. If this biomass is converted by pyrolysis to biochar, about 1/3 will revert to 16.7 tons of black carbon/ha and this can be mixed with compost. This will enhance the way biochar develops microbes.
If one third of the degraded land, 660 million ha, are used and every year 15 tons/ha biochar is mixed in the soil, this will be together 10 billion tons of Carbon (10 Gt carbon is equivalent to 3.7 Gt CO2) taken from the air and stored in the soil. This is the amount of fossil CO2 which is just released every year.
The only problem with this solution is the scale. Imagine what it means to use soil carbon sequestration techniques on 10% of all arable land: Millions of farmers must change their way of doing agriculture to make it happen. But the alternative — staying the course of ecological ruin — is not very appealing.
Hilly Land Sustainable Agriculture (HLSA) farming systems feature the establishment of single or double hedgerows of either leguminous tree species, shrubs or grasses seeded or planted along contour lines. Hedgerows, serving as barriers, will conserve surface soil by building up organic mass, increasing plant nutrient elements and improving the water holding capacity of the soil, thus conserving surface soil by slowing down erosion. Rocks,stubble, branches and other farm debris are piled at the base of the hedges to further reinforce the foundation of the hedgerows.
The densely planted hedgerows are pruned regularly to encourage the growth of a thick vegetative canopy and provide a continuous supply of green manure that is scattered on the planting strips between hedgerows.
Trees or shrubs alone used as hedges cannot control effectively soil erosion that can lead to flooding and mass destruction of hilly lands that took centuries to build.
Vetiver grass (Vetiveria zizanioides) provides high biomass production for hedgerows; they have been successfully used in some parts of Thailand, Indonesia, China, and India. The grass has the potential to markedly reduce erosion and rapidly develop natural terraces on slopes with less management attention. It stays alive for 25 to 45 years without being replanted.
In the book, Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future, Johan Norberg points out that humans are a gloomy species. Some 71% of Britons think the world is getting worse; only 5% think it is improving. It’s been devastating to see inaccuracies and confusion on the subject sometimes perpetuated by the media, especially on the topic of Climate Change.
Blood and guts and disasters are what make for headlines. Is it any wonder that we feel apprehensive — with so many disasters “all around us”? The media amplify this distortion. Famines and earthquakes all make gripping headlines; “40 million Planes Landed Safely Last Year” does not.
Pessimism has political consequences. A whopping 81% of Donald Trump’s supporters think life has grown worse in the past 50 years.
Sweden in those days was poorer than Sub-Saharan Africa is today. “Why are some people poor?” is the wrong question, argues Mr. Norberg. Poverty is the starting point for all societies. What is astonishing is how fast it has receded. In 1820, 94% of humanity subsisted on less than $2 a day in modern money. That fell to 37% in 1990 and less than 10% in 2015.
As people grow more adept at abstract thought, they find it easier to imagine themselves in other people’s shoes. And there is plenty of evidence that society has grown more tolerant. The main reason why things tend to get better is that knowledge is cumulative and easily shared.
There is still the question of global warming, which is a worry? Can human ingenuity tame it?
CAN we change? And the answer, fortunately, is now YES!
We’re seeing a continuing sharp, exponential decline in the cost of renewable energy, energy efficiency, batteries and storage — and the spread of sustainable agriculture and forestry — giving nations around the world a historic opportunity to embrace a sustainable future, based on a low carbon, hyper-efficient economy.
WILL we change?
In December, 195 nations reached a historic agreement in Paris, which exceeded the highest end of the range of expectations. And the Paris Agreement is just the most recent example of our willingness to act. Much more change is needed, of course, but one of the binding provisions of the Paris Agreement requires five-year transparent reviews of the action plans put forward by every nation, and the first will begin in less than two years. These countries pledge to act to keep global temperature rises to between 1.5 and 2 degrees.
Also, over 1,000 non-state groups, from Tesco and Tata to Aviva and Cisco, have so far signed the Paris Pledge for Action on Climate. This new movement is really self-preservation. It begins with the investors. Would you invest in a company that was insensitive to climate change? Company executives know this insensitivity and they are acting accordingly.
Not only do we have to feel hopeful, but we have to speak hopefully because people are motivated by hope. For example, global investment in renewables is predicted to be $8,000 billion over the next 25 years;
Carbon Offsetting by Planting Trees – Is it a realistic Proposition?
The oceans are enormously important. Carbon dioxide dissolves in the ocean. If that hadn’t happened, and if the oceans weren’t there, climate change would already be much worse. When CO2 is released into the atmosphere, about three-quarters of it dissolves into the ocean over a few decade (Acidity).
We must concentrate on the rest of the carbon dioxide emissions, which will only be neutralized by a variety of longer-term geological processes over 250 years.
The only true solutionto combat climate change is by tree planting.Ending deforestation, which cause 10% of the problem, will not solve global warming by itself —urgent action is needed to cut the other 90 percent of emissions.
The world is home to over three trillion trees—with almost half of them living in tropical or subtropical forests. There are roughly 400 trees for every human. 12,000 years ago, before the advent of agriculture, Earth had twice as many trees as it does now. (The previous estimate of trees in the world was 400 billion.)