Wall Street Journal:

AINSWORTH, Iowa—What if there was a way to combat climate change that didn’t require technological breakthroughs, carbon taxes or eliminating all fossil fuels?

Such a solution might lie here in an Iowa cornfield beneath the feet of Mitchell Hora, a seventh-generation farmer. Mr. Hora experiments with “regenerative growing practices” that improve soil health, boost yields, reduce water and fertilizer use, and carry a significant collateral benefit: they sequester in the soil carbon released from burning fossil fuels.

Mr. Hora could soon be rewarded for providing this social benefit. Indigo Ag Inc., a Boston-based company specializing in agricultural technology and management, is setting up a market for carbon credits. Companies and consumers with voluntary or compulsory commitments to reduce their carbon footprint can, rather than reduce emissions themselves, pay farmers to do it for them. Via the Indigo Carbon marketplace, they can pay farmers like Mr. Hora $15 to sequester one metric ton of carbon dioxide in the soil.

“I’ve been doing all of this out of my own pocket,” says Mr. Hora. “Most farmers cannot take on that kind of risk, to experiment and to try to change. But now, with Indigo Carbon, it gives them that incentive to actually try.”

David Perry, Indigo’s chief executive, is almost messianic about the potential: “We could soak up half to 100% of all the carbon dioxide emitted since the industrial revolution,” or roughly one trillion tons.

The Rodale Institute, a think tank that promotes organic agriculture and has partnered with Indigo, cites trials that suggest through regenerative growing practices, an acre of agricultural land can sequester one to 2.6 tons of carbon dioxide a year. Extrapolating to the world, that equals the about 37 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide released globally through fossil fuel use each year.

That’s not realistic, according to Rattan Lal, a soil scientist who heads the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State University. He says the maximum soil sequestration that can be achieved, under ideal conditions, is nine billion tons and even that—given the political and practical obstacles—“is a dream.” In 2015 France persuaded the world to commit to raising the carbon content of soil by 0.4% per year and it has yet to trigger any meaningful action.

A more feasible goal, he says, would be six billion tons globally, including one billion in the U.S. That won’t absorb all or even most fossil-fuel emissions, but could offset those from sectors with no realistic alternative to fossil fuels, such as aviation and steel making.

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Gaming Climate Denial

December 5, 2019

John Cook in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

How can the average person on the street—who is not a climate scientist, and more than likely has never met a climate scientist—readily discern the facts of science from the seemingly reasonable arguments of nonfactual climate denialism? Amid the constant bombardment of Tweets, Facebook ads, and sophisticated misinformation campaigns from armies of paid trolls, how can the public tell what is real scientific information from clever attempts to mislead?

Some collaborators and I have developed a smartphone application that uses the latest findings in a branch of psychological research called inoculation theory to offer a possible solution to climate misinformation.

The underlying premise behind the game is straightforward, even if the execution is more complicated: Just as being exposed to a weak form of a disease builds immunity against the real disease, being exposed to a weak form of misinformation can build resistance, so people are less influenced by actual misinformation.

In the case of the Cranky Uncle game, the climate change misinformation is delivered in a weakened form by explaining the fallacies that climate change deniers regularly use to distort the facts. Once people understand the techniques used to mislead them, they are less vulnerable to being misled.

Think about it: If you’re going to spot someone cheating at cards, it helps if you first learn some of the common strategies of cheaters—in other words, if you learn how to cheat.

To help do this, a Cranky Uncle cartoon character acts as a mentor. (Think of the Paul Newman character in the movie The Color of Money—the jaded old player explaining the secrets of the art of pool hustling and manipulation to a young Tom Cruise.)

The Cranky Uncle character explains in narrative form some of the tricks used to dismiss climate science. He goes over 16 of the most common techniques of science denial, such as the use of fake experts, logical fallacies, impossible expectations, and cherry-picking of data—to name just a handful.

