Biochar

Renewable Energy with or without #ClimateChange #auspol 

Renewable Energy With or Without Climate Change

By Steven Cohen

Executive Director, Columbia University’s Earth Institute

The new administration in Washington is dominated by fossil fuel interests and has resumed the mantra of “Drill, baby, drill!.” 

Deep sea drilling, mining in protected and sometimes fragile environments, mountaintop removal, fracking, and massive pipeline projects are all back on the table.

 It’s America first, fast, and fossil-fueled. 

Meanwhile, Germany goes solar, China is investing major resources in renewable energy, and homeowners all over America are saving big money with rooftop solar arrays.


Burning fossil fuels is bad for the environment.

 Extracting it, shipping it, and burning it all damage the planet. 

Since almost all human activity damages the planet though, the question is, how much?

 How irreversible? 

And can we achieve the same ends with less damage? 

This last question is one of the arguments for renewable energy.

 Our economic life is built on energy. 

It has made human labor less important, human brainpower more important, and made it possible for us to live lives our great-grandparents could not have imagined. 

The energy use is not going away; most people like the way they live.

 But our use of energy needs to be made more efficient and less destructive.
Even without environmental destruction such as ecosystem damage and climate change, renewable energy is clearly the next phase of human technological evolution. 

Just as we went from human-pulled carts to animal labor and from animals to fossil fuels, the next step is electric vehicles powered by renewable energy stored in high-tech batteries. 


Part of the argument for renewables is price. 

Even without damaging the environment, and even though the technology of fossil fuel extraction is advancing rapidly, fossil fuels are finite. 

That means over time they become less plentiful. 

That time may or may not come soon, but it will come. 

Demand will continue to rise but at some point supply will drop and prices will soar.

 The technology of extracting and storing energy from the sun will become cheaper over time. We have already seen this with computers and cell phones. The price of energy from the sun remains zero, and human ingenuity and the advance of technology is inevitable. 


Someone soon is going to solve the problem of generating and storing renewable energy. 

If done correctly, the leader of that effort will be the Bill Gates or Steve Jobs of the next generation.
The nation that develops renewable energy that is cheaper than and as reliable as fossil fuels will dominate the world economy. 

Reducing climate change and air pollution is a beneficial byproduct of this technology, but cheaper and more reliable energy is the main outcome. 


In the past century, America’s research universities and national laboratories, funded by the federal government and often by the military, have been an engine of technological innovation: transistors, semi-conductors, satellite communications, mini computers, GPS, the internet… The list is virtually endless.
America’s scientific research dominates because it is competitive but collaborative, creative, free, peer-reviewed, and because our immigration policy and quality of life has always allowed us to recruit the best scientists from all over the world. 

Every top science department in this country is global by birth. 

We need to maintain this research capability for our own sake and for the world’s. 

Other nations may have education systems that test better, but American education and lifestyles promote creativity and innovation. 

Today, some of our best minds are working on energy: nanotechnology applied to solar cells and batteries, wind energy, geothermal, carbon capture and storage, and innovations hard to explain to nonscientists like me.

 This research is largely funded by the federal government and its defunding would be an act of national economic suicide. 


It also requires recruitment and collaboration from nations all over the world. 

An “America First” approach is self-defeating here. 

The benefits of these new technologies will not be “shared” or given away, but sold by companies like Apple, Microsoft and Tesla—or at least the next decade’s versions of these companies.
It is unfortunate, outdated, and a little idiotic to allow energy policy to be dominated by the fossil fuel industry.

 It’s an industry with a fabulous present and a declining future.

 It’s not going away anytime soon, but then again, Kodak thought that people would always want to print all their photos; AT&T used to run the telegraphs; IBM stopped making laptop computers. 

Technology marches on, and companies, even great ones, are often bought, sold, transformed or destroyed.
Climate change requires renewable energy. 

But so do does an expanding economy highly dependent on inexpensive, reliable energy. 

Technological innovation and globalization has allowed America’s economy to grow while pollution is reduced. 

The damage from fossil fuels is global and so the urgency of its replacement should be apparent. 

But since it is clearly not apparent in our congress, there remains a good argument for making our energy system renewable, decentralized, computer-controlled, and updated for the 21st century. 


We need energy too much to leave it in the hands of companies that are more concerned with protecting their sunk costs than in updating our outmoded energy system.
To update our energy system we need to fund more basic and applied energy research. 

This is a difficult time for America’s research universities, as scientists fear that the federal grant support they compete for will either shrink or disappear. 

Science spending is a tiny proportion of the federal budget, but it has enormous multiplier effects throughout the economy. 

Students are trained to conduct research. 

Knowledge is developed that in many cases will eventually be commercialized. 

The benefits dramatically outweigh the costs. 

And the federal role cannot be replaced by companies focused on quick results or even private philanthropy. Even the largest private foundations in the world cannot reach the funding scale of the U.S. federal government. 

Better knowledge of the causes of climate change, better understanding of climate impacts and adaptation strategies, and the basic science that will lead to renewable energy breakthroughs all require federal funding.
In a political world where facts themselves have become open to dispute, peer-reviewed, competitive science holds out the hope of retaining and advancing the scientific base for economic development. 

Virtually all of the economic growth America has enjoyed over the past two centuries has been the direct result of technological innovation. 

Much of that innovation takes place in businesses that find ways to monetize the new knowledge and technologies that are developed in government-funded laboratories. The relationship between university and national lab basic research and commercial innovation is well known. 

Cutting that funding would be foolish.
If America sacrifices its scientific leadership and institutions because of the political views of scientists or out of an anti-intellectual bias, our ability to compete in the technological, global, brain-based economy will be impaired. 

Coupled with limits on immigration, defunding science will virtually guarantee that some other nation or nations will fill the vacuum we will leave behind. An America without well-funded, well-functioning research universities is a nation in decline.
Climate change is a test of the vibrancy of that science establishment. 

Will we continue to learn more about climate impacts and methods of adaptation built on risk assessments and impact models? 

Will we develop and implement the technologies needed to maintain economic growth while reducing greenhouse gases? In the past, we were able to take on these grand challenges, from polio and cancer treatment to building a global communications network.
While renewable energy will go a long way to addressing the climate change issue, its development does not require a concern for climate change. 

The argument for renewable energy is that it is the logical next phase of technological development.

 It is being held back in this country by fossil fuel subsidies, propaganda, and politics. That appears to have accelerated under our new president. 

But looking back to old industries and old energy technologies for economic growth is a losing strategy. Looking forward to a new, cleaner, and sustainable energy system is a much better idea, no matter what you think about climate models and climate science.
Follow Steven Cohen on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/StevenACohen

Press Link for more:Huffington Post

Carbon Capture & Storage is no solution to #ClimateChange #auspol

Countries must radically scale up their use of carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies soon or risk missing the targets of the Paris climate agreement, new research suggests.

