Wednesday, January 16, 2019
Sequestering carbon has become a topic essential to the broader conversation about how our planet might survive the escalating effects of climate change. Livestock are frequently demonized as the enemy of this process. That’s partly because raising animals for meat and dairy accounts for 5 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions; unsurprisingly, study after study—including the United Nations’ most recent, bleak climate report—affirms that humans need to reduce consumption of animal-based products in order to fend off planetary disaster. This has led to the advent of a booming industry centered on plant-based “meats” and “milks,” buoyed by a rallying cry from some quarters to abolish meat and cheese and butter and eggs from our diets wholesale.
Livestock farming such as Massy once practiced it—the way many farmers and ranchers continue doing it, by overgrazing of open grass- and rangelands, or by grazing lands not suited to the practice—can be an ecologically ruinous way to produce food. It can destroy soil health and biodiversity, emitting greenhouse gasses in the process, including carbon dioxide. And yet, research also confirms that livestock provide ecological services too great to warrant their complete removal from the landscape.
Properly managed under the right confluence of conditions, cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, and chickens can help mitigate degraded soils and restore healthy ecosystems, which helps lock carbon deep in the ground. About 40 percent of ice-free land on earth is considered grazing land, which sequesters about 30 percent of our planet’s carbon pool.
Project Drawdown, a group of international scientists focused on climate research, lists silvopasture, a form of livestock production that comingles trees with pastureland, number nine on its list of 80 modeled solutions to reverse climate change. It lists managed grazing—what a much-reformed Massy practices today—at number 19.
“The best way to address the carbon issue is to use animals in an ecological fashion,” Massy says. “We need [them] in the landscape.”
How Carbon Is Sequestered
Every plant plays the vital function of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, via photosynthesis. Using sunlight’s energy, the plant fuses that carbon with hydrogen and oxygen to make carbohydrates, which it moves into the soil through its roots. (It also maintains some carbon in its own leaves and shoots and stems.) The roots feed the carbohydrates to dirt-bound fungi; in return, the fungi feed minerals back to the plant. As Mother Earth News describes it, “This invisible partnership…is the foundation of the terrestrial carbon cycle, as plants incorporate carbon from atmospheric carbon dioxide into carbohydrate biomass.”
The longer a plant’s roots, the deeper it can sequester carbon in the soil and the more efficiently it can hold it there. A healthy grassland, with a diversity of region-specific native grasses—on Massy’s farm, some of which have roots that extend four feet into the ground—can create deep carbon sinks. Managing grasslands well also contributes to carbon storage other ways: by building up soil health to make land more resilient to extreme events, according to Marcia DeLonge, senior scientist in the Food & Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. This, she says, “can protect existing soil carbon to some degree, but perhaps more importantly may allow continued carbon sequestration. In other words, even when events like extreme heat, drought, fire, and floods don’t significantly affect soil carbon immediately, they could affect the plants above ground that contribute to soil carbon in the longer term.”
Trees generally capture and store more carbon than grasses and shrubs. Size, density and longevity all factor into this ability; tropical staple crop trees are especially good at it. And tropical forests sequester half our terrestrial carbon—about 470 billion tons worth.
Often working against these heroic efforts on the part of plants and trees, though, is agriculture. To produce some of the food we need in order to live, we disturb or destroy our carbon-storing ecosystems. We run animals through them in unsustainable ways, or we chop them down and plow them up to raise monocultures of crops like corn and soy—some of them to feed livestock, others to produce the fake meat that’s meant to replace real meat—that require still more plowing, as well as the application of chemicals that kill beneficial soil bacteria, fungi, insects. The land becomes degraded, and carbon-poor.
Improbable and illogical as it may seem, livestock can help.
The Benefits of Animals: Managed Grazing
That disastrous storm on Massy’s farm was followed by five years of drought. Across Australia, over-cleared, over-grazed grasslands suffered, susceptible to dust storms and erosion. Massy, though, began to “swing toward ecological grazing and cropping,” he says, educating himself by visiting other farmers who’d recognized the destructiveness of ranching-as-usual.
That swing meant rotating sheep more frequently from paddock to paddock, giving grasses and forbs a long rest in order to bounce back. It meant seeding in more and various plants adapted to the parched soil, including nitrogen fixers such as alfalfa. The trampling of the sheep’s hooves mixes manure with soil, fertilizing it and depositing organic matter. This action opens up the soil, seeds it, and allows plant roots to go deeper–all without the destruction of tilling or plowing. Over time, “native grasses, forbs, and legumes that seemed to have disappeared slowly returned,” Massy says. So did many species of wildlife: “We now have over 140 bird species, four macropod species, and much else.”
If managed grazing could be amped up worldwide, it could sequester over 16 gigatons of carbon by 2050.
According to Project Drawdown, livestock grazing occupies one-quarter of land area in the world—some 3.3 billion hectares. It estimates that 79 million hectares already employ managed grazing along the lines of what Massy now practices on his farm, although it considers 1.3 billion hectares of the earth’s plant-able surface to be wet enough to be suited to this practice. If managed grazing could be amped up worldwide, it could sequester over 16 gigatons of carbon by 2050.
