Planting trees will not slow global warming

GR: There’s lots of loose talk going around about “geoengineering” our way out of the climate-change disaster. I say it’s loose talk because there’s been no serious testing of efficacy and long-term consequences. Actually, scientists have analyzed most of the ideas such as blasting sunlight-blocking particles into the atmosphere, converting CO2 to useful materials, and so forth and found that such techniques fall short of what’s needed. The article below describes another debunking, this time the idea that we could clear the air by planting CO2-absorbing forests.

Climatologists have determined that we have already released enough carbon, methane, and other greenhouse gases to cause disastrous climate changes. And so far, the way we might save a fair portion of our civilization is to stop burning coal, oil, gas, and even wood now.

26 May, 2017 – “Humans cannot simply plant their way out of trouble: trees cannot absorb the ever-increasing quantities of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

“If the world’s nations really do intend to contain global warming to within 2°C, there is no alternative to drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new study.

“The tree could be regarded as low-technology carbon removal machinery and, in theory, carefully managed plantations could soak up the carbon released from fossil fuel combustion. But the sheer scale of such plantations would have devastating environmental costs, scientists say.

“If we continue burning coal and oil the way we do today and regret our inaction later, the amounts of greenhouse gas we would need to take out of the atmosphere in order to stabilise the climate would be too huge to manage,” says Lena Boysen from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, who led the study, published in Earth’s Future journal.

Trees are not the answer

“If the forests were planted on productive land, then humans would lose the soils urgently needed to nourish a population of 9bn. If the trees were planted on less productive terrain, the necessary costs in water and nitrogen-based fertiliser would be devastating. Either way, natural ecosystems would be irreparably damaged.

“And then the trees grown to absorb carbon would have to be stored deep underground, to prevent the carbon returning to the atmosphere to accelerate global warming rather than limit it.

“Even if we were able to use productive plants such as poplar trees or switchgrass, and store 50% of the carbon contained in their biomass, in the business-as-usual scenario of continued, unconstrained fossil fuel use, the sheer size of the plantations for staying at or below 2°C of warming would cause devastating environmental consequences,” Boysen says.

“The world’s great forests are part of the climate machinery, and more than 195 nations agreed in Paris in 2015 to take steps to contain climate change, both by managing the way they used land and by switching from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy.

“So carbon storage in the form of woodland is one component of a complex problem. Boysen and colleagues report that they looked at a number of scenarios to see whether, even in theory, massive investment in tree planting could remove sufficient quantities of carbon from the atmosphere.

“In the climate drama currently unfolding on that big stage we call Earth, CO2 removal is not the hero who finally saves the day after everything else has failed”

“One scenario required 6.9 billion hectares of plantation, fed by 570 million tons of nitrogen each year, and even the smallest theoretical plantation would have extended over a billion hectares and consumed 96 million tons of nitrogen fertiliser every year. One billion hectares is 10 million square kilometres: an area bigger than the whole of Canada.” –Tim Radford (Continue: Planting trees will not slow global warming – Climate News Network.)

The Economics of 7.5 Billion People On One Planet

GR: Joe Bish of the Population Media Center directed my attention to this story published last week. It is a clear, short exposition of the population problem that I highly recommend. Note that the best solution to overpopulation is freedom, the freedom to choose. Are women just maids and baby producers or are they individuals with rights of their own?

“The most disheartening story in today’s Seattle Times is about the 38 million pieces of trash, almost all plastic, strewn on remote and uninhabited Henderson Island in the Pacific Ocean. When some future alien starship discovers post-apocalyptic Earth, their first impression will be, “What a bunch of slobs once lived here.”

“This story can be told in many ways: A runaway consumer culture, globalization and the 10,000-mile supply chain, more affluence even in developing nations, environmental catastrophe from polluting the oceans. But don’t forget the latest estimate of the planet’s population: 7.5 billion. At the turn of the 19th century, it was only 1 billion. It took more than another century to add another billion. Since then, the billions have been piling on with astonishing speed. The world held “only” a little more than 6 billion in 2000.

“Virtually every major problem, from climate change and wars to mass migrations and resource scarcity has its root in too many people. Economics are not immune. The lowered prospects of the politically potent white working class, for example, have much to do with millions overseas who can do the same jobs for a fraction of the cost. When you hear about theories of “secular stagnation” and the like, think 7.5 billion.