The authors of a study published on Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change examined how big countries are approaching the daunting task of attaining the treaty’s central goal—keeping the world well below 2 degrees Celsius of warming since the industrial era.
They cited impressive progress in energy conservation and the use of renewables, but a lag in efforts to capture and store carbon dioxide from continued use of fossil fuels.
“We show that many key indicators are currently broadly consistent with emission scenarios that keep temperatures below 2˚C, but the continued lack of large-scale carbon capture and storage threatens 2030 targets and the longer-term Paris ambition of net-zero emissions,” the study authors wrote.

From the United Nation’s latest “emissions gap” assessment to the International Energy Agency’s emissions analysis, other reports have also warned that the world needs to do more to prevent catastrophic climate change—and they have similarly presented CCS as a key part of the solution.
Indeed, most climate models that give the world any hope of achieving the Paris ambitions of keeping warming not just well below 2 degrees, but even aiming for 1.5 degrees, include a significant role for CCS, sometimes in combination with burning biofuels.

This new study comes just a few months after the Paris treaty entered into force and Donald Trump was elected president on a platform that rejects the treaty and embraces increased production and use of fossil fuels.
The researchers estimated that fossil fuels and industrial processes released about 36.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide in 2016, the third year in a row it has remained at that level. To find out what’s behind this global plateau, researchers looked at the carbon intensity of energy use and found it varies by country.
Here’s the geographic breakdown:

China: The study found a decline in the share of fossil fuels in total energy use is driven by renewables growth, along with reductions in the carbon emitted per unit of fossil fuel.
United States: Declines in carbon per unit of fossil fuel consumed stem from a shift from coal to natural gas. Smaller reductions arose from gains in renewables.
Europe: The carbon intensity decline is dominated by the growing share of renewables in total energy use, with less progress in cutting emissions from fossil fuels.

India: The study found no clear trends.
“Our analysis helps us show how global emissions can be flat but countries and regions are heading in very different directions,” said study author Robert Jackson, a climate and environmental science professor at Stanford University.
Besides reviewing past energy trends, Jackson and others examined the countries’ climate pledges as well as more than 100 climate simulations. Those showed how changes in energy production and use through 2040 could keep warming to maximum 2 degrees Celsius.
They concluded that greater global increases in solar and wind power and further cuts in coal and other fossil fuels would help, as well as possible increases in nuclear energy and hydropower.
Most striking, however, is the glaring mismatch between how little countries are doing to develop capture carbon and storage compared to what climate scenarios say are needed. While countries are planning dozens of CCS facilities by 2020, emissions scenarios recommend upwards of 4,000 facilities by 2030.
“The Paris Agreement was long on lofty goals but very short on how to make sure they are ever met,” said Timmons Roberts, an environmental professor at Brown University who was not involved in the study. “This piece is a huge contribution of just the kind of applied science needed to understand if we’re moving in the right direction and which parts of the economy are changing fast enough and which ones are not.”

Press link for more: Inside Climate News

We’re currently on track for 3C or more Global Warming! #auspol #science

PARIS, France — Expansion of renewable energy cannot by itself stave off catastrophic climate change, scientists warned Monday.
Even if solar and wind capacity continues to grow at breakneck speed, it will not be fast enough to cap global warming under two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), the target set down in the landmark 2015 Paris climate treaty, they reported in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“The rapid deployment of wind, solar and electric cars gives some hope,” lead author Glen Peters, a researcher at the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, Norway, told AFP.
“But at this stage, these technologies are not really displacing the growth in fossil fuels or conventional transportation.”

Earth is overheating mainly due to the burning of oil, gas and especially coal to power the global economy.
Barely 1C (1.8F) of warming so far has already led to deadly heat waves, drought and super storms engorged by rising seas.

The 196-nation Paris Agreement set a collective goal to cap warming, but lacks the tools to track progress, especially at the country level.
To provide a better toolkit, Peters and colleagues broke down the energy system into half-a-dozen indicators — GDP growth, energy used per unit of GDP, CO2 emissions per unit of energy, share of fossil fuels in the energy mix, etc.
What emerged was a sobering picture of narrowing options.
Barely a dent
“Wind and solar alone are not sufficient to meet the goals,” Peters said.
The bottom line, the study suggests, is how much carbon pollution seeps into the atmosphere, and on that score renewable have — so far — barely made a dent.
Investment in solar and wind has soared, outstripping fossil fuels for the first time last year. And renewables’ share of global energy consumption has increased five-fold since 2000.
But it still only accounts for less than three percent of the total.
Moreover, the share of fossil fuels — nearly 87 percent — has not budged due to a retreat in nuclear power over the same 15-year period.
Even a renewables Marshall Plan would face an unyielding deadline: To stay under 2C, the global economy must be carbon neutral — producing no more CO2 than can be absorbed by oceans and forests — by mid-century.
Compounding the challenge, other key policies and technologies deemed essential for holding down temperatures remain woefully underdeveloped, the study cautioned.
In particular, the capacity to keep or pull carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it securely — a cornerstone of end-of-century projections for a climate-safe world — is practically non-existent.
Vetted by the UN’s top climate science panel, these scenarios presume that thousands of industrial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities will be up-and-running by 2030.
As of today, there are only one or two, with a couple of dozen in various stages of construction.
Negative emissions
Another form of clean energy penciled into most medium- and long-term forecasts that does not yet exist on any meaningful scale is carbon-neutral biofuels.
The idea is that CO2 captured while plants grow will compensate for greenhouse gases released when they are burned for energy.
On paper, that carbon pollution will also be captured and stored, resulting in “negative emissions” — a net reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.
But here again, reality is dragging its feet.
“It is uncertain whether bioenergy can be sustainably produced and made carbon-neutral at the scale required,” the researchers noted.
All of these technologies must come on line if we are to have a fighting chance of keeping a lid of global warming, which is currently on track to heat the planet by 3C to 4C (5.4F to 7.2F), the study concluded.
Market momentum alone is not enough, Peters added.
“There need to be a shift in focus,” he said in an email exchange.
“Politician seem happy to support wind, solar and electric vehicles through subsidies. But they are not willing to put prices” — a carbon tax, for example — “on fossil fuels.”
“Unless the emissions from fossil fuels goes down, the 2C target is an impossibility.”
In an informal survey last week of top climate scientists, virtually all of them said that goal is probably already out of reach. CBB

Press link for more: News info.inquirer

Carbon Farming: Hope for a Hot Planet #auspol #climatechange 

By Brian Barth

Carbon farming. The phrase is suddenly on the lips of every major player in the sustainable food movement.
Michael Pollan deemed it agriculture’s “secret weapon” in a December op-ed for the Washington Post.

 Bill McKibben, in his praise for an upcoming book on the topic, described carbon farming as “a powerful vision,” one that he hopes will “presage major changes in our species’ use of the land.” Paul Hawken went so far as to call it “the foundation of the future of civilization,” with potential to “surpass the productivity of industrial agriculture.”
Why all the hubbub? And, for that matter, what exactly is it about?
Carbon farming is agriculture’s answer to climate change. Simply put, the goal is to take excess carbon out of the atmosphere, where the element causes global warming, and store it in the soil, where carbon aids the growth of plants.