What managed grazing does not do, is eliminate methane and nitrous oxide emissions. And yet, Project Drawdown found that carbon sequestration more than offset them. “If we can figure out where the best places to have rangelands are, and make sure they’re well managed, we can gain all these benefits,” says DeLonge.
More Animal Benefits: Silvopasture
Massy has done another important thing across his rangelands over the past 10 years: He’s planted 50,000 native trees and shrubs, building on efforts begun by his father in the 1960s. That is exactly what silvopasture is, and it increases soil biodiversity and the carbon-storing potential of animal husbandry. Eric Toensmeier, who researches Project Drawdown’s food-supply land use, calls it “a powerful tool…that is not being taken seriously.”
How powerful? Project Drawdown estimates that silvopasture can sequester almost two tons of carbon per acre per year, making it one of the most effective carbon-storing tools in agriculture. This power is already recognized in countries like Brazil, Australia, and Mexico, where governments give farmers financial incentives to transition to silvopasture systems. So far in the U.S., though, it remains little-known and -understood.
With some notable exceptions—like on Steve Gabriel’s 35 acres of once-nutrient-poor hayland outside Ithaca, NY. There, Gabriel, an agroforestry specialist in Cornell University’s Small Farms Program, has been experimenting with silvopasture for the past five years. He wrote a guidebook to it for North American farmers interested in learning more about it, based partly on his own experience.
“When we got [the farm], there was pretty poor diversity—a lot of goldenrod, a lot of woody stuff, soil that didn’t soak up water very well after rain because it had become compacted from having machinery driven over it for decades,” Gabriel says. He introduced a flock of sweet-tempered Katahdin sheep and quickly saw “a transformation of the soil as they freed up nitrogen and nutrients and fertilized it at the same time,” transforming the land into vibrant pastures rich with clover, plantains, wildflowers, and grasses.
In two pastures Gabriel planted black locust trees and says he began to notice an increase soil organic matter—that is, decomposing plant and animal bits that provide a steady nutrient supply to everything growing in it—which, according to Toensmeier, also increases soil carbon and carbon storage in above-ground biomass. The trees have a range of other uses. They provide shade to the animals, as well as nutritious forage—Gabriel supplements the animals’ grass grazing with locust branches he snips off the trunk.
The main reason Gabriel chose black locusts as plantings is because they’re fast-growing and “the faster the tree grows, the more carbon it’s going to sequester,” he says, at least in its early decades, both in the soil and in the tree’s trunk, branches, leaves. He’s been experimenting with willows, too, which potentially have an added climate bonus when munched by livestock: Their tannins might slow down digestion, reducing methane emissions.
In the longstanding woodlands that surround his open pastures, Gabriel uses the sheep to clear out underbrush. This frees the ground up for shelter, and for the seeding in of forage grasses, which can lead to soil remediation and—potentially, in the long run—carbon storage.
The Even Bigger Picture About Why Any of This Matters
“Getting invasive brush under control with [livestock] is a beautiful, elegant practice,” says Toensmeier, “but I can’t tell you the carbon balance—it’s certainly not as powerful as fresh trees in pasture.” But other researchers have found that there are benefits to letting (carefully managed) livestock into a woodlot to tidy it up.
Thanx Lela Nargi
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
By: James MacDonald January 14, 2019 3 minutes
Which is better for the environment: organic or conventional agriculture? For consumers trying to make sound food choices, it’s an important question. A new international study finds that organic agriculture actually contributes more to climate change than conventional farming does. The study argues that since organic agriculture requires slightly more land for the same yield, organic systems lead to more deforestation, which in turn results in more carbon dioxide emissions. But measuring environmental impact is extremely complicated.
When it comes to climate, the fertilizer issue is key.
Back in 2010, Nadia El-Hage Scialabba and Maria Müller-Lindenlauf, of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), took an in-depth look at the climate impacts of organic agriculture. F.A.O.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission defines organic agriculture as:
A holistic production management system that avoids use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, minimizes pollution of air, soil and water, and optimizes the health and productivity of interdependent communities of plants, animals and people.
Organic agriculture still uses fertilizers and pesticides, but not synthetic ones. And when it comes to climate, the F.A.O study suggests, the fertilizer issue is key.
Conventional agriculture relies on nitrogen fertilizers, produced through a process involving copious amounts of ammonia and methane. Nitrogen fertilizers in turn, release some degree of nitrous oxide, an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with a much greater warming potential per unit released than carbon.
Organic farms bypass the need for chemical fertilizers by planting legumes. Organic farms also tend to store more carbon in the soil, slightly offsetting other greenhouse gas emissions, though, as the F.A.O. study notes, the carbon storage is likely not permanent. Plus, organic farms may burn more fossil fuels through machinery when weeds are removed mechanically.