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Reuters:

MADRID (Reuters) – U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi took her duel with Donald Trump to a climate summit on Monday, pledging that Congress would urgently tackle global warming despite the president’s opposition to an international pact.

“By coming here we want to say to everyone we are still in, the United States is still in,” Pelosi told reporters on the first day of the two-week United Nations climate talks in Spain. 

Many governments and environmental groups are aghast at Trump’s move last month to begin formal proceedings to yank the United States, one of the world’s biggest polluters, from the 2015 Paris Agreement to avert catastrophic temperature rises.

Trump says complying with the accord would hurt the U.S. economy, restricting domestic producers while other big polluters such as China increase emissions. 

But Pelosi, who is also leading the Democrats’ push to impeach the Republican president, sought to reassure allies. 

“Our delegation is here to send a message that Congress’s commitment to take action on the climate crisis is iron clad,” she said, flanked by Democratic Congressional representatives.

Pelosi said her decision to visit Madrid during impeachment proceedings showed Democrats were committed to tackling the “existential threat to humanity” from the climate crisis. 

“We aren’t here to talk about impeachment of the president of the United States,” Pelosi said in response to a question. 

“We’re here to talk positively about our agenda to save the planet for future generations.” 

The United States rallied support for the Paris Agreement under the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama. Democrats want to reassure the rest of the world they will once again throw their country’s weight behind the deal if they regain power at elections in November 2020.

Early warning of climate caused food pinch.

America’s favorite vegetable dish endangered.
We appear to be still very much under the influence of the weather patterns as we saw in winter/spring of the year – described by scientists above.
I have concerns for the coming winter.

Bloomberg:

Potato processors are rushing to buy supplies and ship them across North America in order to keep French fries on the menu after cold, wet weather damaged crops in key producers in the U.S. and Canada.

Cool conditions started to hit growing regions in October, lashing potatoes with frost. Farmers in Alberta and Idaho were able to dig up some damaged crops for storage. But growers in Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota received snow and rain, forcing them to abandon some supplies in fields.

As the wild weather hurt crops, an increase in fry-processing capacity in Canada has boosted demand. The combination will lead to tight supplies, and it’s likely that potato prices could climb this year across North America, Stephen Nicholson, a senior grains and oilseeds analyst at Rabobank, said in a phone interview. International costs may also rise as the U.S. won’t be able to export as much.

“French fry demand has just been outstanding lately, and so supplies can’t meet the demand,” Travis Blacker, industry-relations director with the Idaho Potato Commission, said in a phone interview.

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Videos sent to me by a scientist friend describe field investigations into a period that might be a model for our own.
The PETM, Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum.

Thinking in geologic time is a skill humans may have to learn to survive the current era.

The Waterfalls of Greenland

December 2, 2019

Above, a moulin recorded in Southwest Greenland, summer 2014.

Washington Post:

A cerulean lake consisting of glacial meltwater on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet, located about 18 miles from where the Store Glacier meets the sea in west Greenland, briefly became one of the world’s tallest waterfalls during the course of five hours in July 2018.

The waterfall, like many others on the ice sheet’s surface, was triggered by cracks in the ice sheet. In the case of this one meltwater lake that scientists closely observed in July 2018, the water cascaded more than 3,200 feet to the underbelly of the glacier, where the ice meets bedrock. There, the water can help lubricate the base of the ice sheet, helping the ice move faster toward the sea.

The observations of scientists, armed with aerial drones and other high-tech equipment, of the partial lake drainage that resulted could help researchers better understand how surface melting of the ice sheet could affect its melt rate, and improve global sea level rise projections.

Scientists are keenly interested in how meltwater on the surface of the Greenland ice sheet — the largest contributor to global sea level rise — acts to speed up the movement of ice toward the sea by lubricating the underside of the ice surface. The new study, published Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that scientists are underestimating the number of melt ponds that partially, and rapidly, drain into the ice sheet each year. This means tweaks may be needed to the computer models used to predict sea level rise from Greenland.

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