Climate Change Being Fuelled by Soil Damage – Report

Climate change can’t be halted if we carry on degrading the soil, a report will say.

There’s three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere – but that carbon’s being released by deforestation and poor farming.

This is fuelling climate change – and compromising our attempts to feed a growing world population, the authors will say.

Problems include soils being eroded, compacted by machinery, built over, or harmed by over-watering.

Hurting the soil affects the climate in two ways: it compromises the growth of plants taking in carbon from the atmosphere, and it releases soil carbon previously stored by worms taking leaf matter underground.

The warning will come from the awkwardly-named IPBES – the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services – a panel studying the benefits of nature to humans.

The body, which is meeting this week, aims to get all the world’s governments singing from the same sheet about the need to protect natural systems.

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We’re Altering the Climate So Severely That We’ll Soon Face Apocalyptic Repercussions. Sucking Carbon Dioxide Out of the Air Could Save Us.

Deadly hurricanes seem to be becoming more frequent, 12 of the 15 largest wildfires in California history have occurred in the last two decades, and cities like Cape Town, South Africa are facing severe water shortages.

This isn’t a coincidence.

These kinds of dangerous weather events are linked to carbon-dioxide emissions. In human history, the atmosphere has never had as much CO2 in it as it does today. Burning fossil fuels for energy, clearing forests, and demolishing wetlands all contribute to the problem.

CO2 stops heat from leaving the planet, which is why Earth’s average temperature is a degree Celsius higher than it used to be. Now we’re on track to see so much warming over the next several decades that apocalyptic repercussions could result.

recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that just another half-degree temperature rise — which is predicted to happen by the year 2040.

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Capturing Co2 from Air: To Keep Global Warming under 1.5°c, Emissions Must Go Negative, Ipcc Says

The UN’s latest global warming report made it clear that if the world is to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, society urgently needs to move away from fossil fuels completely.

Photo credit: Pexels

But to keep the planet from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, the report says, we’ll also have to figure out how to undo some of the damage that’s already been done.

“Given our current knowledge, we can’t get to 1.5 degrees without removing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it,” said Kelly Levin, a senior associate at the World Resources Institute.

With 1.5°C of warming just around the corner, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considered several solutions for removing CO2 from the air—some as simple as planting more trees, others as complex as using technology to filter CO2 from the air. Their practicality and their risks vary considerably.

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Climate Change, Human Impacts, and Carbon Sequestration in China

Authors: Jingyun Fang, et. al. | Published: April 17, 2018

The scale of economic growth in China during the past three decades is unprecedented in modern human history. China is now the world’s second largest economic entity, next to the United States. However, this fast economic growth puts China’s environment under increasing stresses. China can be viewed as a massive “laboratory” with complex interactions between socioeconomic and natural systems, providing an excellent opportunity to examine how environmental changes and intensive human economic activities influence natural systems. This special feature explores the impacts of climate change and human activities on the structure and functioning of ecosystems, with emphasis on quantifying the magnitude and distribution of carbon (C) pools and C sequestration in China’s terrestrial ecosystems. We also document how species diversity, species traits, and nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) stoichiometry mediate ecosystem C pool and vegetation production. This overview paper introduces the background and scientific significance of the research project, presents the underlying conceptual framework, and summarizes the major findings of each paper.

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Plant Diversity Enhances Productivity and Soil Carbon Storage

Author: Shiping Chen, et. al. | Published: April 16, 2018

Significance

Soil carbon sequestration plays an important role in mitigating anthropogenic increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. Recent studies have shown that biodiversity increases soil organic carbon (SOC) storage in experimental grasslands. However, the effects of species diversity on SOC storage in natural ecosystems have rarely been studied, and the potential mechanisms are yet to be understood. The results presented here show that favorable climate conditions, particularly high precipitation, tend to increase both species richness and belowground biomass, which had a consistent positive effect on SOC storage in forests, shrublands, and grasslands. Nitrogen deposition and soil pH generally have a direct negative effect on SOC storage. Ecosystem management that maintains high levels of plant diversity can enhance SOC storage and other ecosystem services that depend on plant diversity.