As for the suggestion that organic agriculture requires slightly more land for the same yield, it depends on the crop. Conventional dairy production, for example, produces much more milk per cow. But there is hardly any yield difference when it comes to organic vs. conventional rice. In some cases, the same crop may have different yields-per-area in the developing world vs. the developed world—organic yields are often higher in developing countries. This is because, as the F.A.O. report notes, some of the ecologically sound practices are difficult to scale up to industrial levels, and work better at smaller scales.
On the other hand, grass-fed livestock requires a lot more space than feedlots, often leading to deforestation.
Many conscious consumers want a definitive answer about whether conventional or organic farming is better, when in fact, both have effects on the climate. There are also other concerns that go into consumer choices, such as animal welfare. And, as Stefan Wirsenius, one of the authors of the international study, says, “The type of food is often much more important. Eating organic beans or organic chicken is much better for the climate than to eat conventionally produced beef.”
JSTOR is a digital library for scholars, researchers, and students. JSTOR Daily readers can access the original research behind our articles for free on JSTOR.
Thanx James MacDomald
Posted by ~~ Witchy ~~ at 12:30 PM
(Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday cleared the way for the attorney general of Massachusetts to obtain records from Exxon Mobil Corp(XOM.N) to probe whether the oil company for decades concealed its knowledge of the role fossil fuels play in climate change.
FILE PHOTO: A logo of the Exxon Mobil Corp is seen at the Rio Oil and Gas Expo and Conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil September 24, 2018. REUTERS/Sergio Moraes
The justices declined to hear Exxon’s appeal of a ruling by the top court in Massachusetts holding that state Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, had jurisdiction to seek records to probe whether the company misled consumers and investors.
The high court’s action marked the latest setback for Exxon in its efforts to halt the Massachusetts investigation and a similar one by New York’s attorney general, who in October filed a lawsuit against the company.
New York’s lawsuit accused Exxon of engaging in a systematic scheme to deceive investors about the impact that future climate change regulations could have on its business. Exxon has called the claims “meritless.”
The Massachusetts and New York investigations were launched following 2015 news reports that Exxon’s own scientists had determined that fossil fuel combustion must be reduced to mitigate the impact of climate change.
Those news reports, by Inside Climate News and the Los Angeles Times, were based on documents from the 1970s and 1980s. Exxon said the documents were not inconsistent with its public positions.
Healey in 2016 issued a civil investigative demand to Exxon seeking documents to investigate whether it had violated the state’s consumer-protection law through its marketing and sale of fossil fuel products.
Exxon said that because it is incorporated in Texas and New Jersey, Healey had no basis to seek documents to conduct a Massachusetts-based investigation.
The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in April held that jurisdiction existed because of Exxon’s control over advertising conducted for about 300 franchise gas stations operating under the Exxon and Mobil brands in Massachusetts.
Exxon has called the Massachusetts and New York investigations politically motivated.
Reporting by Nate Raymond and Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham
Thanx Nate Raymond & Lawerance Hyrley
Posted by ~~ Witchy ~~ at 12:30 PM
Thursday, January 10, 2019
The world's forests are on a fast food diet of carbon dioxide, which is currently causing them to grow faster. But a researcher finds evidence suggesting that forest growth may soon peak as the trees deplete nitrogen in the soil over longer growing seasons.
Brenden McNeil, associate professor of geography at West Virginia University, measures the girth of a sugar maple on West Virginia Land Trust property as part of his research.
Credit: Greg Ellis/WVU
The world's forests are on a fast food diet of carbon dioxide, which is currently causing them to grow faster. But a researcher at West Virginia University, along with an international team of scientists, finds evidence suggesting that forest growth may soon peak as the trees deplete nitrogen in the soil over longer growing seasons.
West Virginia's wildlands are a "canary in the coal mine for climate change" because of the forests' biodiversity, which, along with rich soils and abundant rainfall, make them among the strongest forests globally, according to Brenden McNeil, an associate professor of geography at WVU's Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. The state's forests have been resilient to a barrage of logging and acid rain in the 19th and 20th centuries but are now exhibiting symptoms of declining health because of climate change.
Trees, like humans, need to have more than one thing in their diets, McNeil said. And the proliferation of carbon dioxide is force-feeding them the one thing they use most. McNeil said the challenge is to restore a balanced diet for forests by severely cutting back or ending altogether the use of fossil fuels.
"There's more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that's the raw material that trees need to convert to sugar, which they use to grow," he said. "What is profound is that as all the plants grow faster; they're slowing down climate change." But, as he explained, "the plants of the world can't do that forever."
In a paper published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, McNeil and nearly 40 international researchers suggest that most terrestrial ecosystems are seeing declining nitrogen isotopes in foliage on a global scale. It adds global support to a 2017 paper where McNeil was part of another team that used nitrogen isotopes in tree rings to find evidence for declining nitrogen in forests across the United States. Most of the world is still "greening" in response to climate change, but diminishing nitrogen means future growth will become unhealthier and out of balance, and trees will need to work harder to extract the nitrogen, McNeil continued.
His ongoing work, conducted with a team of WVU Honors College undergraduate students, graduate students, as well as Edward Brzostek in the Department of Biology, and Nicolas Zegre in the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design, is examining the responses of West Virginia forests to climate change.