 The principle is pretty straightforward—the practice, not so much.
Most folks understand that burning fossil fuels puts carbon that was once buried deep beneath the earth into the atmosphere, turning the planet into one big greenhouse in the process. But in addition to petroleum underground, the soil on the surface of the earth contains a sizable store of carbon in the form of organic matter—the stuff that environmentally aware farmers and gardeners are always striving to maximize. Plants add organic matter to the soil when they decompose, and photosynthesis, by definition, removes carbon dioxide from the air and pumps it through the roots of plants and into the soil.


Concern over climate change may have thrust the concept of carbon farming into the limelight—25 countries pledged to pursue it during the December climate talks in Paris—but ranchers like Gabe Brown, who raises livestock and an array of crops on 5,000 acres outside Bismarck, North Dakota, have preached its virtues for decades. “All soil biology eats carbon, and that’s how nutrients cycle,” explains Brown of the network of microbes and fungi and earthworms underground. “Farmers need to think of carbon as their fertilizer, because it’s what drives a healthy system.”

At first glance, most carbon-farming techniques mirror age-old organic growing methods: Instead of relying on chemical crutches and pulverizing the soil with constant tillage, you enrich it with compost and rotate a diverse array of food and cover crops through the fields each season. (See “Five Tenets of Carbon Sequestration,” below.) But Brown and other practitioners of carbon farming—Virginia’s Joel Salatin and Zimbabwe’s Allan Savory are the best known among them—go to extraordinary lengths to keep carbon-producing organic matter in the soil and out of the atmosphere. Plowing is avoided like the plague. Instead of turning up the earth at the end of a given crop’s cycle, Brown sends his livestock—Angus cattle, Katahdin sheep, hogs, and chickens—into the field to trample and eat the crop. He then uses a seed drill to plant the next crop among the decaying roots of the previous one.
Brown, a former conventional commodity-crop farmer, still grows corn, but with a groundcover of clover or vetch beneath the stalks. He follows each cash crop with a mix of pearl millet, Sudan grass, cowpeas, sunflowers, and other soil-enriching cover crops, combining up to 70 different species in a single planting. Each occupies a slightly different niche in terms of height, root depth, leaf shape, and growth rate, forming a dense blanket of vegetation that pumps carbon from the sky to the soil and provides a rich “cocktail” on which his livestock graze.
Brown says he has greatly increased his profitability since adopting carbon-farming practices more than 20 years ago. In addition to improved yields on the corn, soy, and wheat he’s always sold on the wholesale market, he now supplies beef, pork, eggs, broilers, and honey to local customers.
Another way carbon farming pays off, at least abroad: carbon-credit markets. For the past five years, Australia’s agricultural sector has benefited from a nationally mandated cap-and-trade program that lets farmers who adopt carbon-sequestration practices sell carbon credits to heavily polluting corporations in need of offsetting carbon footprints. And two years ago, the World Bank established a fund to buy carbon credits from Kenyan farmers as a means to incentivize climate- friendly practices in a part of the world known for its slash-and-burn approach to the land.
America has yet to institute a federally mandated carbon-credit system, though nine northeastern and mid-Atlantic states have adopted cap-and-trade schemes covering the emissions of 168 power plants. Only California can claim a wide-reaching cap-and-trade program that requires more than 600 polluters across various industries to offset their emissions, but even there, most farm-based practices for carbon sequestration remain ineligible for credits. Under California’s current system, credits are available mainly to farmers who are themselves big polluters—livestock farmers who install anaerobic digesters to capture methane (one of the three main greenhouse gases) released from their manure lagoons, for example—not those who follow the low-impact practices espoused by the carbon-farming movement.

That’s starting to change, thanks in part to the efforts of a group of dairy farmers in Marin County. The challenge involves quantifying the amount of carbon sequestered and providing assurance that the numbers can be reliably replicated, according to John Wick, cofounder of the Marin Carbon Project. Last year, Wick’s organization—in conjunction with ecologists at the University of California, Berkeley—managed to convince the agency that administers the state’s voluntary carbon-credit exchange (as opposed to its government-mandated one) to grant credits to farmers who spread com-post over grazed grasslands. “We’re at that pivotal moment,” Wick says, “between demonstrating scale, which we’ve done, and implementation.”
Many consider livestock on pastureland the ideal system for sequestering carbon. Each time an animal nibbles on a blade of grass, the roots release a bit of carbon into the soil; pasture-raised beasts and birds also convert grass into marketable products like meat, dairy, and eggs. But opponents argue that animals emit as much carbon as they help sequester, pointing to the belches and manure of ruminant animals as a major source of green-house gases.
Eric Toensmeier—author of The Carbon Farming Solution, the new book that has Hawken, McKibben, and other activists buzzing—offers a reality check and a realistic solution. “There’s this conversation happening that suggests grazing is the only way to go, yet the rates [of sequestration] are among the lowest of all carbon-farming practices,” he explains. “It’s quite complicated when you really drill down into it.”
A proponent of long-lived perennials as the best carbon capturers, Toensmeier urges ranchers to consider “silvopasture,” the practice of grazing livestock among trees, spaced widely to allow enough sunlight to reach the fields, as compensation for the carbon released by the animals. Yet he acknowledges the many variables that influence a farm-er’s decision-making process: “It’s a matter of what practices are suited to your climate and fit in your marketing mix, as well as the mechanisms for financing the transition.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture is helping farmers transition to carbon-sequestering practices with a free web-based tool called COMET-Farm, which provides an approximate carbon footprint based on user-supplied data and allows farmers to experiment with different land management scenarios to see which works best. USDA air-quality scientist Adam Chambers says the data the tool provides should help pave the way for farmers to monetize sequestration practices as the carbon market matures. “This is the cookbook, if you will, for how farmers can accomplish emission reductions,” he explains.
Through a partnership with the USDA, Chevrolet recently purchased 40,000 carbon credits from 23 ranchers in North Dakota who have voluntarily pledged to adopt no-till methods on their combined 11,000 acres of grazing land. Chambers hopes the transaction, which equates to taking 5,000 cars off the road and is the largest of its kind to date in the United States, will jump-start the market for farm-based carbon sequestration. As one of the world’s largest auto companies, it’s fitting that Chevy should start that ball rolling.


Five Tenets of Carbon Sequestration
NO-TILL Tilling mixes soil with air, allowing carbon to oxidize back into the atmosphere. Instead, focus on perennial crops that don’t require tillage, or use a no-till seed drill for large-scale annual plantings.

ORGANIC MULCH Cover the soil around small-scale plantings with a wood chip or straw mulch to prevent carbon losses. On large plantings, leave crop residue in place as mulch. As it decomposes, the residue fuels the carbon cycle in the soil.
COMPOST Compost is rich in a stable (not easily oxidized) form of carbon. Carbon farmers recommend dusting it over the surface of the soil—you can spread it directly over the grass in your pasture—rather than tilling it in.
LIVESTOCK ROTATION Moving concentrated herds and flocks of animals through a series of small paddocks on a regular basis is preferable to letting the animals forage continuously over a single large area. Many carbon farmers move their animals every day and try to let each paddock “rest” as long as possible between grazings.

