Cattle – not climate change – killing the Great Barrier Reef

July 28th, 2013

Few people have seen the entire reef – it’s 3,000km long!  Each part of the reef is unique, but those who have visited even one corner of this amazing underwater world talk in wonder of the exquisite, vibrant colours and shapes of diverse marine life.  Diving the reef is almost like stepping into a parallel universe, experiencing a vision that inspires awe and respect for nature.  I have a personal fondness for the reef, having worked up and down its length in my early 20′s, mapping the reef for the Australian bid for UNESCO World Heritage status, given in 1981.

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Radical Natural Climate Solutions

November 16th, 2012

In the lead up to COP18, climate scientists are desperate for solutions, but few countries are willing to take bold action.  The world is on track for 6° warming: we have reached a point where radical and affordable solutions to fix our climate are urgently needed.  The solutions described here are low cost, natural and solve both short and long term global warming.

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The double edged sword: A quick-fix for global warming

June 8th, 2012

The closer we look at livestock production, the more we discover that it is truly a double-edged sword.  On one hand we have the damaging health, climate and environmental effects, and on the other hand, we are now finding that the short-lived emissions from livestock may give us a quick fix for global warming – the solution many climate scientists have been desperately seeking.

WPF scientists recently published a paper in the International Journal of Climate Change that explains how steep reductions in livestock production will be the most effective way to slow warming in the next decades, by at least 2°C.  Here’s the paper and press release.

Not only is livestock shown to be a quick-fix, the paper also highlights the work of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency that looked at long-term climate fix – the cost of mitigating global warming.  It works out that returning the world’s pastures (a quarter of the land surface) to grow trees, woodland and native perennial grasses, will soak up at least 20 years of carbon emissions.

This approach is also the lowest cost option, coming in a just 20% of the cost of the alternatives – a cheap option that will be taken more seriously as the climate chaos continues.

These ideas also won an award with the MIT Climate CoLab project to find climate solutions – http://climatecolab.org/web/guest/plans/-/plans/contestId/4/planId/15201.

Bill Gates agrees – here is a mobile phone video where he predicts that plant protein foods will be a part of the mainstream dialogue within 5 years, and an enormous business opportunity.

Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop



Global warming can be kept below 2C affordably through steep reductions in livestock production

June 8th, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Global warming can be kept below 2C affordably through steep reductions in livestock production.

 

A new paper published in the International Journal of Climate Change by World Preservation Foundation (WPF) scientists finds that keeping global average temperature increases low enough to protect vulnerable nations and avoid crossing dangerous tipping points is possible by sharply reducing livestock production, which is a leading cause of shorter-lived climate forcers, and that this approach can reduce climate change mitigation costs up to 80 percent by 2050.

 

London, 5 June 2012 – A paper by WPF scientists published in the International Journal of Climate Change states that by addressing the largest source of shorter-lived climate forcers, livestock production, can help limit global warming to under 2 degrees Celsius.  Reducing livestock production and returning pastures to native forests, woodlands and grasslands is the most affordable and effective means of achieving this goal.    

“Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock” expands on a June 2011 report released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) titled “Integrated Assessment of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone.” 

“The UNEP-WMO assessment is important because it highlights that CO2 alone will not keep global warming under 2 degrees Celsius because CO2 stays in the atmosphere for centuries.    If we limit black carbon, methane and ground level ozone, we can slow the heating in just a few years, averting dangerous tipping points.” WPF Executive Director Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop states.

Building on the work of UNEP-WMO, the WPF paper identifies livestock production as the largest human caused source of black carbon, methane and also the best means of controlling ground level ozone.  It further describes how steep cuts in livestock production could deliver up to 33% less methane, 30% less black carbon, and 33% less tropospheric ozone.

The combined effects of these reductions are projected to result in quickly halting the pace of climate change by reversing short term heating, as well as reducing long-term heating through the subsequent capture of carbon dioxide through reforestation.

Steep cuts in livestock production also bring longer-term climate benefits through the reduction of annual CO2 emissions of between 27 and 38 percent due to reductions in deforestation and open fires.   Around 20 years’ worth of legacy carbon dioxide emissions already in the atmosphere could also be captured and stored through re-vegetation and soil carbon re-stocking.

According to WPF Director Mark Galvin, there are significant financial benefits as well.  He states “The most viable option of addressing climate change and other environmental threats like biodiversity loss, deforestation and water scarcity is to move away from animal products.   The climate change mitigation costs alone can be reduced by up to 80 percent if all animal products are eliminated. This equates to a saving of US$32 trillion off the estimated US$40 trillion cost of mitigating climate change.”

