CO2 Emissions Must be Cut Now

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It’s (Past) Time to Cut CO2 Emissions

Greetings:  I’m repeating this post from three years ago as a reminder that we have a deadly national emergency slipping up on us that will kill far more people than COVID-19. If you click the CO2 link in the sidebar you can see that we haven’t yet begun responding by cutting emissions. 

Yesterday at my house we received 2.25″ of rain (with hail) in less than an hour. In arid regions, that’s a lot. The gutters clogged with hail, spilled over, and contributed to ponding in the yard that came within 1/4 inch of flowing over the patio door sills. I have a flood wall planned, and hope there’s still time to get it built before another intense storm comes along.

We can expect increasing storm size and intensity because of the amount of CO2 we have already released into the atmosphere. If we could limit emissions and subsequent temperature rise to 1.5 degrees celsius, the storms would continue to grow, but away from the coasts, little flood walls and rooftop solar panels would probably let most of us survive. However, limiting the storms by limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees celsius is impossible now. We might still limit the increase to 2 degrees, but we have to act fast.

The graph below shows the best scientific estimates of the cumulative effect of delays. If emissions begin to fall now, we can stay below 2 degrees of rise if we reach zero by 2040. If emissions do not begin falling until 2025, we must reach zero by 2033 to stay below 2 degrees. Eight years? Having had a strong taste of the coming catastrophe by then, we might try. But the effort itself would be so costly, we probably wouldn’t make it. Dropping to zero in 21 years if we begin now will be incredibly difficult. It will require a global switch to wartime economies dedicated to building renewable energy and making emission cuts. Emissions are still rising as we approach 2020, and reaching zero in 21 years seems unlikely.

All we can count on for sure is that nature will force human emissions to begin falling in about 20 years due to massive loss of life as heatwaves and wildfires increase, and as farms, water delivery, power delivery, and transportation fail. That’s when positive feedbacks, including the ice-free arctic, melting permafrost, soil erosion, and other sources of CO2 will begin growing without our contribution. At that point, our species could begin spiraling down toward extinction.

Christiana Figueres and colleagues published the graph below last year. I blogged about it last December. You can find a link to the original article there.

To keep all this positive, glass half full and so on, I will close by saying that the world’s scientists could be wrong about climate and we will all win the lottery next week.

Animals to be Formally Recognized as Sentient Beings in UK

So little, but it’s something. Posted here just to keep the record.

Set of government measures will include halting most live animal exports and a ban on hunting trophy imports

Animal welfare protesters are seen at a rally in front of the Al Kuwait live export ship as sheep are loaded in Fremantle harbour, 16 June, 2020
Animal welfare protesters at a rally in front of the Al Kuwait live export ship as sheep are loaded in Fremantle harbour, 16 June 2020. Photograph: Richard Wainwright/AAP

Animals are to be formally recognised as sentient beings in UK law for the first time, in a victory for animal welfare campaigners, as the government set out a suite of animal welfare measures including halting most live animal exports and banning the import of hunting trophies”–Fiona Harvey Environment correspondentWed 12 May 2021 01.00 EDT

Global Warming, Environmental Variability, and Infectious Disease

Introduction

Scientists predict global warming will increase the spread of infectious diseases at the same time it amplifies the intensity of storms, floods, droughts, fires, and other problems. I haven’t followed the disease issue closely, but I think the current global failure with COVID-19 gives us a preview of what this will be like. From increased public health expenses to extensive travel restrictions, civilization will face increasing challenges and will eventually crumble first in poorer nations, regions, and neighborhoods, and finally in wealthy areas.
This story from Nature describes COVID-19’s growing death toll and its deadly contribution to other diseases.

COVID-19 and Infectious Disease in India.
Health workers administer polio vaccines to children in Islamabad in January as an armed police officer stands nearby for protection. Vaccinators have previously been attacked in Pakistan, where rumours persist about immunizations being harmful. (Sohail Shahzad/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Canada Thistle

<p value="<amp-fit-text layout="fixed-height" min-font-size="6" max-font-size="72" height="80">A WordPress glitch deleted the discussion I included with this story. Something to do with the new editor. <a href="https://onpasture.com/2021/04/05/have-you-discovered-the-benefits-of-canada-thistle/">Here's a link to the original article. </a>A WordPress glitch deleted the discussion I included with this story. Something to do with the new editor. Here’s a link to the original article.