COVER CROPS Fast-growing species such as clover and vetch keep the soil covered and enriched with carbon through the winter and may also be planted together with cash crops during the growing season to compensate for carbon lost when those crops are harvested.

Press link for more: Modern Farmer

Carbon is not the enemy. #auspol #ClimateChange 

Design with the natural cycle in mind to ensure that carbon ends up in the right places, urges William McDonough

Carbon has a bad name. 

The 2015 Paris climate agreement calls for a balance between carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere and to earthbound carbon sinks.

Climate Neutral Now, a United Nations initiative, encourages businesses and individuals to voluntarily measure, reduce and offset their greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. 

The American Institute of Architects has challenged the architecture community worldwide to become carbon neutral by 2030. 

The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, an international network of urban-sustainability directors, aims to slash its cities’ greenhouse-gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
‘Low carbon’, ‘zero carbon’, ‘decarbonization’, ‘negative carbon’, ‘neutral carbon’, even ‘a war on carbon’ — all are part of the discourse. If we can reduce our carbon emissions, and shrink our carbon footprint, the thinking goes, we can bring down the carbon enemy. It’s no wonder that businesses, institutions and policymakers struggle to respond.
But carbon — the element — is not the enemy. 

Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us: it is a design failure. 

Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration. It is we who have made carbon toxic — like lead in our drinking water or nitrates in our rivers. In the right place, carbon is a resource and a tool.

Carbon dioxide is the currency of photosynthesis, a source of Earth’s capacity for regeneration. 

Soil carbon is the guarantor of healthy ecosystems and food and water security. 

Carbon atoms are the building blocks of life. 

Wool, cotton and silk are carbon compounds, as are many industrial polymers and pure ‘supercarbons’ such as diamonds and graphene.
After 30 years of designing sustainable buildings and landscapes that manage carbon, I believe it is time to breathe new life into the carbon conversation. 

Rather than declare war on carbon emissions, we can work with carbon in all its forms. 

To enable a new relationship with carbon, I propose a new language — living, durable and fugitive — to define ways in which carbon can be used safely, productively and profitably. Aspirational and clear, it signals positive intentions, enjoining us to do more good rather than simply be less bad.

Words drive actions

It is easy to lose one’s way in the climate conversation.

 Few of the terms are clearly defined or understood. 

Take ‘carbon neutral’. The European Union considers electricity generated by burning wood as carbon neutral — as if it releases no CO2 at all. Their carbon neutrality relies problematically on the growth and replacement of forests that will demand decades to centuries of committed management2. Another strategy is to offset fossil-fuel use by renewable-energy credits — this still means an increase in the global concentration of atmospheric CO2.
Even more confusing is the term ‘carbon negative’.

 This is sometimes used to refer to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

 For example, Bhutan’s prime minister has indicated that his country is carbon negative, because its existing forests sequester more CO2 than the country emits and Bhutan exports hydroelectric power (see go.nature.com/2es9lgt).

 But aren’t trees having a positive effect on atmospheric carbon, and hydroelectric power a neutral one?

Carbon sequestration is a long-sought goal.

 It requires two elements: a way to capture carbon from the atmosphere or a chimney and a way to store it safely and permanently. But some so-called carbon-storage methods are paradoxical. 

For example, in enhanced oil recovery, CO2 is injected into rock formations to flush out remnant crude oil, which is eventually burned.
At the same time, enterprises are starting to announce their hopes to be ‘carbon positive’ by, for example, producing more renewable energy than their operations require, or by sequestering carbon through planting trees.
Such terms highlight a confusion about the qualities and value of CO2. 

In the United States, the gas is classified as a commodity by the Bureau of Land Management, a pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and as a financial instrument by the Chicago Climate Exchange.
A new language of carbon recognizes the material and quality of carbon so that we can imagine and implement new ways forward (see ‘The new language of carbon’). 

It identifies three categories of carbon — living, durable and fugitive — and a characteristic of a subset of the three, called working carbon. It also identifies three strategies related to carbon management and climate change — carbon positive, carbon neautral and carbon negative.
Carbon has a bad name. The 2015 Paris climate agreement calls for a balance between carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere and to earthbound carbon sinks1. Climate Neutral Now, a United Nations initiative, encourages businesses and individuals to voluntarily measure, reduce and offset their greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. The American Institute of Architects has challenged the architecture community worldwide to become carbon neutral by 2030. The Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, an international network of urban-sustainability directors, aims to slash its cities’ greenhouse-gas emissions by 80% by 2050.
‘Low carbon’, ‘zero carbon’, ‘decarbonization’, ‘negative carbon’, ‘neutral carbon’, even ‘a war on carbon’ — all are part of the discourse. If we can reduce our carbon emissions, and shrink our carbon footprint, the thinking goes, we can bring down the carbon enemy. It’s no wonder that businesses, institutions and policymakers struggle to respond.
But carbon — the element — is not the enemy. Climate change is the result of breakdowns in the carbon cycle caused by us: it is a design failure. Anthropogenic greenhouse gases in the atmosphere make airborne carbon a material in the wrong place, at the wrong dose and for the wrong duration. It is we who have made carbon toxic — like lead in our drinking water or nitrates in our rivers. In the right place, carbon is a resource and a tool.

Nature special: A new urban agenda

Carbon dioxide is the currency of photosynthesis, a source of Earth’s capacity for regeneration. Soil carbon is the guarantor of healthy ecosystems and food and water security. Carbon atoms are the building blocks of life. Wool, cotton and silk are carbon compounds, as are many industrial polymers and pure ‘supercarbons’ such as diamonds and graphene.
After 30 years of designing sustainable buildings and landscapes that manage carbon, I believe it is time to breathe new life into the carbon conversation. Rather than declare war on carbon emissions, we can work with carbon in all its forms. To enable a new relationship with carbon, I propose a new language — living, durable and fugitive — to define ways in which carbon can be used safely, productively and profitably. Aspirational and clear, it signals positive intentions, enjoining us to do more good rather than simply be less bad.
Words drive actions

It is easy to lose one’s way in the climate conversation. Few of the terms are clearly defined or understood. Take ‘carbon neutral’. The European Union considers electricity generated by burning wood as carbon neutral — as if it releases no CO2 at all. Their carbon neutrality relies problematically on the growth and replacement of forests that will demand decades to centuries of committed management2. Another strategy is to offset fossil-fuel use by renewable-energy credits — this still means an increase in the global concentration of atmospheric CO2.
Even more confusing is the term ‘carbon negative’. This is sometimes used to refer to the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. For example, Bhutan’s prime minister has indicated that his country is carbon negative, because its existing forests sequester more CO2 than the country emits and Bhutan exports hydroelectric power (see go.nature.com/2es9lgt). But aren’t trees having a positive effect on atmospheric carbon, and hydroelectric power a neutral one?

Sander van der Torren Fotografie

A four-storey atrium with indoor and outdoor living green walls helps to provide clean air to Park 20|20’s Bosch Siemens Experience Centre in the Netherlands.

