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US Could Cut Emissions More Than One-Fifth Through ‘Natural Climate Solutions’ Like Reforestation

More than one-fifth of current greenhouse gas emissions in the United States could be kept out of the atmosphere and stored in the land, according to new research.

A study led by Joseph E. Fargione, director of science at The Nature Conservancy, looks at the natural solutions that could help the US do its part to keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius (approximately 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the goal adopted by the 195 countries who signed the Paris Climate Agreement in December 2015.

Photo credit: Pexels

Fargione and team examined 21 natural climate solutions that increase carbon storage and help avoid the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, including conservation and restoration initiatives as well as improved management of forests, grasslands, farmlands, and wetlands. According to a study published in the journal Science Advances last week detailing their findings, the researchers’ analysis reveals that all of these natural climate strategies combined could reduce global warming emissions by an amount equivalent to about 21 percent of US net emissions in 2016.

“We found a maximum potential of 1.2 (0.9 to 1.6) Pg CO2e year−1 [petagrams of CO2 equivalent per year], the equivalent of 21% of current net annual emissions of the United States,” the researchers write in the study. “NCS would also provide air and water filtration, flood control, soil health, wildlife habitat, and climate resilience benefits.”

The majority — some 63 percent — of the climate mitigation potential of natural solutions in the US is due to increased carbon sequestration in plant biomass, with 29 percent coming from increased carbon sequestration in soil and 7 percent from avoided emissions of methane and Nitrous oxide. Of the 21 natural solutions the researchers analyzed, increased reforestation efforts had the largest carbon storage potential, equivalent to keeping 65 million passenger cars off the road.

Climate mitigation potential of 21 NCS in the United States. Credit: Fargione et al. (2018). doi:10.1126/sciadv.aat1869

“Reforestation has the single largest maximum mitigation potential (307 Tg CO2e year−1 [teragrams of CO2 equivalent per year]),” the researchers write. “The majority of this potential occurs in the northeast (35%) and south central (31%) areas of the United States. This mitigation potential increases to 381 Tg CO2e year−1 if all pastures in historically forested areas are reforested.”

Forests provide a number of other solutions with great potential, such as increasing carbon storage by allowing longer periods between timber harvests and reducing the risk of mega-fire through controlled burns and thinning of forests, the researchers found.

“One of America’s greatest assets is its land. Through changes in management, along with protecting and restoring natural lands, we demonstrated we could reduce carbon pollution and filter water, enhance fish and wildlife habitat, and have better soil health to grow our food — all at the same time,” Fargione said in a statement. “Nature offers us a simple, cost-effective way to help fight global warming.”

Fargione and his co-authors note that close to a million acres of forest in the US are converted to non-forest every year, mostly as a result of suburban and exurban expansion and development, but that this source of greenhouse gas emissions could be addressed with better land use planning.

“Clearing of forests with conversion to other land uses releases their carbon to the atmosphere, and this contributes to rising temperatures,” said co-author Christopher A. Williams, an environmental scientist and associate professor at Clark University in Massachusetts. “Land owners and land managers are thinking about how they might use their land base to slow the pace of climate change, but until now they lacked the data needed to assess this potential.”

Williams added: “We estimated how much forest is being lost each year across the U.S., and the amount of carbon that releases to the atmosphere. Turning these trends around can take a dent out of global warming, and now we know how much and where the potential is greatest.”

The researchers also estimated the emissions reductions that could be accomplished for $10, $50, and $100 per megagram of CO2 equivalent, and found that 25 percent, 76 percent, and 91 percent, respectively, of the maximum mitigation could be achieved at those prices. This is a key finding, they say, because “a price of at least USD 100 is thought to be needed to keep the 100-year average temperature from warming more than 2.5°C, and an even higher price may be needed to meet the Paris Agreement <2°C target.”

US President Donald Trump has said he plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement, but the earliest any country can do so is 2020. The US’ Nationally Determined Contribution under the Paris Agreement calls for the country to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. Reaching that goal will require the US to drastically scale back the burning of fossil fuels, but this new study shows that NCS will also have a crucial role to play.

“Reducing carbon-intensive energy consumption is necessary but insufficient to meet the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement,” the researchers write. “Comprehensive mitigation efforts that include fossil fuel emission reductions coupled with NCS hold promise for keeping warming below 2°C.”

Forest in Borderland State Park, Massachusetts. 35 percent of the climate mitigation potential of reforestation in the United States occurs in northeastern forests. Photo via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC0.