Canada Thistle is Nutritious and Delicious and Can Improve Average Daily Gains

“Since I started training livestock to eat it, I’ve known that Canada thistle is alfalfa-like in nutrition. – it’s like candy to a ruminant”–Kathy Voth.

Weed Appreciation Day

Today is #WeedAppreciationDay. Before humans, weeds were almost entirely beneficial for Earth’s ecosystems. Problems began when we transported weeds across natural barriers created by deserts, forests, and oceans. In their new homes without their natural consumers, some of the weeds become malignant. They replace local species and destroy local ecosystems. Diversity and stability often decline. The damage is extensive and it is increasing. Here’s a link to more information on weeds: https://garryrogers.com/invasive-plant-articles-by-garry…/

Wildlife Decline Continues

Wildlife Decline

As the human population grows and consumes more of the planet’s resources, the number of wild animals and plants declines. Encounters with insects outdoors and in our homes are falling rapidly. Birds numbers are falling, and wild mammals are disappearing.

The Living Planet Index tracked 20,811 populations of 4,392 vertebrate species and it recorded a 68 percent decline between 1970 and 2016. Over-consumption by humans is primarily to blame, particularly deforestation and agricultural expansion–Niall McCarthy, Data Journalist.

I’ve reported on this issue in many posts over the past few years. In fact, most of my posts are related. Like the rest of the world’s citizens concerned with nature, I’ve been an ineffectual nag. I have come to believe that even if we had 100 Greta Thunbergs demonstrating for nature, we would fail to evade calamity. But it is fair to imagine all is not lost. Caught in the whirlpool of human nature, we can still believe remnants of nature will survive to reseed Earth’s living complexity and beauty once again.

Population

Earth’s Human Population Is Not Sustainable

Human population growth threatens all life on Earth. Notice how the linked Guardian article focuses on Humans. We all know, and the article’s author would probably agree, Human destruction of Earth ecosystems harms other species as well as Humans. This might end when Human civilization ends, but population’s daughter product, climate change, might continue destroying life long after Humans are gone.

A report by the University of Washington predicts that Japan’s population will halve by by 2100. Photograph: Eugene Hoshiko/AP

The Guardian article gives a brief update on population projections.

“In 1798, Thomas Malthus wrung his hands as he contemplated the growing mass of humanity, warning: “The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race.” –Guardian Editorial.

Read more.

We are All Scientists

You are a Scientist

I heard someone ask “why do scientists lie so much.” Thinking about how I would answer, and with my grandchildren in mind, I composed the following statement:

Sharing the Earth

Half for Nature

Dr. Helen Kopnina (photo: Springer Nature)

As we age and grow more familiar with our surroundings, the limits of the Earth begin to appear through the clouds of our experience and reactions. When I think of the Voyager Golden Records travelling into the Cosmos for the past 43 years, I wonder if some alien species will one day trace humanity’s greetings back to a barren planet no longer wrapped in life and promise. In the linked article, Helen Kopnina and her coauthors gracefully lay out the mutually beneficial path we must follow to save our planet’s life and ourselves.

https://go.nature.com/2NxX2Cs

Header photo:  College of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley.

 

Birds of Coldwater Farm

Introduction
My Birds of Coldwater Farm is complete at last. It is an illustrated guide to 146 bird species seen at Coldwater Farm during the first two decades of the Twenty-first Century. I included photographs, conservation status, and comments on species abundance trends at the Farm. Keywords:  Birds, Coldwater Farm, Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, Conservation, Natural History.