He also stated that a 2009 Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency study found that up to 2,700 million hectares of pasture and 100 million ha of cropland would be freed up, resulting in a large carbon uptake from re-growing vegetation, in addition to the substantial methane and nitrous oxide emission reductions.

“Although most approaches to addressing the climate change impacts of livestock focus on capturing methane from manure, we find that the benefits of this approach will be very small because 90 percent of livestock methane emissions are from enteric fermentation.   Substituting livestock products with plant-based sources of nutrition therefore has a far greater impact on climate change,” Wedderburn-Bisshop states.

Reducing livestock also:

  • Sharply reduces global deforestation;
  • Reduces biodiversity loss by up to 60 percent;
  • Substantially reduces water usage;
  • Improves soils and reverses desertification;
  • Reduces up to 60 percent of reactive nitrogen and 65 percent of nitrous oxide.
  • Improves human health through the reversal of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, and therefore substantially reduces global healthcare costs.

“The do-nothing scenario on diets predicts that meat and dairy consumption will double by 2050.  This would be an environmental disaster for our planet,”  Galvin emphasized.  “By shifting towards plant-based nutrition, we are embracing a low cost, high impact solution for reversing the most significant environmental challenges of our time on both short- and long-term times scales.”

Galvin also stated: “We recommend that governments divert subsidies from meat and dairy to plant-based alternatives and also promote their climate, environmental and health benefits.  We also call for strong protection on forests, and taxes on the high water usage, emissions and black carbon from the meat and dairy sectors, to truly reflect the environmental cost of these products.”

 

Notes to editors

Shorter lived climate forcers

Greenhouse emissions are commonly compared by averaging their effect over 100 years.  This is fine for CO2, which lasts for centuries, but is very misleading for short lived emissions.  Over a 20 year period, yearly emissions of just three warming agents: methane, black carbon and tropospheric ozone, heat our world more than yearly carbon dioxide emissions.  Examining global warming potential over 20 years (GWP20) is more realistic because these climate forcers have a short life cycle in the atmosphere.

Methane

Methane warms almost as much as CO2 yearly emissions, but with a half-life of just seven years in the atmosphere.  This gives methane a GWP20 72 times that of CO2, more than three times the hundred year warming potential commonly quoted.

Black carbon (soot)

Black carbon lasts from one to four weeks in the atmosphere and has a GWP20 of 1600.  When black carbon lands on ice or snow it has a strong warming effect, responsible for 30% of Arctic warming.  Black carbon from open fires has been found in the Antarctic Peninsula, the fastest warming place on Earth.

Tropospheric Ozone

Tropospheric ozone warms the Earth as much as 20% of the CO2 warming, but it lasts for only 20 days.  The most effective means of reducing tropospheric ozone is by reducing methane.

Legacy carbon dioxide

Deforestation is responsible for 25-30% of global emissions.  60-80% of global deforestation is for livestock pasture and feed crops.

Reforestation and soil carbon re-stocking has the potential to draw down 20 years of CO2 emissions – far more and far cheaper than technical solutions.

 

For more information please contact:

Kian Tavakkoli, Media Spokesperson, on Tel: +27 (0)738344843
Email: [email protected]

Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop – Tel: +27 (0)782864727
Email: [email protected]

Full paper available at: http://ijc.cgpublisher.com/product/pub.185/prod.142 and other material at www.worldpreservationfoundation.org

 



World Preservation Foundation Response to Epoch Times on Health Report

September 21st, 2011

One important aspect of the World Preservation Foundation’s aims is to initiate discussion and encourage governments, public bodies and other institutions to address the root causes of global issues affecting human and planetary health in the most assertive and effective ways for the most rapid and tangible benefits.

Our recent report “Plant-Based Diets: A solution to our public health crisis”, with foreword by Shadow Economic Secretary Kerry McCarthy, MP, gives a qualified overview of how a switch to a diet free of meat and dairy products will dramatically reduce the incidence, and therefore costs, of some of the most prevalent illnesses currently impinging upon public health in the UK. The report asserts, “There is much value in considering proven nutrition science on the benefits of a wholesome plant-based diet, thus avoiding the rising demand and higher costs of treatments. Merely promoting the intake of more fruit and vegetables is not sufficiently clear advice. Recommending or promoting a wholly vegan or vegetarian lifestyle as a preventative measure and a proven solution to preventing and reversing chronic disease offers the NHS, [the UK] economy and public health a win-win solution.”

