Ecology, Climate Change and Related News

Conservation Science for a Healthy Planet

Tag Archive: carbon

  1. Climate-Smart Land Trusts: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions to Secure our Future

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    The California Council of Land Trusts hosted the 2017 California Land Conservation Conference from March 7-9, 2017 at UC Davis.

    Ellie Cohen, Point Blue President and CEO was a keynote speaker.  A pdf of Ellie’s presentation can be found here: Accelerating Nature-Based Solutions- Climate-Smart Land Trusts CCLT Keynote March 7 2017

    You can see a pdf of the full program here.

  2. Massive permafrost thaw documented in Canada, portends huge carbon release

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    Study shows 52,000 square miles in rapid decline, with sediment and carbon threatening the surrounding environment and potentially accelerating global warming.

    Huge slabs of Arctic permafrost in northwest Canada are slumping and disintegrating, sending large amounts of carbon-rich mud and silt into streams and rivers. A new study that analyzed nearly a half-million square miles in northwest Canada found that this permafrost decay is affecting 52,000 square miles of that vast stretch of earth—an expanse the size of Alabama.

    According to researchers with the Northwest Territories Geological Survey, the permafrost collapse is intensifying and causing landslides into rivers and lakes that can choke off life downstream, all the way to where the rivers discharge into the Arctic Ocean.

    Similar large-scale landscape changes are evident across the Arctic including in Alaska, Siberia and Scandinavia, the researchers wrote in a paper published in the journal Geology in early February. The study didn’t address the issue of greenhouse gas releases from thawing permafrost. But its findings could help quantify the immense global scale of the thawing, which will contribute to more accurate estimates of carbon emissions….

    …At lower latitudes, permafrost is the glue that holds the world’s highest mountains together by keeping rocks and soil frozen in place. Scientists are documenting how those bonds are dissolving, said Stefan Reisenhofer, a climate scientist with the Austrian Bureau of Meteorology and Geodynamics. “We’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of ice days (those with 24 hours of sub-freezing temperatures), especially in the summer months,” said Reisenhofer….

  3. Scientists uncover huge 1.8 million square kilometers reservoir of melting carbon under Western United States

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    Posted: 13 Feb 2017 06:07 AM PST  full story here

    New research describes how scientists have used the world’s largest array of seismic sensors to map a deep-Earth area of melting carbon covering 1.8 million square kilometers. Situated under the Western US, 350km beneath Earth’s surface, the discovered melting region challenges accepted understanding of how much carbon Earth contains — much more than previously understood. 

    ….He continued, “Under the western US is a huge underground partially-molten reservoir of liquid carbonate. It is a result of one of the tectonic plates of the Pacific Ocean forced underneath the western USA, undergoing partial melting thanks to gasses like CO2 and H2O contained in the minerals dissolved in it.”

    ….As a result of this study, scientists now understand the amount of CO2 in Earth’s upper mantle may be up to 100 trillion metric tons. In comparison, the US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the global carbon emission in 2011 was nearly 10 billion metric tons — a tiny amount in comparison. The deep carbon reservoir discovered by Dr. Hier-Majumder will eventually make its way to the surface through volcanic eruptions, and contribute to climate change albeit very slowly.

    “We might not think of the deep structure of Earth as linked to climate change above us, but this discovery not only has implications for subterranean mapping but also for our future atmosphere,” concluded Dr Hier-Majumder, “For example, releasing only 1% of this CO2 into the atmosphere will be the equivalent of burning 2.3 trillion barrels of oil. The existence of such deep reservoirs show how important is the role of deep Earth in the global carbon cycle

    Saswata Hier-Majumder, Benoit Tauzin. Pervasive upper mantle melting beneath the western US. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 2017; 463: 25 DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2016.12.041

  4. Good Luck Killing the EPA

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    Dismembering the agency requires changing 45 years worth of laws, warns one Republican who ran it.

    The new U.S. president and Congress are taking a hard look at environmental rules—none harder than a freshman U.S. representative whose new bill would “terminate the Environmental Protection Agency.” …. “Everybody hates regulation,” said Republican Christine Todd Whitman, a former EPA administrator and New Jersey governor, “because it makes you either spend money or change behavior for a problem you may not see.” This year, as we all know, is a little different.

    …the concept that the preeminent guardian of clean air, soil, and water in the U.S. would go the way of the 20th century is now, if nothing else, no longer confined to the realm of fantasy.  Rule-of-thumb holds that once countries pollute their way into economic progress, they’ll pause for a second and check to see if they can still breathe the air and swim in the water. If not, they fix it. China is currently the leading example, with India coming up behind. There are fewer examples of nations unwinding national environmental efforts.

    Internationally, the U.S. does pretty well when it comes to protecting its environment and doing its part to combat global climate change. It ranks 26th among 180 nations in the 2016 Environmental Performance Index, a collaboration of the World Economic Forum and Yale and Columbia University researchers. That’s just worse than Canada and a bit better than the Czech Republic.

