How we can make beef less terrible for the environment- managed grazing with silvopasture (Wash Post Opinion)

Eric Toensmeier is a lecturer at Yale University and a senior researcher with the climate change-focused nonprofit Project Drawdown. He is the author of “The Carbon Farming Solution.” Read full Washington Post opinion piece here.

Long-term storage of carbon in silvopasture soil is up to five times higher than managed grazing alone — not to mention the carbon stored in the biomass of the trees, although this is not a solution for all rangelands.

When I began investigating how to capture carbon dioxide to fight climate change a decade ago, I had no way of knowing which tool would have the greatest potential. Years later, in 2015, when the environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken hired me to work for Project Drawdown to help model the impacts of 23 land-based climate change solutions, many on our team were surprised when a relatively unknown solution called “silvopasture” emerged as the most powerful agricultural production practice — the ninth most powerful method overall.

Silvopasture systems combine trees, livestock (ruminants like cattle, sheep and goats) and grazing. Ranchers and pastoralists plant trees or manage the land for spontaneous tree growth. The trees provide shade, timber and food for livestock. In most silvopasture systems, the carbon captured in soil and trees more than makes up for the greenhouse gases (methane and nitrous oxide) that ruminants emit through belches and flatulence. One study of intensive silvopasture in Colombia found that emissions from livestock were equal to a quarter to half of the carbon sequestered in soil and biomass…..

Flooding from high tides has doubled in the US in just 30 years; record levels of “sunny day” or nuisance flooding in 2017

  • Shoreline communities may be inundated in the next two years as ocean levels rise amid serious climate change concerns
  • 2017 saw an average of six flooding days per area across 98 coastal areas monitored by NOAA – an all-time record

by Oliver Milman June 6 2018 Read full Guardian UK article here

The frequency of coastal flooding from high tides has doubled in the US in just 30 years, with communities near shorelines warned that the next two years are set to be punctuated by particularly severe inundations, as ocean levels continue to rise amid serious global climate change concerns.

Last year there was an average of six flooding days per area across 98 coastal areas monitored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – an all-time record. More than a quarter of these locations tied or broke their records for high tide flood days, the federal agency states in a new report.

Known as “sunny day flooding”, these events swamp streets and homes with water simply from the incoming tide, without the aid of a storm. NOAA said that in 2017 areas across the US north-east and Gulf of Mexico were worst hit, with Boston, Massachusetts, and Atlantic City, New Jersey, both experiencing 22 days of flooding, while Galveston, in Texas, was soaked on 18 different days…

Groundwater pumping can increase arsenic levels in San Joaquin Valley irrigation and drinking water; recovery possible if withdrawals stop

  • Satellite-derived measurements of ground sinking could predict arsenic concentrations in groundwater and serve as an early warning system to prevent dangerous levels of arsenic contamination in aquifers with certain characteristics worldwide.
  • Researchers found signs that aquifers contaminated as a result of overpumping can recover if withdrawals stop.

June 5, 2018 Stanford University Read full ScienceDaily article here

Pumping an aquifer to the last drop squeezes out more than water. A new study finds it can also unlock dangerous arsenic from buried clays — and reveals how sinking land can provide an early warning and measure of contamination.

Now research published in the journal Nature Communications suggests that as pumping makes the ground sink, it also unleashes an invisible threat to human health and food production: It allows arsenic to move into groundwater aquifers that supply drinking water for 1 million people and irrigation for crops in some of the nation’s richest farmland…

…Importantly, the group found signs that aquifers contaminated as a result of overpumping can recover if withdrawals stop. Areas that showed slower sinking compared to 15 years earlier also had lower arsenic levels….

…When water pumping slows enough to put the brakes on subsidence — and relieve the squeeze on trapped arsenic — clean water soaking in from streams, rain and natural runoff at the surface can gradually flush the system clean.

However, study co-author Rosemary Knight, a professor of geophysics and affiliated faculty at the Woods Institute, warns against banking too much on a predictable recovery from overpumping. “How long it takes to recover is going to be highly variable and dependent upon so many factors,” she said….

Ryan Smith, Rosemary Knight, Scott Fendorf. Overpumping leads to California groundwater arsenic threat. Nature Communications, 2018; 9 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-04475-3

Surprising resurgence of red spruce likely result of cleaner air and warmer winters in US N.E.

  • Researchers found that reduced acid rain and warmer fall, winter and spring temperatures are leading to the species recovery
June 5, 2018 USDA Forest Service – Northern Research Station Read full ScienceDaily article here
When scientists found a resurgence of red spruce in northeastern forests, they had a lot of questions. Fifty years ago, red spruce was the equivalent of a canary in the coalmine signaling the effects of acid rain on forests. Researchers have identified two factors behind the tree’s surprising recovery: reduced inputs of acid rain and warmer fall, winter and spring temperatures….