In this regard, the WPF has outlined steps, which can be taken by the UK Government and health professionals to improve public health and substantially reduce rising costs through taking advantage of the numerous health benefits of plant-based diets. We aim to serve the Government in the successful planning and implementation of these measures. Through such projects and initiatives, the UK will take the international lead in the advocacy, promotion and implementation of plant-based policies and incentives, setting a benchmark in healthcare, environmental protection and policy innovation.

Recommendations include: introducing higher taxes on meat and dairy products reflecting their environmental and health costs, in line with taxation of other prod­ucts impacting adversely on health, such as tobacco; establishing of a task force or other specific body to develop and assess best-outcome strategies for encouraging a societal shift towards more plant-based nutrition; further training of health professionals on the benefits of plant-based diets and the prevention of chronic disease, and more substantial curricula on nutrition in student medical courses; establishing Nutritional Information Centres to provide advice and support for patients and public as well as information on address­ing causes of dietary-related illness; council/regional ‘meat free days’; increasing subsidies for vegetable, fruit, grain and pulse farming; dialogue with food producers and retailers to increase number and availability of meat- and dairy-free options; introducing wholesome plant-based menu options in hospitals, etc, with animal prod­ucts replaced with meat-substitute products.

Furthermore, such a switch can also help mitigate climate change while providing various environmental benefits to augment personal, public and ecological health, globally.

Some related studies referenced in the report
(Full references given at
http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/references)

Dr Caldwell Esselstyn who directs the Cardiovascular Prevention and Reversal Program of the Cleveland  Wellness Clinic, Ohio, USA,  has carried out a 20 year study (the longest of its kind) in successfully reversing heart disease for many patients with severe heart conditions.  He has scientifically proven that a healthy plant based diet can prevent and reverse heart disease. His work has been published in the American J of Cardiology, Surgery, Preventive Cardiology, Journal of Family Practice and other peer reviewed medical journals. http://www.heartattackproof.com/

Other physicians such as Dr Marc Katz (cardiothoracic surgeon), Dr Malcolm Baxter, Dr Dean Ornish and others have similarly arrested and reversed either heart disease and/or diabetes.

Dr Neal Bernard is the founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and also president of the Cancer Project, a non-profit organization showing the link between cancer and nutrition,  cancer prevention and survival through healthy plant-based nutrition    http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/index.php, http://www.cancerproject.org/diet_cancer/facts/major_killers.php

His work has been published in peer reviewed medical journals such as the American J of Clinical Nutrition,  American Journal of Cardiology, The Lancet, Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism,  Journal of the American Dietetic Assoc, Nutrition & Cancer, Diabetes Care, Paediatrics, Canadian Journal of dietetic Practice & Research & others.

The following are a few studies citing the effectiveness of a plant based diet in managing and preventing Type II Diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Diabetes

1.   Ann Nutr Metab. 2008;52(2):96-104. Epub 2008 Mar 18.

Meats, processed meats, obesity, weight gain and occurrence of diabetes among adults: findings from Adventist Health Studies.  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18349528

2.  Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 May;89(5):1588S-1596S. Epub 2009 Apr 1.

A low-fat vegan diet and a conventional diabetes diet in the treatment of type 2 diabetes: a randomized, controlled, 74-wk clinical trial.   http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19339401

3.  American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 78, No. 3, 610S-616S, September 2003

Type 2 diabetes and the vegetarian diet,   http://www.ajcn.org/content/78/3/610S.full

Heart Disease

4.  Esselstyn CB Jr, Ellis SG, Medendorp SV, Crowe TD. A strategy to arrest and reverse coronary artery disease: a 5-year longitudinal study of a single physician’s practice. J Fam Pract 1995;41:560 –568.

5.  Campbell TC, Parpia B, Chen J. Diet, lifestyle, and the etiology of coronary artery disease: the Cornell China study. Am J Cardiol 1998; 82:18T–21T.

Cancer

6.  Key TJ, Fraser GE, Thorogood M, Appleby PN, Beral V, Reeves G, Burr ML, Chang- Claude J, Frentzel-Beyme R, Kuzma JW, Mann J, McPherson K. Mortality. Vegetarians and nonvegetarians: detailed findings from a collaborative analysis of 5 prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep;70(3 Suppl):516S-524S.

7.  Dos Santos Silva I, Mangtani P, McCormack V, Bhakta D, Sevak L, McMichael AJ. Lifelong vegetarianism and risk of breast cancer: a population-based case-control study among South Asian migrant women living in England. Int J Cancer. 2002 May 10;99(2):238-44.