Carbon sequestration is a long-sought goal. It requires two elements: a way to capture carbon from the atmosphere or a chimney and a way to store it safely and permanently. But some so-called carbon-storage methods are paradoxical. For example, in enhanced oil recovery, CO2 is injected into rock formations to flush out remnant crude oil, which is eventually burned.
At the same time, enterprises are starting to announce their hopes to be ‘carbon positive’ by, for example, producing more renewable energy than their operations require, or by sequestering carbon through planting trees.
Such terms highlight a confusion about the qualities and value of CO2. In the United States, the gas is classified as a commodity by the Bureau of Land Management, a pollutant by the Environmental Protection Agency and as a financial instrument by the Chicago Climate Exchange.
A new language of carbon recognizes the material and quality of carbon so that we can imagine and implement new ways forward (see ‘The new language of carbon’). It identifies three categories of carbon — living, durable and fugitive — and a characteristic of a subset of the three, called working carbon. It also identifies three strategies related to carbon management and climate change — carbon positive, carbon neutral and carbon negative.


Start with the soil

How do we work with the carbon cycle to preserve and enhance the benefits it naturally provides?

 From the soil up.
Carbon is at the heart of soil health. In healthy ecosystems, when plants convert CO2 into carbon-based sugars — liquid carbon — some flows to shoots, leaves and flowers. 

The rest nourishes the soil food web, flowing from the roots of plants to communities of soil microbes. In exchange, the microbes share minerals and micronutrients that are essential to plants’ health. 

Drawn into the leaves of plants, micronutrients increase the rate of photosynthesis, driving new growth, which yields more liquid carbon for the microbes and more micronutrients for the fungi and the plants. Below ground, liquid carbon moves through the food web, where it is transformed into soil carbon — rich, stable and life-giving. 

This organic matter also gives soil a sponge-like structure, which improves its fertility and its ability to hold and filter water.
This is how a healthy carbon cycle supports life. 

This flow kept carbon in the right place in the right concentration, tempered the global climate, fuelled growth and nourished the evolution of human societies for 10,000 years.
Many soil researchers believe it could do so again. Ecologist and soil scientist Christine Jones, founder of the Amazing Carbon Project, describes the “photosynthetic bridge” between atmospheric carbon and liquid carbon, and the “microbial bridge” between plants and biologically active, carbon-rich soils as twin cornerstones of landscape health and climate restoration.
David Johnson at the New Mexico State University Institute for Energy and the Environment in Las Cruces has studied the carbon–microbial bridge.

He found that the most important factor for promoting plant growth and cultivating soil carbon was not added nitrogen or phosphorus but the carbon inputs from other plants.
Design for living

Let’s keep those carbon bridges open on all landscapes — rural and urban. 

Let’s use carbon from the atmosphere to fuel biological processes, build soil carbon and reverse climate change.

 Let’s adopt regenerative farming and urban-design practices to increase photosynthetic capacity, enhance biological activity, build urban food systems, and cultivate closed loops of carbon nutrients. 

Let’s turn sewage-treatment plants into fertilizer factories. Let’s recognize carbon as an asset and the life-giving carbon cycle as a model for human designs.
“To enable a new relationship with carbon, I propose a new language.”

All designs — from products to buildings, cities and farms — could be carbon positive. 

This may take a century, but that’s how long it took us to get into our current carbon calamity.

 The sooner we start, the better. 

By 2030, our exuberantly urbanizing planet is expected to convert more habitat and farmland into cities than all previous urban growth combined. 

More than 2 billion urbanites will live in homes, attend schools and work in factories that are not yet built.

Despite these challenges, there are models of hope.

In 1989 my architecture firm designed a day-care facility in Frankfurt, Germany, based on ‘a building like a tree’ that could be operated by children, who would move solar shutters, open and close windows, grow food on roof terraces and irrigate the gardens with rainwater.
The idea of ‘buildings like trees’ and ‘cities like forests’ endured, and we started to approach our product, building and city designs as photosynthetic and biologically active, accruing solar energy, cycling nutrients, releasing oxygen, fixing nitrogen, purifying water, providing diverse habitats, building soil and changing with the seasons.
The Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College in Ohio, which we designed, is a built example of this philosophy. It purifies its waste water and sewage in an on-site system that produces carbon-rich organic compost. This year the project is producing solar energy at an annual rate of 40% more than it needs. The building still relies on the electrical grid when solar energy is unavailable. Soon, with new and affordable on-site thermal and electric battery storage systems, buildings like this can be both carbon and energy positive.

Nature special: The circular economy

In the Netherlands, Park 20|20 near Amsterdam applies these carbon-positive design strategies at the campus scale. Next door, the Valley at Schiphol Trade Park, the country’s national hub for the circular economy, will scale these and many other innovations to create an urban ecology of work, supply chains and collaborative spaces. The development will be a network of integrated buildings, landscapes and technical systems operating as a connected whole. Each building is oriented to the path of the Sun to maximize exposure during winter and shade during summer. Photovoltaic arrays and green roofs are the system’s leaves and roots, harvesting renewable energy, absorbing and filtering water, producing food and providing habitat for other living things in a vibrant, sustainable business community.
The energy sector, too, can be generously carbon positive. SunPower, based in San Jose, California, and other solar providers are developing ‘solar orchards’ — power plants that perform as working farms. Rotating arrays of elevated solar panels shade the earth and provide habitat for grassland, which captures water, nitrogen and carbon to build soil health, can include legumes to fix nitrogen, and can provide food for grazing animals, in turn providing protein and wool. By design, the power plant generates an abundance of benefits: renewable energy, biodiversity, food, soil restoration, nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, water conservation, fibre products, and agricultural and manufacturing jobs. Thus working durable carbon creates and supports living carbon while reducing fugitive carbon, all in an economically robust and profitable model.
Such designs offer an inspiring model for climate action. It all starts with changing the way we talk about carbon. Our goal is simple and positive: a delightfully diverse, safe, healthy and just world — with clean air, soil, water and energy — economically, equitably, ecologically and elegantly enjoyed.

Press link for more: nature.com

The trouble with negative emissions. #auspol #ClimateChange

In December 2015, member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted the Paris Agreement, which aims to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C. 

The Paris Agreement requires that anthropogenic greenhouse gas emission sources and sinks are balanced by the second half of this century. 

Because some nonzero sources are unavoidable, this leads to the abstract concept of “negative emissions,” the removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through technical means. 

The Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) informing policy-makers assume the large-scale use of negative-emission technologies.

 If we rely on these and they are not deployed or are unsuccessful at removing CO2 from the atmosphere at the levels assumed, society will be locked into a high-temperature pathway.

It is not well understood by policy-makers, or indeed many academics, that IAMs assume such a massive deployment of negative-emission technologies. 

Yet when it comes to the more stringent Paris obligations, studies suggest that it is impossible to reach 1.5°C with a 50% chance without significant negative emissions (3). 

Even for 2°C, very few scenarios have explored mitigation without negative emissions (2). 

Negative emissions are also prevalent in scenarios for higher stabilization targets (7). 

Given such a pervasive and pivotal role of negative emissions in mitigation scenarios, their almost complete absence from climate policy discussions is disturbing and needs to be addressed urgently.