In an area the size of about six football fields in the Summit Bechtel Reserve Scout Camp, this research team is taking an enormous tree census. Scouts also work on measuring the trees in this "citizen-scientist" project focused on mapping 15,000 trees relative to a completed GPS survey grid. This census will provide a baseline for long-term study of tree growth in a changed climate.
Cameras in the tree canopy, millions of laser beams probing the trees' structure and satellite imagery are also helping McNeil and the research team understand how a forest can sustain productivity and how different species adapt to decreased nitrogen and increased carbon dioxide. The team measures everything from the angles of leaves to the breadth and depth of a tree's roots to water and nutrient availability.
All these efforts measuring forests seek to answer a key question: For how long will forests slow down climate change, and help us avoid the coming costs of adapting to a more chaotic climate?
"It's going to cost us a lot more if we do not change now," he said. "As described by the recent Fourth National Climate Assessment, increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is changing our global climate in ways that are costly to our economy."
McNeil said making comparatively small investments to reduce dependence on fossil fuels is akin to paying life insurance premiums. The result of not making the investments now will be the risk of losing the stability of the natural systems that we rely on for food, water and protection against diseases and extreme weather events.
Although McNeil's and the other researchers' predictions sound dire, he believes the planet and humanity will continue to exist, but in a much-changed world both ecologically and economically.
He said as the world turns from fossil fuels to more environmentally friendly sources of energy like solar and wind, the cost-benefit ratio will improve.
"The solutions are here," McNeil said. "It just takes the will to enact them."
Materials provided by West Virginia University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
Wednesday, January 9, 2019
Concrete is the most widely used man-made material in existence. It is second only to water as the most-consumed resource on the planet.
But, while cement - the key ingredient in concrete - has shaped much of our built environment, it also has a massive carbon footprint.
Cement is the source of about 8% of the world's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to think tank Chatham House.
If the cement industry were a country, it would be the third largest emitter in the world - behind China and the US. It contributes more CO2 than aviation fuel (2.5%) and is not far behind the global agriculture business (12%).
So, how did our love of concrete end up endangering the planet? And what can we do about it?
In praise of concrete
As the key building material of most tower blocks, car parks, bridges and dams, concrete has, for the haters, enabled the construction of some of the world's worst architectural eyesores.
In the UK, it helped the massive wave of post-World War Two development - much of it still dividing opinion - with several of the country's major cities, such as Birmingham, Coventry, Hull and Portsmouth, largely defined by the concrete structures from that building push.
But concrete is also the reason some of the world's most impressive buildings exist.
The unreinforced concrete dome of the Pantheon in Rome has yet to be beaten in size
A mix of sand and gravel, a cement binder and water, concrete is so widely embraced by architects, structural engineers, developers and builders because it is a remarkably good construction material.
"It's affordable, you can produce it almost anywhere and it has all the right structural qualities that you want to build with for a durable building or for infrastructure," explains Felix Preston, deputy research director at the Energy, Environment and Resources Department at Chatham House.
Despite known durability problems with using steel reinforcement, which can crack concrete from the inside, it is still the go-to material across the world.
"Building without concrete, although it is possible, is challenging," says Mr Preston.
Growth of cement industry
It is these unrivalled attributes of concrete that have helped boost global cement production since the 1950s, with Asia and China accounting for the bulk of growth from the 1990s onwards.
Production has increased more than thirtyfold since 1950 and almost fourfold since 1990. China used more cement between 2011 and 2013 than the US did in the entire 20th Century.
The floor area of the world's buildings is projected to double in the next 40 years, say Chatham House researchers, requiring cement production to increase by a quarter by 2030.
While many of us assume concrete is a recent addition to our cities, architects, and builders have actually been using cement-like binders for millennia.
The earliest use is believed to have been more than 8,000 years ago, with traders in Syria and Jordan using such binders to create floors, buildings and underground cisterns.
Later, the Romans were known to be masters of cement and concrete, building the Pantheon in Rome in 113-125AD, with its 43m-diameter free-standing concrete dome the largest in the world.
But the concrete used in our modern-built environment owes much of its make-up to a process patented in the early 19th Century by bricklayer Joseph Aspdin of Leeds.
His new technique of roasting limestone and clay in an oven and then grinding it to a powder to make "artificial stone" is now known as Portland cement - still the key ingredient in almost all modern concrete.
But, despite its ubiquitous presence, concrete's environmental credentials have come under increased scrutiny in the last couple of decades.
Not only does the production of Portland cement involve quarrying - causing airborne pollution in the form of dust - it also requires the use of massive kilns, which require large amounts of energy.
The actual chemical process of making cement also emits staggeringly high levels of CO2.
The sector has made progress - improvements in the energy-efficiency of new plants and burning waste materials instead of fossil fuels has seen the average CO2 emissions per tonne of output fall by 18% over the last few decades, according to Chatham House.
The newly-established Global Cement and Concrete Association (GCCA), currently representing about 35% of the world's cement production capacity and with a focus on sustainable development, was at COP24.