Alexandra M. Kosiba, Paul G. Schaberg, Shelly A. Rayback, Gary J. Hawley. The surprising recovery of red spruce growth shows links to decreased acid deposition and elevated temperature. Science of The Total Environment, 2018; 637-638: 1480 DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.010

The key triggers of the West’s costly 2017 wildfire season

  • A series of wildfire factors- fuel, aridity, and ignition- culminated in the big burns of 2017.
June 5, 2018 University of Colorado at Boulder Read full ScienceDaily article here

…Research shows that three major “switches” affecting wildfire — fuel, aridity, and ignition — were either flipped on and/or kept on longer than expected last year, triggering one of the largest and costliest U.S. wildfire seasons in recent decades.

The 2017 wildfire season cost the United States more than $18 billion in damages. That year, 71,000 wildfires scorched 10 million acres of land, destroying 12,000 homes, evacuating 200,000 people and claiming 66 lives. By comparison, 2016 saw 5.4 million acres burned….

Western wildfire seasons are worse when conditions are dry and fuel-rich, raising the chances of ignition. Climate change likely exacerbates fuels and dryness, the paper found, and human behavior contributed the sparks...

….Although naturally occurring climate variability influences environmental conditions that affect the wildfire season, that variation is superimposed on an anthropogenically warmer world, so climate change is magnifying the effects of heat and precipitation extremes, Balch said.

Jennifer Balch, Tania Schoennagel, A. Williams, John Abatzoglou, Megan Cattau, Nathan Mietkiewicz, Lise St. Denis. Switching on the Big Burn of 2017. Fire, 2018; 1 (1): 17 DOI: 10.3390/fire1010017

A little water could make a big difference for endangered salmon in coastal Sonoma County (CA)

  • Less than a gallon per second during dry periods is enough to allow salmon to survive in dry months.
  • This information can drive how riparian restoration is designed to improve fish survival.

June 5, 2018 University of California – San Diego Read full ScienceDaily article here

Even small amounts of running water — less than a gallon per second — could mean the difference between life or death for juvenile coho salmon in coastal California streams, according to a new study published in the journal Transactions of the American Fisheries Society.

The study, led by California Sea Grant Extension Specialist Mariska Obedzinski, shows that during dry periods, that amount of water was enough to keep pools interconnected, allowing young salmon to survive through the hot, dry summer months.

The good news is that if we can get just a little bit of water back in these streams, we can make a really big difference,” says Obedzinski, who leads a monitoring program for endangered coho salmon and steelhead in the small streams of Sonoma County that flow into the Russian River….

…John Green is a project manager for the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, who has already begun applying the new research to their work restoring flow in salmon streams. He says, “The big value in this research is that it has given us an idea of how much water is needed to improve fish survival. From that, we start to understand the kinds of projects we need to build and what their impacts will be.”..

Mariska Obedzinski, Sarah Nossaman Pierce, Gregg E. Horton, Mathew J. Deitch. Effects of Flow-Related Variables on Oversummer Survival of Juvenile Coho Salmon in Intermittent Streams. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society, 2018; 147 (3): 588 DOI: 10.1002/tafs.10057

California generates more power from solar than gas in May for first time

Hawaii just passed a law to make the state carbon neutral by 2045; most ambitious plan in US

  • The plan is the most ambitious emissions reduction and renewable energy plan of any state in the country.

June 4, 2018 Read full FastCompany article

In a little less than three decades, Hawaii plans to be carbon neutral–the most ambitious climate goal in the United States. Governor David Ige signed a bill today committing to make the state fully carbon neutral by 2045, along with a second bill that will use carbon offsets to help fund planting trees throughout Hawaii. A third bill requires new building projects to consider how high sea levels will rise in their engineering decisions.

The state is especially vulnerable to climate change–sea level rise, for example, threatens to cause $19 billion in economic losses–and that’s one of the reasons that the new laws had support.

“We’re on the forefront of climate change impacts,” says Scott Glenn, who leads the state’s environmental quality office. “We experience it directly and we’re a small island. People feel the trade wind days becoming less. They notice the changes in rain. They feel it getting hotter. Because we are directly exposed to this, there’s no denying it.” The state’s political leaders, he says, are “unified in acknowledging that climate change is real and that we do need to do something about it.”…

‘Carbon bubble’ could wipe trillions from global economy; Fossil fuel demand will decline in near future with major economic & geopolitical consequences; need to decarbonise early

  • Scientists conclude that further economic damage from a potential bubble burst could be avoided by decarbonising early.
  • The study findings support the existence of a carbon bubble which, if not deflated early, could lead to a discounted global wealth loss of between 1 to 4 trillion dollars, a loss comparable to what triggered the 2007 financial crisis.
  • “New efficiency standards imply that we do more with the same amounts of energy, as older, less efficient technologies are gradually phased out. The transition is therefore irreversible; however its pace can vary according to whether and how new climate policies are implemented.”