Negative-Emission Technologies
Negative-emission technologies exist at various levels of development (8–11). Afforestation and reforestation, although not strictly technologies, are already claimed by countries as mitigation measures. 

Bioenergy, combined with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), is the most prolific negative-emission technology included in IAMs and is used widely in emission scenarios. 

It has the distinct feature of providing energy while also, in principle (12), removing CO2 from the atmosphere. Assuming that carbon is valued, BECCS can thus provide an economic benefit that may offset, at least in part, the additional costs of using the technology (13). Generally, carbon is assumed to be fully absorbed during biomass growth, captured before or after combustion, and then stored underground indefinitely. Despite the prevalence of BECCS in emission scenarios at a level much higher than afforestation, only one large-scale demonstration plant exists today.
Other negative-emission technologies have not moved beyond theoretical studies or small-scale demonstrations. Alternative and adjusted agricultural practices, including biochar, may increase carbon uptake in soils (9). It may also be possible to use direct air capture to remove CO2 from the atmosphere via chemical reactions, with underground storage similar to CCS. Enhancing the natural weathering of minerals (rocks) may increase the amount of carbon stored in soils, land, or oceans. Introduction of biological or chemical catalysts may increase carbon uptake by the ocean. New technologies, designs, and refinements may emerge over time.
BECCS: A Political Panacea
The allure of BECCS and other negative-emission technologies stems from their promise of much-reduced political and economic challenges today, compensated by anticipated technological advances tomorrow. Yet there are huge opportunities for near-term, rapid, and deep reductions today at little to modest costs, such as improving energy efficiency, encouraging low-carbon behaviors, and continued deployment of renewable energy technologies. Why, then, is BECCS used so prolifically in emission scenarios?
The answer is simple. Integrated assessment models often assume perfect knowledge of future technologies and give less weight to future costs. In effect, they assume that the discounted cost of BECCS in future decades is less than the cost of deep mitigation today. In postponing the need for rapid and immediate mitigation, BECCS licenses the ongoing combustion of fossil fuels while ostensibly fulfilling the Paris commitments.
The idea behind BECCS is to combine bioenergy production with CCS, but both face major and perhaps insurmountable obstacles. Two decades of research and pilot plants have struggled to demonstrate the technical and economic viability of power generation with CCS, even when combusting relatively homogeneous fossil fuels (14). Substituting for heterogeneous biomass feedstock adds to the already considerable challenges.
Moreover, the scale of biomass assumed in IAMs—typically, one to two times the area of India—raises profound questions (10) about carbon neutrality, land availability, competition with food production, and competing demands for bioenergy from the transport, heating, and industrial sectors. 

The logistics of collating and transporting vast quantities of bioenergy—equivalent to up to half of the total global primary energy consumption—is seldom addressed. 

Some studies suggest that BECCS pathways are feasible, at least locally (15), but globally there are substantial limitations (10). BECCS thus remains a highly speculative technology.
Moral Hazard and Inequity
The appropriateness or otherwise of relying, in significant part, on negative-emission technologies to realize the Paris commitments is an issue of risk (7). 

However, the distribution of this risk is highly inequitable. If negativeemission technologies fail to deliver at the scale enshrined in many IAMs, their failure will be felt most by low-emitting communities that are geographically and financially vulnerable to a rapidly changing climate.
The promise of future and cost-optimal negative-emission technologies is more politically appealing than the prospect of developing policies to deliver rapid and deep mitigation now. If negative-emission technologies do indeed follow the idealized, rapid, and successful deployment assumed in the models, then any reduction in near-term mitigation caused by the appeal of negative emissions will likely lead to only a small and temporary overshoot of the Paris temperature goals (3). 

In stark contrast, if the many reservations increasingly voiced about negative-emission technologies (particularly BECCS) turn out to be valid, the weakening of near-term mitigation and the failure of future negative-emission technologies will be a prelude to rapid temperature rises reminiscent of the 4°C “business as usual” pathway feared before the Paris Agreement (5).
Negative-emission technologies are not an insurance policy, but rather an unjust and high-stakes gamble. 

There is a real risk they will be unable to deliver on the scale of their promise. 

If the emphasis on equity and risk aversion embodied in the Paris Agreement are to have traction, negative-emission technologies should not form the basis of the mitigation agenda. This is not to say that they should be abandoned (14, 15). They could very reasonably be the subject of research, development, and potentially deployment, but the mitigation agenda should proceed on the premise that they will not work at scale. The implications of failing to do otherwise are a moral hazard par excellence.

Press link for more: Kevin Anderson & Glen Peters

Removing CO2 From the Air Only Hope for Fixing Climate Change #auspol

Without ‘negative emissions’ to help return atmospheric CO2 to 350 ppm, future generations could face costs that ‘may become too heavy to bear,’ paper says.

The only way to keep young people from inheriting a world reeling from catastrophic climate change is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions dramatically and immediately, according to a new paper. Not only that, but it’s also necessary to aggressively remove greenhouse gas that’s already accumulated.
“If rapid emission reductions are initiated soon, it is still possible that at least a large fraction of required CO2 extraction can be achieved via relatively natural agricultural and forestry practices with other benefits,” the authors wrote.
“On the other hand, if large fossil fuel emissions are allowed to continue, the scale and cost of industrial CO2 extraction, occurring in conjunction with a deteriorating climate with growing economic effects, may become unmanageable. Simply put, the burden placed on young people and future generations may become too heavy to bear.”
The study’s 12 authors, led by prominent climate scientist James Hansen, the former head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, call for bringing atmospheric carbon dioxide levels down to levels not recorded since the 1980s: 350 parts per million, a long standing goal of Hansen’s.
The level is now above 400 ppm, up more than 40 percent since before the Industrial Revolution. Many scientists reckon that 450 ppm is the safe limit to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
The paper, called “Young People’s Burden: Requirement of Negative CO2 Emissions,” was published Tuesday in the journal Earth System Dynamics Discussions.
It was written to support litigation by Hansen and a group of young people (including Hansen’s granddaughter) seeking to force more ambitious climate action. And it is the latest in a string of scientific analyses showing that nations are far from reining in dangerous warming, despite the imminent entry into force of a comprehensive treaty negotiated last year in Paris.
The Paris deal aims to limit warming to 1.5 degrees or 2 degrees Celsius, in line with the 450 ppm level. That would require bringing emissions to “net zero” sometime in the second half of this century through a swift clean energy transformation. Any CO2 spewed into the air—be it from a coal plant, an SUV or an airplane—would have to be completely offset, or “zeroed,” by increasing the growth of forests and other carbon sinks.
But according to the paper, even a net-zero world wouldn’t be enough to prevent burdening future generations with an impossible task.
To attain Hansen’s bolder goal, countries have to achieve “negative emissions,” by removing more accumulated CO2 from the atmosphere. 
The paper lays out five possible scenarios. In the worst-case scenario, emissions continue to rise by at least 2 percent a year after 2015, and CO2 levels more than double to 864 ppm by 2100. To prevent that dire outcome, which assumes countries aren’t reducing their emissions to net zero, 768 ppm of CO2 would have to be sucked out of the atmosphere by that time.
That would be enormously expensive for future generations—perhaps impossible.