Abstract

Despite evidence from experimental grasslands that plant diversity increases biomass production and soil organic carbon (SOC) storage, it remains unclear whether this is true in natural ecosystems, especially under climatic variations and human disturbances. Based on field observations from 6,098 forest, shrubland, and grassland sites across China and predictions from an integrative model combining multiple theories, we systematically examined the direct effects of climate, soils, and human impacts on SOC storage versus the indirect effects mediated by species richness (SR), aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP), and belowground biomass (BB). We found that favorable climates (high temperature and precipitation) had a consistent negative effect on SOC storage in forests and shrublands, but not in grasslands. Climate favorability, particularly high precipitation, was associated with both higher SR and higher BB, which had consistent positive effects on SOC storage, thus offsetting the direct negative effect of favorable climate on SOC. The indirect effects of climate on SOC storage depended on the relationships of SR with ANPP and BB, which were consistently positive in all biome types. In addition, human disturbance and soil pH had both direct and indirect effects on SOC storage, with the indirect effects mediated by changes in SR, ANPP, and BB. High soil pH had a consistently negative effect on SOC storage. Our findings have important implications for improving global carbon cycling models and ecosystem management: Maintaining high levels of diversity can enhance soil carbon sequestration and help sustain the benefits of plant diversity and productivity.

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Regeneration of Soils and Ecosystems: The Opportunity to Prevent Climate Change: Basis for a Necessary Climate and Agricultural Policy

[ Deutsch | English | Español | Italiano ]

Author: Íñigo Álvarez de Toledo, MSc

SUMMARY

We are probably at the most crucial crossroad of Humanity’s history. We are changing the Earth’s climate as a result of accelerated human-made Greenhouse Gases Emissions (GHG) and biodiversity loss, provoking other effects that increase the complexity of the problem and will multiply the speed with which we approach climate chaos1, and social too:

We explain and justify scientifically the need to give absolute priority to the regeneration of soils and ecosystems. The sustainability concept has driven positive changes but has failed on two levels: it has been easy to manipulate because of its inherent laxness, and because of the fact that since the Earth Summit (Rio de Janeiro, 1992) indicators show much worsening and certainly no improvement. Global emissions increase and soil erosion is every year hitting new negative records.

Ecological and agrosystem regeneration necessarily implies a change for the better, a positive attitude and the joy of generating benefits for all living beings, human or not. For all, because it is the way to not only reduce emissions to the atmosphere but to allow natural, agricultural and livestock soils to act as Carbon sinks, reducing the threat of an all too sudden increasing Climate Change.Regeneration improves products’ quality, thereby increasing their market value. It improves the properties not just sustaining but carrying them into a future of permanent virtuous processes, in the long and short run. In this way it tackles the increasing intergenerational justice problems. By means of increasing the resilience of the agrosystems, it also substantially contributes to Climate Change adaptation.

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Coffee and Climate Change: In Brazil, a Disaster Is Brewing

Author: Lulu Garcia-Navarro | Published: October 12, 2016

Coffee lovers, alert! A new report says that the world’s coffee supply may be in danger owing to climate change. In the world’s biggest coffee-producing nation, Brazil, the effects of warming temperatures are already being felt in some communities.

You can see the effects in places like Naygney Assu’s farm, tucked on a quiet hillside in Espirito Santo state in eastern Brazil. Walking over his coffee field is a noisy experience, because it’s desiccated. The leaves from the plants are curled up all over the floor, in rust-colored piles. The plants themselves are completely denuded.

“We’ve had no rain since last December,” Assu tells me in Portuguese, “and my well dried up. There was nothing we can do, except wait for rain.”

But the rain doesn’t come.

In fact, it’s been three years of drought here in Sao Gabriel da Palha. This region is part of Brazil’s coffee belt. Farmers here have been growing robusta — a coffee bean used in espressos and instant coffee — since the 1950s. Assu says he doesn’t know what to do.