June 4, 2018 Radboud University Nijmegen Read full ScienceDaily article

Unlike current expectations, new research suggests that the prospects of the fossil-fuel industry are not bright, and that its demise may have profound economic and geopolitical consequences. Relying on ground breaking modelling techniques, researchers show that the consumption of fossil fuels will slow down or decline in the near future, as a result of ongoing technological change, potentially exacerbated by new climate policies.

….This transition will result in clear winners, importers such as China and the EU, and losers, exporters such as Russia, the USA or Canada, which could see their fossil-fuel industries nearly shut down. If these countries keep up their investment and production levels despite declining demand, the global wealth loss could be huge: 1-4 trillion dollars, a loss comparable to that which triggered the financial crisis in 2007. Even the USA could not pull out from the transition, as it would only hurt itself even more. Global climate policy is therefore no longer a ‘prisoner’s dilemma’ game.

The study findings support the existence of a carbon bubble which, if not deflated early, could lead to a discounted global wealth loss of between 1 to 4 trillion dollars, a loss comparable to what triggered the 2007 financial crisis.If countries keep investing in equipment to search for, extract, process and transport fossil fuels, even though their demand declines, they will end up losing money on these investments on top of their losses due to limited exports,” Mercure explains. “Countries should instead carefully deflate the carbon bubble through investment in a variety of industries and steady divestment. The way in which this is done will determine the impact of the ongoing low-carbon transition on the financial sector.”…

…much like companies, pension funds and other institutions currently invest in fossil-fuel assets. Following recommendations from central banks, commercial banks are increasingly looking at the financial risks of stranded fossil-fuel assets, even though their possible impacts have not yet been fully determined. Until now, observers mostly paid attention to the likely effectiveness of climate policies, but not to the ongoing and effectively irreversible technological transition. This level of ‘creative destruction’ appears inevitable now and must be carefully managed,” Mercure concludes.

J.-F. Mercure, H. Pollitt, J. E. Viñuales, N. R. Edwards, P. B. Holden, U. Chewpreecha, P. Salas, I. Sognnaes, A. Lam, F. Knobloch. Macroeconomic impact of stranded fossil fuel assets. Nature Climate Change, 2018; DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0182-1

Can a New Kind of Consumerism Help Fight Climate Change- keeping below 1.5C without relying on negative emissions technologies?

  • “We can promote sustainable development. We can stay below 1.5 degrees if we focus on energy end use, on the way people use energy and promote sustainable development, and here the key aspect is efficiency.”
  • Scientists has developed a global scenario called Low Energy Demand, arguing that humanity’s appetite for things like electric cars and cellphones, as well as the development of better building standards, can drive a revolution in efficiency that could help lower energy demand and encourage the proliferation of renewable energy.
  • Their scenario meets the 1.5 °C climate target as well as many sustainable development goals, without relying on negative emission technologies.
  • Scientists project, with their “Low Energy Demand” scenario, that global energy demand by 2050 reduces to 245 EJ, around 40% lower than today, despite rises in population, income and activity.

by Matt Simon  June 4 2018 Read full WIRED article here

Boy, it’s hard to stay optimistic these days, what with the impending doom of our species at the hands of … our species. Namely, human-caused climate change. Climbing temperatures are ripping apart ecosystems, and rising seas are already forcing people from their homes. If an asteroid was going to destroy our planet, now would be the time to just get it over with.

But today lands an uplifting and intriguing, if not counterintuitive, study in the journal Nature Energy. An international team of scientists has developed a global scenario called Low Energy Demand, arguing that humanity’s appetite for things like electric cars and cellphones, as well as the development of better building standards, can drive a revolution in efficiency that could help lower energy demand and encourage the proliferation of renewable energy. The researchers claim that if several trends fall into place, we’d be able to make the idealistic goal set by the Paris Climate Agreement to keep global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees C.

To be clear: This is a highly theoretical scenario, not a certainty. It’s based on assumptions—technological adoption, population growth, etc.—and it is necessarily imperfect, like any model. These researchers aren’t saying, “Hooray, salvation!” They’re saying that given lots of converging trends in sustainability and efficiency, humanity could yet make big progress in tackling the problem of climate change….

Arnulf Grubler et al. A low energy demand scenario for meeting the 1.5 °C target and sustainable development goals without negative emission technologies. Nature Energy volume 3pages 515–527 (June 2018)