Press link for more: Sahra Hirji

Why climate change is an ethical problem.

Stephen M. Gardiner is professor of philosophy, and Ben Rabinowitz is endowed professor of the human dimensions of the environment at the University of Washington, Seattle.
Climate change presents a severe ethical challenge, forcing us to confront difficult questions as individual moral agents, and even more so as members of larger political systems. It is genuinely global and seriously intergenerational, and crosses species boundaries. It also takes place in a setting where existing institutions and theories are weak, proving little ethical guidance.
The critical question as we seek to address climate change will be which moral framework is in play when we make decisions. In many settings, we do not even notice when this question arises, because we assume that the relevant values are so widely shared and similarly interpreted that the answer should be obvious to everyone. Nevertheless, the values question is not trivial, since our answer will shape our whole approach.
If we think something should be done about climate change, it is only because we use our moral frameworks to evaluate climate change events, our role in bringing them about, and the alternatives to our action. This evaluation gives us both an account of the problem and constraints on what would count as relevant solutions.
[Other perspectives: When it comes to climate change, payback isn’t enough]
Suppose, for example, one were deciding where to set a global ceiling on emissions.
At one extreme, we might give absolute priority to the future. It is technically feasible for us all to reduce our emissions by 50 to 80 percent tomorrow, or even eliminate them. We could, after all, just turn off our electricity, refuse to drive, and so on. The problem is not that this cannot be done; it is that the implications are bleak. Given our current infrastructure, a very rapid reduction would probably cause social and economic chaos, including humanitarian disaster and severe dislocation for the current generation. If this is correct, we are justified in dismissing such drastic measures. However, that justification is ethical: A policy that demanded those measures would be profoundly unjust, violate important rights and be deeply harmful to human welfare.
Still, the acknowledgement of those limits has its own implications. Even if any emissions cuts would be disruptive to some extent, presumably at some point the risks imposed on future generations are severe enough to outweigh them. Where is this point? That is an ethical question. So far, we do not seem very interested in answering it.
Perhaps this is because up until now we have been acting as if our answer is closer to the other extreme — giving absolute priority to our own short-term interests. Over the past 25 years — since the first Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — we have continued to allow high levels of emissions, suggesting that we are giving the future no weight at all. Given the threat of a tyranny of the contemporary (a collective-action problem in which earlier generations exploit the future by taking modest benefits for themselves now while passing on potentially catastrophic costs later), this bias is highly predictable. Yet it also appears grossly unethical.
[If we’re going to fix climate change, we’ll have to get creative]
Of course, acknowledging that moral claim is deeply uncomfortable. Consequently, there is a temptation to prefer framings of the climate problem that obscure the ethical questions. Consider, for instance, those who reject any moral lens, arguing that climate policy should be driven solely by national self-interest, usually understood in terms of domestic economic growth over the next couple of decades.
Their accounts face deep problems. Given the time lags that climate change involves, most climate impacts, including many of the most serious, will take many decades to arise. Moreover, those that may occur in the near term are likely already in the cards, due to either past emissions or those that are by now inevitable. Amoral approaches constructed with a focus exclusively on the next decade or two would confront only a very small set of the relevant impacts of climate change, and would likely miss the most important — and the potentially catastrophic. Climate policy could become yet another venue where narrow interests crowd out longer-term and broader concerns.
The real climate challenge is ethical, and ethical considerations of justice, rights, welfare, virtue, political legitimacy, community and humanity’s relationship to nature are at the heart of the policy decisions to be made. We do not “solve” the climate problem if we inflict catastrophe on future generations, or facilitate genocide against poor nations, or rapidly accelerate the pace of mass extinction. If public policy neglects such concerns, its account of the challenge we face is impoverished, and the associated solutions quickly become grossly inadequate. Ongoing political inertia surrounding climate action suggests that so far, we are failing the ethical test.

Press link for more: Washington Post

Celebrating soils: Why are they so important for our climate? #Auspol

By putting soils centre stage, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) aims to raise awareness of how important soils are for producing food and fuel, and keeping ecosystems healthy. But soils have also been thrust to the forefront of international science because of climate change.
Globally, the top metre of soils contains about three times as much carbon as in our entire atmosphere. Losing carbon from the soil into the atmosphere can add to climate warming. But if soils can be managed in a way that means they store more carbon, they can help to reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, and thereby help limit climate change.
Climate impacts on soils
Changes in the climate can affect how much carbon soils store, but understanding the effects is not straightforward. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can have both positive and negative implications for soil carbon storage.
Plants absorb carbon dioxide through photosynthesis, and transfer this carbon into the ground when dead roots and leaves decompose in the soil. Rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere, and warmer temperatures, could give a boost to plant growth on the one hand and decomposition on the other. Whether carbon in the soil increases or decreases depends on the balance between the two.
But getting this boost also depends on there being enough water and nutrients to support the extra growth. Drier soils could also limit how well dead plant matter decomposes in the soil, leaving them more at risk of being eroded by the weather.
In other words, changes in temperature and precipitation can be both beneficial and detrimental to soil carbon storage.

  
Irish peat bog. Credit: Shutterstock
Regional variations
The impacts of climate on soil carbon also vary depending on the type of soil and where in the world they’re found.
Mineral soils are those that contain less than about 5% organic carbon. Recent modelling studies show that mineral soils in some regions will gain carbon, while others will lose it. Overall, climate change is expected to increase carbon storage, however,
But not all soils are created equal.
Peatlands are thick, boggy soils that contain enormous amounts of carbon – about twice as much as the world’s forests. These may be more susceptible to climate change. When these soils heat up, or if they become drier, vast quantities of carbon could be lost through erosion.
Similarly, the frozen soils in the Arctic – known as permafrost – are likely to release carbon as they thaw.
Given the complex interactions between temperature and moisture, plant growth and decomposition, and variations between regions and different types of soil, predicting the composite effects of climate change on soils is extremely difficult.

  

Permafrost in Greenland. Credit: Shutterstock
Limiting climate change
Although soils will be affected by a changing climate, they can also be used to help limit how much it changes.
As soils are such an important carbon store, managing them sustainably can help maintain or increase the amount of carbon they take up. This makes soil management an important option for mitigating climate change.
Potentially, using soils to soak up our emissions could sequester up to around one billion tonnes of carbon per year – and it would be relatively inexpensive.
This idea has come to the fore recently with a suggestion from the French Government to increase soil carbon stocks globally by 0.4% per year. This would be equivalent to adding about 0.2-0.3bn tonnes of carbon to the top 30cm of soils across the world each year.
They intend to propose this at the 21st Conference of Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris in December this year. The idea is backed by the FAO and the US, the French Agriculture Minister said last month.
Whilst this level of sequestration is clearly extremely ambitious, it provides, for the first time, a way to promote soil management to help mitigate climate change on the global stage.
Soil carbon sequestration is not a magic bullet. There are limits to how much carbon soil can take up, and bad management could release it back into the atmosphere. But considering its cost effectiveness and its potential, soil carbon sequestration merits serious consideration.
Putting soils at the centre of environmental, sustainable development and climate policy should be the lasting legacy of the International Year of Soils in 2015.