Chief executive Benjamin Sporton says the fact the organisation now exists "is a demonstration of the commitment of the industry to sustainability, including taking action on climate change".
The GCCA is due to publish a set of sustainability guidelines, which its membership will have to follow.
"By bringing together global players to provide leadership and focus, as well as delivering a detailed work programme, we can help ensure a sustainable future for cement and concrete, and for the needs of future generations," Mr Sporton says.
Shanghai, like many Chinese cities, has seen a rapid rise in development
But despite the promise, Chatham House argues that the industry is reaching the limits of what it can do with current measures.
If the sector has any hope of meeting its commitments to the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change, it will need to look at overhauling the cement-making process itself, not only reducing the use of fossil fuels.
'Clinker' - the big polluter
It is the process of making "clinker" - the key constituent of cement - that emits the largest amount of CO2 in cement-making.
1. Raw materials, mainly limestone and clay, are quarried and crushed
2. They are ground and mixed with other materials - such as iron ore or ash
3. They are fed into huge, cylindrical kilns and heated to about 1,450C (2,640F)
4. The process of "calcination" splits the material into calcium oxide and CO2
5. A new substance called clinker emerges as marble-sized grey balls
7. The cement is transported to ready-mix concrete companies
In 2016, world cement production generated around 2.2 billion tonnes of CO2 - equivalent to 8% of the global total. More than half of that came from the calcination process.
Together with thermal combustion, 90% of the sector's emissions could be attributed to the production of clinker.
Further efforts on energy efficiency, a move away from fossil fuels and pursuing carbon capture and storage will help, but can only do so much.
"We've got a long way to close the gap," Mr Preston says.
What the industry really needs to do is plough efforts into producing new types of cement, he argues. In fact, low-carbon cements and "novel cements" might do away with the need for clinker altogether.
One of those trying to drum up greater support for such alternative cements is Ginger Krieg Dosier, co-founder and CEO of BioMason - a start-up in North Carolina that uses trillions of bacteria to grow bio-concrete bricks.
The technique, which involves placing sand in moulds and injecting it with microorganisms, initiates a process similar to the one that creates coral.
"I have a long fascination with marine cements and structures," explains Ms Krieg Dosier, a trained architect who was surprised to find no real green alternatives to bricks and masonry when she began research at an architectural firm more than 10 years ago.
The discovery led her to create her own solution, which, after years of development, now takes only four days. It happens at room temperature, without the need for fossil fuels or calcination - two of the main sources of the cement industry's CO2 emissions.
"Traditional Portland-based cement production practices will continue to release CO2 due to its fundamental chemistry," she says, adding that rather than turning to carbon capture and storage, we should be investing more in techniques that actively remove carbon from the atmosphere.
"Alternative cements and binding technologies go beyond evolutionary CO2 capture to revolutionary methods that fundamentally sequester CO2."
Alongside such alternative cements, other "disruptive" forces are also beginning to drive change. Digitalisation, machine learning and an increasing awareness of sustainability are all having an impact on the cement industry's culture.
"It's partly changing because of how people want to live, but also because of our ability to dream up new and innovative structures and test those with computer models," says Mr Preston. "There's also the ability to build things more cheaply with robots - with automation."
But changing processes quickly enough to meet the cement industry's obligations will be a challenge.
Bio-cement start-up BioMason grows bricks out of sand and bacteria
The sector is dominated by a small number of major producers who are reluctant to experiment or change business models. Architects, engineers, contractors and clients are also, rather understandably, cautious about using new building materials.
"This quite slow-moving, difficult-to-change sector is starting to bump against these quite profound disruptions that we're starting to see in the built environment," says Mr Preston.
But, with very few low-carbon cements reaching commercialisation, and none being applied at scale in an industry where bigger and taller is often the ambition, it looks likely that sustained government support will be needed.
Without governments applying pressure on the industry or providing funding, it may not be possible to get the next generation of low-carbon cements out of the laboratory and into the market within the required timescale.
And the timescale is ever-shrinking.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - the leading international body on global warming - last month argued the global average temperature rise needed to be kept below 1.5C - not 2C as noted in the Paris Agreement. This means CO2 emissions need to decline by 45% from 2010 levels by 2030.
Like other young companies, Ms Krieg Dosier describes the difficulties of simultaneously developing and marketing her products and scaling up manufacturing processes to compete within the wider construction industry.
Concrete is the chosen material for most large-scale projects
But she thinks there are reasons to be optimistic.
"I do believe the construction industry is approaching a point where alternative materials will be more widely adopted," she says. "This is in part due to market demand, other innovative technologies and wider concern for climate change."
The cement industry, too, points to more optimistic assessments of the industry's progress on emissions and suggests that, across its lifetime, concrete could make a net climate benefit when all possible action is taken into account.
This includes re-carbonation (or the re-absorption of CO2 by cement), concrete's contribution to the energy efficiency of buildings, and innovation in the way cement is manufactured - including carbon capture and storage.
The GCCA says such innovation is its key priority in the months and years ahead. Projects are already underway and showing promise, it added.