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Young People’s Burden

Author: James Hansen | Published on: October 4, 2016

Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions, by twelve of us[1], is being made available as a “Discussion” paper in Earth System Dynamics Discussion on 4 October, as it is undergoing peer review.   We try to make the science transparent to non-scientists.  A video discussion by my granddaughter Sophie and me is available.  Here I first note a couple of our technical conclusions (but you can skip straight to “Principal Implications” on page 2):

1) Global temperature: the 12-month running-mean temperature is now +1.3°C relative to the 1880-1920 average in the GISTEMP analysis (Fig. 2 in above paper or alternative Fig. 1 below).  We suggest that 1880-1920 is a good choice for “preindustrial” base period; alternative choices would differ by only about ±0.1°C, and 1880-1920 has the advantage of being the earliest time with reasonably global coverage and reasonably well-documented measurement technology.

Present 12-month running-mean global temperature jumps about as far above the linear trend line (Fig. 2b in the paper) as it did during the 1997-98 El Nino.  The linear trend line is now at +1.06°C, which is perhaps the best temperature to compare to paleoclimate temperatures, because the latter are “centennially-smoothed,” i.e., the proxy measures of ancient temperature typically have a resolution not better than 100 years.  The present linear trend (or 11-year mean) temperature is appropriate for comparison to centennially smoothed paleo temperature, because we have knowledge that decadal temperature will not be declining in the next several decades.

 

2) The growth of the three principal human-caused greenhouse gases (GHGs: CO2, CH4, N2O) are all accelerating.  Contrary to the impression favored by governments, the corner has not been turned toward declining emissions and GHG amounts.  The world is not effectively addressing the climate matter, nor does it have any plans to do so, regardless of how much government bureaucrats clap each other on the back.

On the other hand, accelerating GHG growth rates do not imply that the problem is unsolvable or that amplifying climate feedbacks are now the main source of the acceleration.  Despite much (valid) concern about amplifying climate-methane feedbacks and leaks from “fracking” activity, the isotopic data suggest that the increase of CH4emissions is more a result of agricultural emissions.  Not to say that it will be easy, but it is still possible to get future CH4 amount to decline moderately, as we phase off fossil fuels as the principal energy source.

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Pulses: Nutritious Seeds for a Sustainable Future

The aim of raising global awareness on the multitude of benefits of pulses was integral to the International Year of Pulses. This coffee table book is part guide and part cookbook— informative without being technical. The book begins by giving an overview of pulses, and explains why they are an important food for the future. It also has more than 30 recipes prepared by some of the most prestigious chefs in the world and is peppered with infographics.

Part I gives an overview of pulses and gives a brief guide to the main varieties in the world.

Part II explains step-by-step how to cook them, what to keep in mind and what condiments and instruments to use.

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How to Leave Industrial Agriculture Behind: Food Systems Experts Urge Global Shift Towards Agroecology

(Brussels / Trondheim: 2nd June) Input-intensive crop monocultures and industrial-scale feedlots must be consigned to the past in order to put global food systems onto sustainable footing, according to the world’s foremost experts on food security, agro-ecosystems and nutrition.

The solution is to diversify agriculture and reorient it around ecological practices, whether the starting point is highly-industrialized agriculture or subsistence farming in the world’s poorest countries, the experts argued.

The International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES-Food), led by Olivier De Schutter, former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, released its findings today in a report entitled ‘From Uniformity to Diversity: A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems’.

De Schutter said: “Many of the problems in food systems are linked specifically to the uniformity at the heart of industrial agriculture, and its reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Simply tweaking industrial agriculture will not provide long-term solutions to the multiple problems it generates.”

He added: “It is not a lack of evidence holding back the agroecological alternative. It is the mismatch between its huge potential to improve outcomes across food systems, and its much smaller potential to generate profits for agribusiness firms.”

The report was presented today at the 8th Trondheim Biodiversity Conference (Norway) by lead author Emile Frison, former Director General of Bioversity International.

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