    The EPA sits at the forefront of that accomplishment (such as it is). The environmental laws passed under President Richard Nixon, who helped create the agency, have cleaned up the excesses of mid-century American industrialization. ….

    In July 1970, the Republican president cobbled together the new agency from about a dozen offices distributed throughout the federal government. An additional dozen functions were reorganized into the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the biggest entity within the Department of Commerce. By creating the EPA, “I am making an exception to one of my own principles,” Nixon wrote. “That, as a matter of effective and orderly administration, additional new independent agencies normally should not be created.” But in this case, he said, there was just no better option.

  5. Maine’s coastal waters unhealthy from carbon, acidity. Are seaweed gardens the answer?

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    Bill Trotter, BDN Staff Feb 7 2017  See full article here

    BOOTHBAY, Maine — Seaweed cultivation has been promoted in recent years in Maine as a way to produce local nutritious food and to boost the coastal economy.

    Now, seaweed harvesters say their industry provides yet another benefit: environmental protection, in the form of improving water quality.

    A new study from Bigelow Laboratory for Marine Sciences in Boothbay indicates growing and harvesting seaweed may be an antidote for increasing carbon and acidity levels in the ocean, which is harming a variety of marine life.

    Since January 2016, the lab has been studying the effect of kelp growth on surrounding carbon levels at the Ocean Approved seaweed farm off Great Chebeague Island in Casco Bay…. According to Price, in the six months that scientists measured carbon dioxide levels in and around the 3-acre kelp farm, they found the kelp was absorbing carbon at the same rate carbon levels are expected to increase in the Gulf of Maine over the next 100 years from global use of fossil fuels….

  6. Recalculating the Climate Math-The numbers on global warming are even scarier than we thought.

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    The future of humanity depends on math. And the numbers in a new study released Thursday are the most ominous yet.

    Those numbers spell out, in simple arithmetic, how much of the fossil fuel in the world’s existing coal mines and oil wells we can burn if we want to prevent global warming from cooking the planet. In other words, if our goal is to keep the Earth’s temperature from rising more than two degrees Celsius—the upper limit identified by the nations of the world—how much more new digging and drilling can we do?

    Here’s the answer: zero.

    That’s right: If we’re serious about preventing catastrophic warming, the new study shows, we can’t dig any new coal mines, drill any new fields, build any more pipelines. Not a single one. We’re done expanding the fossil fuel frontier. Our only hope is a swift, managed decline in the production of all carbon-based energy from the fields we’ve already put in production….

  7. Carbon emissions flat for the third straight year; 22 years left at current rate to stay under 2C

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    see full article here

    …Scientists published a projection suggesting that for the third straight year, global carbon dioxide emissions did not increase much in 2016. The news comes from the Global Carbon Project, a group of scientists who measure how much carbon dioxide humans emit each year, as well as how much is subsequently absorbed by plants, land surfaces and oceans. The difference between the two determines the amount of carbon dioxide that remains in the atmosphere and drives global warming.

    this flattening occurred despite steady global economic growth above 3 percent, which has typically been coupled with higher emissions. And now, the group reports, 2016 appears to be similar to 2014 and 2015, based on early projections. It will be about a 0.2 percent increase above the emissions levels of 2015, the group calculates, or barely a rise at all….

    China saw carbon dioxide emissions decrease by 0.7 percent in 2015 and is forecast to see an additional 0.5 percent decline in 2016. U.S. emissions are falling even faster. They declined by 2.6 percent in 2015 and are expected to fall an additional 1.7 percent this year…By comparison, in 2015 there was strong 5.2 percent emissions growth in India.

    slightly more than 36 billion tons of carbon dioxide are expected to have been emitted in 2016 from fossil fuel use and industrial activity. And after the oceans and the land take away their part, the rest of that carbon will stay there for a very long time, steadily warming the planet.

    (That 36 billion tons does not include emissions of other greenhouse gases, such as methane, or the releases of additional carbon dioxide from deforestation and other nonindustrial causes. Including these gases and sources only increases our impact on the planet further.)…

    …if global warming is ever to stop — and if we’re ever to cool the planet back down again — eventually emissions have to go to zero. Thirty-six billion tons is very far, indeed, from that. In fact, it’s looking increasingly likely that we may have to find some way to make emissions go negative (pulling more from the air than we put in) in the second half of this century.

    The new research also suggests that, starting in 2017, the world will have only 800 billion tons, or gigatons, of carbon dioxide left to emit if it wants to preserve a two-thirds chance of preventing the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. This is the remaining global carbon “budget.” Based on emissions of 36 billion tons per year, we would bust the budget in 22 years….