But Mr Preston says it is imperative that governments and industry now act quickly at a time when global development is expected to rise but CO2 emissions need to fall.
"There's a desperate need for quality, affordable homes," he says. "There's a need for new infrastructure. We can only square this circle if we can dramatically improve the way that we build, so that overall these buildings are constructed with, as close as possible, net zero emissions."
Thanx Lucxy Rogers
Message to the readers I am 10 years old I find my articles and my daddy post them for me when they are long and have a lot of pictures , I watch him , daddy say I will do it on my own soon hope you enjoy
Monday, January 7, 2019
Protesters calling for action on climate change outside the White House in 2017. (AP photo)
As we enter 2019, we find ourselves speeding toward two different climate tipping points.
The first is alarming. As reported in October by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if humanity does not halve its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, we will trigger feedback loops that cause warming to continue no matter what humans do. To prevent this catastrophe, scientists say emissions must peak and start downward by 2020.
Yet if last year’s growth in climate awareness and activism continues, it could lead to a tipping point at which climate progress – rather than climate disaster – becomes inevitable.
The fate of civilization hangs upon which tipping point we reach first.
The past year brought many “natural” disasters that scientists agree were significantly worsened by climate change: hurricanes and flooding in the US and elsewhere; wildfires in California, Scandinavia and Australia; and the hottest days ever recorded in Japan, Pakistan and Africa.
When such disasters strike, low-income communities and people of color suffer most, having fewer resources to rebuild and getting less attention from those who rush to help. They self-organize in amazing ways, as did local grassroots organizations in eastern North Carolina after Hurricane Florence. But these people still suffer disproportionately, both from severe weather and from the health effects of fossil fuel facilities routinely sited in communities with the least power to oppose them.
Pretty grim. But 2018 also saw signs of hope.
More than 400 mayors, including 13 in North Carolina, have committed to accelerated climate action; 1,300 state and local politicians have pledged to refuse money from the fossil fuel industry; and 90 U.S. cities, ten counties and two states have adopted 100% clean energy goals. Six cities already have hit those targets. In October, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper established the NC Climate Change Interagency Council.
Even on the Federal level, there is reason to hope. Incoming Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and others are calling for a Green New Deal to invest massively in clean energy and other climate solutions, creating jobs and boosting the economy. One poll found more than 80 percent of voters support the Green New Deal. And the market is ready, with prices for renewables and energy storage plummeting.
The fossil fuel divestment campaign, which began in 2012 with tiny Unity College in Maine, just marked its 1,000th divestment, taking $8 trillion dollars out of carbon-intensive companies.
A worldwide movement is calling for a ban on all new fossil fuel projects.
Twenty-one plaintiffs aged 11 to 22 are suing the U.S. government, asserting it has violated their constitutional rights to life, liberty and property, and has failed to protect essential public trust resources. Youth-led legal proceedings are also underway in all 50 states and 13 other countries.
Some utilities have made significant commitments to renewable energy, with several already generating over 30% of their power from renewables, and one planning to reach 100% this year. (Unfortunately, Duke Energy gets only 3 percent of its power from renewables in the Carolinas, and plans only 8 percent by 2032.)
All of these advances can be attributed to public action. The economics and technologies are in place for humanity to avert climate catastrophe. All that is missing is the political will. Let’s make this the year that a critical mass of people demands real climate action and truth-telling from our government, utilities and media. Write letters to your elected officials and media outlets. Join a climate justice organization. March in the streets.
In the words of Greta Thunberg, the 15-year-old Swede who addressed UN leaders at the December climate conference in Poland, “Once we start to act, hope is everywhere. So instead of looking for hope, look for action. Then, and only then, hope will come.”
Karen Bearden is the 350 Triangle Coordinator, an affiliate chapter of 350.org. Kim Porter is co-chair of the Ecological Devastation Committee for the NC Poor People’s Campaign and a community organizer with NC WARN.
Thanx Karen & Kim
Crusader Jenny , Nanook , Knight Mika & Knight Moto
Saturday, January 5, 2019
Here are 10 worst-case climate predictions if we don’t keep global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius
The summer of 2018 was intense: deadly wildfires, persistent drought, killer floods and record-breaking heat. Although scientists exercise great care before linking individual weather events to climate change, the rise…
The summer of 2018 was intense: deadly wildfires, persistent drought, killer floods and record-breaking heat. Although scientists exercise great care before linking individual weather events to climate change, the rise in global temperatures caused by human activities has been found to increase the severity, likelihood and duration of such conditions.
Globally, 2018 is on pace to be the fourth-hottest year on record. Only 2015, 2016 and 2017 were hotter. The Paris climate agreement aims to hold temperature rise below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, but if humankind carries on its business-as-usual approach to climate change, there’s a 93 percent chance we’re barreling toward a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the century, a potentially catastrophic level of warming.
A Warning and a Reckoning :
In 1992, 1,700 scientists around the world issued a chilling “warning to humanity.” The infamous letter declared that humans were on a “collision course” with the natural world if they did not rein in their environmentally damaging activities.