Bird Identification

The photographs in this book will give you a name for many of the birds you see. However, you will also want a field guide. You can find one in most bookstores and you can download an app for your phone. Field guides help you distinguish similar bird species and they provide much more information than this book. Away from my desk, I use the Audubon Society Bird Guide app. It has pictures, recordings, range maps, and descriptions of each species’ preferred habitat and its mating, nesting, and feeding behavior. It also describes nests, eggs, and conservation status. At my desk, I use the fabulous Cornel Lab Birds of North America Online. Both the Audubon app and the Cornel Lab website have simple interactive tools that will let you become an instant success at bird identification (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/).

Bird Conservation

With concern for the health and survival of the birds, I dug into the published conservation literature on each species. I found that two species at the Farm, the Southwest Willow Flycatcher, and the Yellow-billed Cuckoo are on the U. S. endangered species list and numerous other species that visit the Farm are in decline. Philipe Guerrero and other ornithologists helped identify many of the birds.

The book is available in all the usual places, but since the bookstores and libraries are closed, you have to buy it online or direct from the publisher. This is the Amazon link. The book’s retail price is $39.95, but if you want a PDF copy, it’s free. Click here.

Rogers, Garry. 2020. Birds of Coldwater Farm, Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona, Birds Observed  During the First Two Decades of the Twenty-First Century. Coldwater Press, Prescott, AZ. 177 p.

Most of the birds are shown in the Photo Gallery

Postscript: The Time is Growing Short

POSTCRIPT
I published the blog post below in 2017. It discusses a scientific analysis and climate-change warning published in the journal Nature.
The critical element of the scientists’ conclusion was the absolutely necessity to begin immediately reducing CO2 emissions. Progress was pinned to six milestones that had to be reached by 2020. Here we are in 2020. Unfortunately, global CO2 emissions increased in 2018 and 2019 and none of the six milestones was reached. Likewise, the other disasters I mentioned are continuing to accelerate. The likelihood that human civilization will continue to progress and flourish in years to come is perhaps exactly equal to the number of times “biodiversity” or “global wildlife extinction” has been mentioned in the Democratic presidential debates: Zero. But who knows? Perhaps this year’s weather will provoke a massive mobilization similar to what it took to combat the Nazis.

[Alfred E. Neuman said “What, me worry?” — perhaps he was our spokesperson after all, eh Joe?]

The 2017 Blog Post

GR [in 2017]:  An article from June, 2016 should be on everyone’s mind now. Here’s my discussion followed by a link to the article.

A group of scientists analyzed the sources of CO2 and the dynamic relationship between the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere and global temperature to devise a global carbon budget they could use to assess the effect of timing of changes in CO2 emissions. The analysis enabled them to calculate the changes we must make to preserve a livable climate. You’ll have to read the article to see the individual sources of CO2 that must be adjusted. I wanted to mention the timing for the budget. The analysis shows that if CO2 emissions begin to fall immediately and reach zero in 30 years, we will remain within the global warming limits set by the Paris treaty. After the flat emissions of 2014, 2015, and 2016, the authors believed that the fall in emissions was ready to begin. This is good, because their budget shows that if we wait to 2020 to start tapering off CO2 production, we only get 20 years to reach zero emissions. If we wait to 2025, we get less than 10 years to reach zero. Transforming our energy use that quickly would be impossible.

SO, how are we doing. Six months after the analysis was published, we find that 2017 emissions have gone up, not down. Lot’s of positive changes have begun, but we have to wait to see what happens in 2018. If we begin to taper off CO2 emissions by 2020, we will have 20 years to reach zero emissions. I suggest you take a look at the six milestones the authors believe must be reached by 2020. Then you can monitor the world’s progress toward painful climate change (the Paris treaty) or disastrous climate change (with too many storms, fires, heat waves, and rising seas).

Climate change is just one of the approaching disasters. Human population and its impact is growing, wildlife species are going extinct at incredible rates, freshwater supplies are dropping, and toxic wastes are building up. If we can’t do much more than take our CO2 emissions to zero over the next 20 years, most of the diversity and beauty of life on Earth will disappear.

Christiana Figueres and colleagues set out a six-point plan for turning the tide of the world’s carbon dioxide by 2020. NATURE.COM