    Global Carbon Project: http://www.globalcarbonproject.org/carbonbudget/

  8. New WWF Report on Grasslands Loss in US Great Plains

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    The Plowprint Report: https://www.worldwildlife.org/projects/plowprint-report

    And summary news article:

    Goodbye Grasslands. Goodbye Birds. Goodbye Carbon Sink.

    America’s Great Plains are being plowed under at an alarming rate  Nov 30 2016

    Much attention has been given to the deforestation in the Amazon and the environmental impacts that go with it. But in 2014, the American Great Plains—an area stretching from Texas into Canada—actually lost more acreage of grasslands than Brazil lost to deforestation, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says. In fact, said Martha Kauffman, WWF’s managing director of the Northern Great Plains program, “America’s Great Plains are being plowed under at an alarming rate.”….

  9. Sharks help prevent climate change

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    November 7, 2016  Bournemouth University

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161107112632.htm

    Over fishing and shark finning may result on more greenhouse gasses and increased climate change, researchers suggest. Their new paper demonstrates the importance of protecting our oceans, and the importance of sharks in marine ecosystems….The team showed that removal of top predators, including sharks, from marine ecosystems, results in higher biomass of prey animals, greater levels of respiration and as such, higher overall levels of carbon dioxide….

    Elisabeth K.A. Spiers, Richard Stafford, Mery Ramirez, Douglas F. Vera Izurieta, Mariaherminia Cornejo, Johnny Chavarria. Potential role of predators on carbon dynamics of marine ecosystems as assessed by a Bayesian belief network. Ecological Informatics, 2016; 36: 77 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoinf.2016.10.003

  10. Best shot at cooling the planet might be under our feet

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    Studies suggest that regenerating soil by turning our backs on industrial farming holds the key to tackling climate change

    Jason Hickel Saturday 10 September 2016 04.00 EDT Last modified on Saturday 10 September 2016 13.01 EDT guardianUK

    https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals-network/2016/sep/10/soil-our-best-shot-at-cooling-the-planet-might-be-right-under-our-feet

    It’s getting hot out there. Every one of the past 14 months has broken the global temperature record. Ice cover in the Arctic sea just hit a new low, at 525,000 square miles less than normal. And apparently we’re not doing much to stop it: according to Professor Kevin Anderson, one of Britain’s leading climate scientists, we’ve already blown our chances of keeping global warming below the “safe” threshold of 1.5 degrees.

    If we want to stay below the upper ceiling of 2 degrees, though, we still have a shot. But it’s going to take a monumental effort. Anderson and his colleagues estimate that in order to keep within this threshold, we need to start reducing emissions by a sobering 8%–10% per year, from now until we reach “net zero” in 2050. If that doesn’t sound difficult enough, here’s the clincher: efficiency improvements and clean energy technologies will only win us reductions of about 4% per year at most.

    ….How to make up the difference is one of the biggest questions of the 21st century. There are a number of proposals out there. One is to capture the CO2 that pours out of our power stations, liquefy it, and store it in chambers deep under the ground. Another is to seed the oceans with iron to trigger huge algae blooms that will absorb CO2. Others take a different approach, such as putting giant mirrors in space to deflect some of the sun’s rays, or pumping aerosols into the stratosphere to create man-made clouds. Unfortunately, in all of these cases either the risks are too dangerous, or we don’t have the technology yet. This leaves us in a bit of a bind. But while engineers are scrambling to come up with grand geo-engineering schemes, they may be overlooking a simpler, less glamorous solution. It has to do with soil.

    Soil is the second biggest reservoir of carbon on the planet, next to the oceans. It holds four times more carbon than all the plants and trees in the world. But human activity like deforestation and industrial farming – with its intensive ploughing, monoculture and heavy use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides – is ruining our soils at breakneck speed, killing the organic materials that they contain. Now 40% of agricultural soil is classed as “degraded” or “seriously degraded”. In fact, industrial farming has so damaged our soils that a third of the world’s farmland has been destroyed in the past four decades.

    As our soils degrade, they are losing their ability to hold carbon, releasing enormous plumes of CO2 [pdf] into the atmosphere. There is, however, a solution. Scientists and farmers around the world are pointing out that we can regenerate degraded soils by switching from intensive industrial farming to more ecological methods – not just organic fertiliser, but also no-tillage, composting, and crop rotation. Here’s the brilliant part: as the soils recover, they not only regain their capacity to hold CO2, they begin to actively pull additional CO2 out of the atmosphere.

    The battle here is not just between two different methods. It is between two different ways of relating to the land

    The science on this is quite exciting. A study published recently by the US National Academy of Sciences claims that regenerative farming can sequester 3% of our global carbon emissions. An article in Science suggests it could be up to 15%. And new research from the Rodale Institute in Pennsylvania, although not yet peer-reviewed, says sequestration rates could be as high as 40%. The same report argues that if we apply regenerative techniques to the world’s pastureland as well, we could capture more than 100% of global emissions. In other words, regenerative farming may be our best shot at actually cooling the planet….