Such apocalyptic thinking might be easy to mock, and not entirely helpful in inspiring political action if end times are nigh. In 2017, however, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries co-signed their names to an updated—and even bleaker—version of the 1992 manifesto.
The latest version, titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” asserts that most of the environmental challenges raised in the original letter—i.e., depletion of freshwater sources, overfishing, plummeting biodiversity, unsustainable human population growth—remain unsolved and are “getting far worse.”
“Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising [greenhouse gases] from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption,” the paper states.
“Moreover,” the authors wrote, “We have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”
But they stressed that, “Soon it will be too late to shift course away from our failing trajectory, and time is running out.”
More recently, President Trump’s own administration released on November 23 the 1,600-page Fourth National Climate Assessment, a quadrennial report compiled by 13 federal agencies. This report paints a particularly grim picture, including more frequent droughts, floods, wildfires and extreme weather, declining crop yields, the rise of disease-carrying insects and rising seas—all of which could reduce U.S. gross domestic product by a tenth by the end of the century.
So what we saw this summer? Unless humanity gets its act together, we can expect much worse to come. Here’s a peek into our climate-addled future.
Species Extinction :
The Amazon, one of the most biodiverse places on Earth, could lose about 70 percent of its plant and amphibian species and more than 60 percent of its birds, mammals and reptile species from unchecked climate change, according to a 2018 study by the University of East Anglia, the James Cook University and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), which analyzed the impact of climate change on nearly 80,000 species of plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians inhabiting the WWF’s 35 “Priority Places” for conservation.
The study’s most alarming projection was for the Miombo Woodlands in central and Southern Africa, one of the priority places most vulnerable to climate change. If global temperatures rose 4.5 degrees Celsius, the researchers projected the loss of 90 percent of amphibians and 80 percent or more of plants, birds, mammals and reptiles.
This incredible loss of biodiversity affects humans, too. “This is not simply about the disappearance of certain species from particular places, but about profound changes to ecosystems that provide vital services to hundreds of millions of people,” the authors warned.
Food Insecurity and Nutritional Deficiencies :
While climate change could actually benefit colder parts of the world with longer growing seasons, tropical and subtropical regions in Africa, South America, India and Europe could lose vast chunks of arable land. For coastal countries, rising seas could inundate farming land and drinking water with salt.
Staple crops such as wheat, rice, maize and soybeans, which provide two-thirds of the world’s caloric intake, are sensitive to temperature and precipitation and to rising atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. A sweeping 2017 study showed that every degree-Celsius of warming will reduce average global yields of wheat by 6 percent, rice by 3.2 percent, maize by 7.4 percent and soybeans by 3.1 percent.
What’s more, according to a recent paper, carbon dioxide levels expected by 2050 will make staple crops such as rice and wheat less nutritious. This could result in 175 million people becoming zinc deficient (which can cause a wide array of health impacts, including impaired growth and immune function and impotence) and 122 million people becoming protein deficient (which can cause edema, fat accumulation in liver cells, loss of muscle mass and in children, stunted growth). Additionally, the researchers found that more than 1 billion women and children could lose a large portion of their dietary iron intake, putting them at increased risk of anemia and other diseases.
Farewell to Coastal Cities and Island Nations :
Unless we cut heat-trapping greenhouse gases, scientists predict sea levels could rise up to three feet by 2100, according to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment report.
This could bring high tides and surges from strong storms, and be devastating for the millions of people living in coastal areas. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) published a report earlier this year that predicted parts of Miami, New York City and San Francisco could flood every day by 2100, under a sea-level rise scenario of three feet.
Entire countries could also be swallowed by the sea due to global warming. Kiribati, a nation consisting of 33 atolls and reef islands in the South Pacific, is expected to be one of the first.
Kiribati won’t be alone. At least eight islands have already disappeared into the Pacific Ocean due to rising sea levels since 2016, and an April study said that most coral atolls will be uninhabitable by the mid-21st century.
Social Conflict and Mass Migration :
In 2017, New York Magazine Deputy Editor David Wallace-Wells wrote an alarming and widely read essay called “The Uninhabitable Earth” that focused almost entirely on worst-case climate scenarios. He discussed that, with diminished resources and increased migration caused by flooding, “social conflict could more than double this century.”
The article’s scientific merit has been fiercely debated, but the World Bank did conclude in March 2018 that water scarcity, crop failure and rising sea levels could displace 143 million people by 2050. The report focused on Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, which represent 55 percent of the developing world’s population. Unsurprisingly, the poorest and most climate-vulnerable areas will be hardest hit.
Today, around 30 percent of the global population suffers deadly levels of heat and humidity for at least 20 days a year, a 2017 analysis showed. If emissions continue increasing at current rates, the researchers suggested 74 percent of the global population—three in four people—will experience more than 20 days of lethal heat waves.
“Our attitude towards the environment has been so reckless that we are running out of good choices for the future,” Camilo Mora of the University of Hawaii at Manoa, the study’s lead author, told National Geographic.