“The enormous and growing costs of human-caused climate change are juiced by those 7.5 billion. Globalization has created large middle classes in nations such as China and India — and its members want the sprawly car-dependent “American lifestyle” and the rights to their share of the atmosphere to heat in order to get it. The greatest deprivation, and lost economic potential, happens in countries with the biggest population overshoot.” –Jon Talton (Continue reading:  The economics of 7.5 billion people on one planet | The Seattle Times)/

New study finds the oceans are rising three times faster than they were during the 20th century

GR: Coastal flooding as global warming melts the polar ice caps is one of the most devastating consequences of human-caused climate change. Years ago, scientists predicted that at some point, the rate of sea level rise would accelerate. We have now passed that point. According to NOAA, “nuisance flooding” is already becoming a problem on the U. S. east coast where high tides will be higher than many other places on the globe. Here’s a story on what scientists expect. You will notice that global annual averages are small. However, when you consider totals for decades, and when you consider that the totals will be much higher in some areas like the U. S. east coast, you can see how great the threat is.

An iceberg is pictured in the western Antarctic peninsula in March 2016. (Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)

“A new scientific analysis finds that the Earth’s oceans are rising nearly three times as rapidly as they were throughout most of the 20th century, one of the strongest indications yet that a much feared trend of not just sea level rise, but its acceleration, is now underway.

“We have a much stronger acceleration in sea level rise than formerly thought,” said Sönke Dangendorf, a researcher with the University of Siegen in Germany who led the study along with scientists at institutions in Spain, France, Norway and the Netherlands.

“Their paper, just out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, isn’t the first to find that the rate of rising seas is itself increasing — but it finds a bigger rate of increase than in past studies. The new paper concludes that before 1990, oceans were rising at about 1.1 millimeters per year, or just 0.43 inches per decade. From 1993 through 2012, though, it finds that they rose at 3.1 millimeters per year, or 1.22 inches per decade.

“The cause, said Dangendorf, is that sea level rise throughout much of the 20th century was driven by the melting of land-based glaciers and the expansion of seawater as it warms, but sea level rise in the 21st century has now, on top of that, added in major contributions from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica.

“The sea level rise is now three times as fast as before 1990,” Dangendorf said.

–Chris Mooney, More: New study finds the oceans are rising three times faster than they were during the 20th century – The Washington Post

McAuliffe: Virginia will regulate carbon emissions; ‘the threat of climate change is real’

GR: Some U. S. cities and states are finding ways around the denials and bribery of the fossil-fuel industry. They are joining the majority of American citizens who believe that we must treat human-caused global warming is a serious threat. Of course, this is not happening in Republican controlled states such as Tennessee.

Nathan Frost, talks about Dominion’s solar array at the Philip Morris facility in Chesterfield. The company is developing hundreds of megawatts of solar power in Virginia (Photo: Robert Zullo).

“Gov. Terry McAuliffe today directed the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to begin assembling regulations to reduce carbon emissions from Virginia power plants, a move that was celebrated by environmentalists and renewable energy businesses who see the state as a laggard when it comes to solar and wind capacity and energy-efficiency programs.

“Virginia Republicans, however, condemned the Democratic governor’s carbon directive as overreach that would raise electric prices and hamper economic growth.

“The threat of climate change is real, and we have a shared responsibility to confront it. Once approved, this regulation will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from the commonwealth’s power plants and give rise to the next generation of energy jobs,” the governor said in a statement. “As the federal government abdicates its role on this important issue, it is critical for states to fill the void. Beginning today, Virginia will lead the way to cut carbon and lean in on the clean-energy future.”

“Though it does not lay out the 30 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 that environmental groups wanted, McAuliffe’s executive directive instructs the DEQ to develop a proposed regulation for the State Air Pollution Control Board to abate, control or limit carbon dioxide from power plants that will “allow for the use of market-based mechanisms and the trading of carbon dioxide allowances through a multi-state trading program.” The proposed regulation is due to be presented to the board by Dec. 31, just before McAuliffe leaves office.

“Last summer, McAuliffe convened by executive order a working group consisting of cabinet officials and leaders of the state Department of Environmental Quality and Department Mines, Minerals and Energy to develop recommendations on cutting carbon from power plants. The market-based carbon trading aspect was a key component of the group’s report, which was sent to the governor last week.” –Robert Zullo (More: McAuliffe: Virginia will regulate carbon emissions; ‘the threat of climate change is real’ | News | richmond.com.)