 

CITATION

• Fargione, J. E., Bassett, S., Boucher, T., Bridgham, S. D., Conant, R. T., Cook-Patton, S. C., … & Gu, H. (2018). Natural climate solutions for the United States. Science Advances, 4(11), eaat1869. doi:10.1126/sciadv.aat1869

Reposted with permission from Mongabay

World Soil Day Hails Symbiotic Role of Pulses to Boost Sustainable Agriculture

Author: UN Food and Agriculture Organization | Published on: December 5, 2016

New report explores how nitrogen-fixing plants enhance nutritious diets, carbon sequestration and soil fertility.

5 December 2016, ROME- Soil and pulses can make major contributions to the challenge of feeding the world’s growing population and combating climate change, especially when deployed together, according to Soils and Pulses: Symbiosis for Life, a new report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization released on World Soil Day.

“Soils and pulses embody a unique symbiosis that protects the environment, enhances productivity, contributes to adapting to climate change and provides fundamental nutrients to the soil and subsequent crops,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.

Pulses are environmentally resilient crops that deliver high-nutrition foods to people and critical nutrients to biological ecosystems. Soil, a non-renewable resource, is essential for plant life and 95 percent of the global food supply.

Pulses such as lentils, dry beans and chickpeas are nitrogen-fixing plants that can benefit soil health, leading to better growing conditions for themselves and for other plants. On average, cereals grown after pulses yield 1.5 tonnes more per hectare than those not preceded by pulses, which is equal to the effect of 100 kilograms of nitrogen fertilizer.

The new book illustrates a variety of ways that pulses and soils can be “strategic allies” in forging more sustainable food and agriculture systems.

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California Releases Vision for Healthy Soils Initiative

 

Author: Valley Grower | Published on: September 15, 2016

Sacramento, California – California’s Climate Future and Soils: California’s Healthy Soils Initiative is a collaboration of state agencies and departments, led by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to promote the development of healthy soils on California’s farm and ranch lands. Innovative farm and ranch management practices contribute to building adequate soil organic matter that can increase carbon sequestration and reduce overall greenhouse gas emissions.

The Healthy Soils Initiative is a key part of California’s strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by increasing carbon sequestration in and on natural and working lands. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr.’s Executive Order B-30-15 (April 2015), codified by SB 32 in September 2016, established a new interim statewide greenhouse gas emission reduction target at 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030. The Executive Order points to carbon sequestration in California’s forests and farmlands as one way to help meet that goal. The Brown administration also recognized the importance of soil health in the Governor’s 2015-16 proposed budget by highlighting that “as the leading agricultural state in the nation, it is important for California’s soils to be sustainable and resilient to climate change.”

In building soil health, California can also make use of wasted resources bound for the landfill. Currently, some 12 million tons of compostable or mulchable organic waste is sent to California landfills annually, where it generates methane and other public health threats that must be managed or mitigated. The Healthy Soils Initiative presents an opportunity to return those organic materials back to the soil, where they can serve as a resource for California’s critical agricultural economy.

 

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Mangroves in Crisis: Why One Man Works to Save the Plants That Fight Climate Disruption

Author: Dahr Jamail

It’s not news that anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD) is accelerating at unprecedented rates, according to climate scientists. Fifteen of the 16 hottest years ever recorded have occurred since 2000, and this year is on track to be the hottest year ever recorded — by far. And the pace of planetary warming is only increasing, as is made dramatically clear in this recently published graphic.

Hence, the need to do everything possible to work towards mitigating this crisis is obvious. There is no way to completely reverse the trend, but as more and more people acknowledge our shared moral responsibility to mitigate the impacts, some are uncovering creative strategies for fighting planetary warming. For instance, an unlikely epiphany led one man towards an effort to preserve and protect mangrove forests, a tactic that would not necessarily be most folks’ first tactic to address climate disruption.

In 1992, Alfredo Quarto was in southern Thailand working on an article about fisherfolk when he became aware that mangrove forests were under threat by the shrimping aquaculture industry.

“The common threat I saw to all these local farmers [was] outside investors who were destroying both their lands and livelihoods by destroying the mangrove forests they depended upon in order to make more shrimp farms,” Quarto told Truthout. “I was deeply moved by a village headman whose father had been murdered by a local shrimp mafia because he defied their cutting down the mangroves.”

Quarto said that the man told him, “If there are no mangrove forests, then the sea will have no meaning. It is like having a tree with no roots, for the mangroves are the roots of the sea.”

The man’s words made a profound impact — in fact, they shifted the course of Quarto’s life. Quarto went on to become the cofounder and co-director of the Mangrove Action Project (MAP), whose aim is the preservation and protection of mangrove forests around the world.

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