“For heatwaves, our options are now between bad or terrible,” he added. “Many people around the world are already paying the ultimate price of heatwaves.”
Surging Wildfires :
The Camp Fire, which burned more than 150,000 acres in Butte County in November, was the deadliest and most destructive fire in California’s history, killing at least 85 people. The Mendocino Complex Fire, which started in July and torched roughly 300,000 acres in Northern California, was the largest fire in the state’s modern history. The second-largest was 2017’s Thomas Fire, which burned 281,000 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.
But the Golden State’s fires will only get worse, according to California’s Fourth Climate Change Assessment released by the governor’s office in August. If greenhouse gases continue rising, large fires that burn more than 25,000 acres will increase by 50 percent by the end of the century, and the volume of acres that will be burned by wildfires in an average year will increase by 77 percent, the report said.
“Higher spring and summer temperatures and earlier spring snowmelt typically cause soils to be drier for longer, increasing the likelihood of drought and a longer wildfire season, particularly in the western United States,” The Union of Concerned Scientists explained in a blog post.
“These hot, dry conditions also increase the likelihood that wildfires will be more intense and long-burning once they are started by lightning strikes or human error.”
Hurricanes: More Frequent, More Intense :
It’s not currently clear if changes in climate directly led to 2017’s major hurricanes, including Harvey, Irma, Maria and Ophelia. What we do know is this: Moist air over warm ocean water is hurricane fuel.
“Everything in the atmosphere now is impacted by the fact that it’s warmer than it’s ever been,” CNN Senior Meteorologist Brandon Miller said. “There’s more water vapor in the atmosphere. The ocean is warmer. And all of that really only pushes the impact in one direction, and that is worse: higher surge in storms, higher rainfall in storms.”
NOAA concluded this June that, “It is likely that greenhouse warming will cause hurricanes in the coming century to be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.”
Melted Polar Ice and Permafrost :
The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the planet, and continued loss of ice and snow cover “will cause big changes to ocean currents, to circulation of the atmosphere, to fisheries and especially to the air temperature, which will warm up because there isn’t any ice cooling the surface anymore,” Peter Wadhams, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at the University of Cambridge, told Public Radio International. “That will have an effect, for instance, on air currents over Greenland, which will increase the melt rate of the Greenland ice sheet.”
Not only that, frozen Arctic soil—or permafrost—is starting to melt, causing the release of methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. It’s said that the permafrost holds 1.8 trillion tons of carbon, more than twice as much as is currently suspended in the Earth’s atmosphere. Wadhams explained that the fear is that the permafrost will melt in “one rapid go.” If that happens, “The amount of methane that comes out will be a huge pulse, and that would have a detectable climate change, maybe 0.6 of a degree. … So, it would be just a big jerk to the global climate.”
The Spread of Pathogens :
Disturbingly, permafrost is full of pathogens, and its melting could unleash once-frozen bacteria and viruses, The Atlantic reported. In 2016, dozens of people were hospitalized and a 12-year-old boy died after an outbreak of anthrax in Siberia. More than 2,000 reindeer were also infected. Anthrax hadn’t been seen in the region for 75 years. The cause? Scientists suggested that a heat wave thawed a reindeer carcass that was infected with the disease decades ago, according to NPR.
While we shouldn’t get too frightened about Earth’s once-frozen pathogens wiping us out (yet), the warming planet has also widened the geographic ranges of ticks, mosquitoes and other organisms that carry disease.
“We now have dengue in southern parts of Texas,” George C. Stewart, McKee Professor of Microbial Pathogenesis and chair of the department of veterinary pathobiology at the University of Missouri, told Scientific American. “Malaria is seen at higher elevations and latitudes as temperatures climb. And the cholera agent, Vibrio cholerae, replicates better at higher temperatures.”
Dead Corals :
As the world’s largest carbon sink, our oceans bear the brunt of climate change. But the more carbon it absorbs (about 22 million tons a day), the more acidic the waters become. This could put a whole host of marine life at risk, including coral reef ecosystems, the thousands of species that depend on them and the estimated 1 billion people around the globe who rely on healthy reefs for sustenance and income. According to Science, “Researchers predict that with increasing levels of acidification, most coral reefs will be gradually dissolving away by the end of the century.”
These climate predictions are worst-case scenarios, but there are many more dangers to consider in our warming world. A report recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change found “evidence for 467 pathways by which human health, water, food, economy, infrastructure and security have been recently impacted by climate hazards such as warming, heatwaves, precipitation, drought, floods, fires, storms, sea-level rise and changes in natural land cover and ocean chemistry.”
Half a Degree Matters :
Since the 19th century, the Earth has warmed by 1 degree Celsius. Now, a major IPCC special report released in October warns that even just a half-degree more of warming could be disastrous. “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.
The panel said that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”
With President Trump saying he doesn’t believe his own administration’s climate report, that sustainable and equitable society remains a distant dream.
This article was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute, and originally published by Truthout.
Thanx Lorraine Chow
Labels: Here are 10 worst-case climate predictions if we don’t keep global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees Celsius