Press link for more: Professor Pete Smith | carbonbrief.org

Why Are Climate Groups Only Focused on 50% of the Solution? #Auspol #ClimateChange

To the leadership at Greenpeace, Sierra Club, 350.org, Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and all other climate ggroups.

Your organizations have worked very hard, collectively, to reduce world reliance on carbon-centric oil, gas and coal. Thanks to your work to reduce pollution, we certainly have a healthier planet. High praise is in order for the success of your valiant efforts in the face of corrupt vested interests.
Yet I, along with many others, must still ask: Will your plan win the race against time to avert climate chaos? Anyone paying close attention can see that, even if the world doubles the rate at which it’s adopting wind, solar, bike lanes, electric cars and conservation, the excess carbon in our atmosphere and seas will still lead to intense climate chaos. For just one example, the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona, recently reached 117°.
Our society has focused close to 99 percent of our climate efforts on 50 percent of the needed game plan—i.e., reducing the release of atmospheric carbon. Yes, we need to decarbonize our energy. Yet equally important is the need to recarbonize our soils, to sequester the carbon so that we don’t reach the tipping point of climate chaos. This is relatively new information for many people.

In his article “Soil Carbon Restoration: Can Biology Do the Job?,” Jack Kittredge of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association provides an excellent report on the subject.
A recent EcoWatch article of my own provides an easy-to-understand overview, with links to organizations working on this vital issue.

  
Sometimes “group think” can stymie networks or organizations. Let me be especially direct. The current “half a game plan” or “50 percent solution” will in fact allow destruction of the planet, as solar, wind and reducing extraction alone cannot slow the carbon emissions fast enough as we surge toward an atmospheric 450 ppm.
The Link Between Monsanto, Industrial Ag and Ocean Health
Monsanto and industrial agriculture are contributing more to climate change than Exxon, Chevron and the entire transportation industry combined. Why keep that a secret? Millions of members of Greenpeace, Sierra Club, 350.org, Environmental Defense Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) care deeply about the Earth, and yet have no clue about the elephant in the room.
The other untold secret is that Monsanto and the corporate media are not telling the world that we’re rushing to an ocean apocalypse. I give credit to the NRDC for its 2009 Acid Test: The Global Challenge of Ocean Acidification, a powerful 21-minute video on ocean health narrated by Sigourney Weaver.

And, just as I’m writing this, I see that the NRDC is educating people on improving the cattle-grazing methods that impact our climate. A local Greenpeace chapter is also doing its part. The next time you think about stopping by Starbucks remember that millions of Starbucks lattes sold monthly directly correlate with the carbon-intensive industrial dairy production.
The sea is what makes life on this bountiful planet possible. The oceans are places of vast beauty and mystery. The one-two punch of warming sea temperatures and excess carbon falling from the atmosphere is creating the conditions whereby oceans are becoming too hot and too acidic to sustain ocean health.
A Monster Algae Bloom Takes Over the Pacific Ocean
This summer a giant, toxic algae bloom stretches all the way from Alaska to California. Vera Trainer, a research oceanographer with the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Washington State, told Reuters, “It’s the longest-lasting, highest-toxicity and densest bloom that we’ve ever seen.”

  
A giant, toxic algae bloom stretches all the way from Alaska to California. Photo credit: NOAA

Our acidic oceans (30 percent more so in the last 50 years, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) are making it hard for creatures like lobsters and oysters to form their shells.
Before long, the burning of coal, continued heating of the globe and carpet bombing of industrial-ag greenhouse gas emissions into the ocean will lead to an end of the seas as we know them. Nuclear seepage and plastics are adding to the issue. So far, plankton is dying, starfish are dying and sea lions are dying. Crabs will be next. And, unless we bring carbon into balance, within a few short decades most whales will also perish. This month, 30 dead whales washed ashore in Alaska. Something is very wrong with our oceans.

The climate movement, United Nations and most governments have shaped the climate debate by framing the story as being about how hot the Earth will be, or how high the oceans will rise by 2050. Yet we seem to be ignoring the much greater eco-peril of ocean acidification and the vital role of soil in balancing planetary carbon.
If the whales and dolphins could speak, surely they would implore us to: “Change how you raise your food and produce your energy, so that we can all live in harmony on land and sea.”
We see disinvestment campaigns for coal and big oil … what about Monsanto or Syngenta? The climate groups give Monsanto a pass, shining little or no light on the death and destruction it causes—both in its toxic impact and in its huge contribution to climate change.

500 Million Years of Research and Development
The oceans are dying. We need to balance the carbon cycle and reduce climate chaos without losing any more time. The scientific solution is one already proven by 500 million years of R&D. It’s called carbon sequestration. The Soil Story explains this process in an easy-to-follow five-minute animated clip with a sound track by Jason Mraz.
We can readily increase carbon farming—also known as regenerative agriculture. The good news is that hundreds of millions of farmers on small plots the world over already know a thing or two about this ecological farming methodology. Even the U.S. government is already working to help American farmers and ranchers increase soil carbon. Growing sea kelp is another innovative way to sequester carbon.

Collectively, your climate-focused groups annually publish millions of tweets, Instagrams, blogs, Facebook posts and press releases. But what percentage of the content is on that favorite “50 percent of the solution”—stop drilling and install more solar panels—and how much is on the Earth-based solution that returns carbon to the soil where it belongs? (I can tell you: Less than 1 percent proposes the latter solution). Imagine how much progress can be made by shifting your social-media focus to an elegant, win-win solution!
On a positive note, at least Greenpeace and Sierra Club are focusing on protecting ancient forests that sequester carbon. Funding is obviously an important issue. Groups may need to increase budgets, or allocate more to soil and oceans, to address these vital issues.
Becoming a Carbon-Literate Society
Yes, it’s high time the climate movement became more carbon-literate. The movement has done so much right, and its millions of participants would love to learn how they can be part of the solution by eating a diet that’s regenerative and that returns carbon to the soil. It’s a basic rule we learned in preschool: Put things back where they belong. We all have a huge opportunity to share this vital educational message. Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown showcasing a hundred of the best climate ideas including planned grazing.
Many leaders of the growing carbon-farming movement will attend the Soil Not Oil Conference in Richmond, California, on Sept. 4-5, which will be live streamed on the web.

working on a November 2015 Paris event, to take place shortly before the world climate negotiations summit. Solar advocates and anti-Keystone-pipeline warriors can attend in order to become more carbon-literate, because today the U.S. is the most eco-illiterate society in the history of the Earth.
Soil fertility and natural systems are concepts as foreign to most Americans as the English language is to tribes of the Amazon. Many of these uninformed Americans are members of climate groups who look to your organizations for leadership—look to you to rise above the corporate corruption of Washington, DC, and Brussels, Belgium and provide the world with the wise council that is so desperately needed. We can do this!

Press link for more : John W. Roulac | ecowatch.com