Plant-based lifestyle could save the NHS billions of pounds – Press Release

September 21st, 2011

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

 

7 September 2011

CONTACT:  Kian Tavakkoli

Email:  [email protected]

Phone:  0044 (0)7985 503906

 

 

PLANT-BASED LIFESTYLE COULD SAVE THE NHS BILLIONS OF POUNDS 

NGO calls upon UK Government to proactively promote and recommend  a plant-based diet as a solution to rising healthcare costs and rates of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and type II diabetes 

7 September 2011, London, United Kingdom – In a paper distributed to all MPs in the House Magazine entitled, “Plant-Based Diets: A solution to our public health crisis”, leading physicians reveal that a switch to a diet free of meat and dairy products will dramatically reduce the incidence (and therefore the costs) of the most menacing maladies currently threatening public health, such as obesity, cancer, heart disease and diabetes.  London-based NGO, World Preservation Foundation, stated in a letter to the Prime Minister that the Government can take the international lead in the advocacy and implementation of healthier plant-based policies and incentives, setting a benchmark in healthcare, environmental protection and policy innovation.  Acknowledging the challenge of  protecting and improving public health, whilst managing escalating costs in the NHS, WPF has set out proposed measures it believes the Government can implement to meet this challenge.

Chronic diseases are skyrocketing in the UK as insufficient consideration is given to dietary choices and the main cause of these diseases.  Current data shows over 60% of the population is overweight or obese.  Cardiovascular disease alone kills nearly 200,000 people in the UK every year and costs over £30 billion.  The paper details how these chronic diseases can be treated with a simple change in diet.

Leading physician and researcher, Dr Caldwell Esselstyn, who directs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program in Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, USA, stated:    “We are potentially on the cusp of what could be a seismic revolution in health.  This will never come about from another pill, another procedure, another operation, or construction of another cardiac cathedral.  It will come about when we are able to show the public the lifestyle that will halt and eliminate 75% of these common, chronic killing diseases.   The most essential component of this lifestyle is whole food plant-based nutrition.” 

Dr Esselstyn’s paper states:

“I initiated a long term study that treated seriously ill patients with coronary artery disease  with plant-based nutrition and succeeded in the arrest and reversal of their disease …  Patients lose weight, blood pressure normalizes, and type 2 diabetes improves or resolves, as do angina, erectile dysfunction, and peripheral vascular and carotid disease.“  Dr Esselstyn goes on to say:. “Sadly, today our adolescents are but a decade or 2 away from compounding this epidemic.  It is time to tell the truth. Family history and genetic background do not cause this illness. It is not the luck of the draw. It is a matter of personal action and responsibility. Genes load the gun, but lifestyle pulls the trigger.”

 

While politicians struggle with mounting NHS costs, a solution to these chronic public health threats is easily at hand.  If the Government were to provide public education on the direct link between the disease epidemic and a diet heavy in meat and dairy products, the cost burden would be reduced automatically with lifestyle changes.  Dr. Neal Barnard, founder of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine sums it up nicely, “Many people still have no idea that food choices make such an enormous difference. Not only can healthier choices tackle the obesity epidemic; they also help us reverse heart disease, prevent cancer, and reduce the risk of other major health problems. Now is the time to spread the word far and wide.”

Also featured in the paper is Dr Joel Fuhrman, Director of Research for Nutritional Research Project for the National Health Association, New Jersey, who states that “The cure for type II diabetes is already known – removing the cause can reverse the disease, and the chief cause is excess weight from the Western diet and inactivity. The best and safest “medicine” for a diabetic is a high-nutrient density (HND) diet: focused on low-calorie, nutrient-rich plant foods and exercise.  Weight loss is effective in itself, but the goal of lifestyle intervention must be to improve pancreatic function and lower insulin resistance over and above what could be accomplished with weight loss alone. An HND diet can accomplish this; by emphasizing micronutrient adequacy, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure are lowered as weight is lost and blood glucose drops. We have extensive experience treating overweight diabetics with superior nutrition and the results are impressive. The majority are able to restore their glucose levels to the normal range without any further need for medications. They have essentially become non-diabetic again.”

 

Dr Fuhrman highlighted: “New dietary guidelines emphasizing nutrient-rich plant foods can enable modern populations to dramatically improve their health, dramatically reduce healthcare costs, while at the same time save millions of needless deaths from heart disease, strokes, cancer and diabetes.  It is time for an evolution in healthcare where prevention via proper diet, not drugs, becomes the foundation of modern healthcare.”

World Preservation Foundation is calling for more than just mild suggestions to eat more fruits and vegetables.  With definitive evidence that a plant-based diet can be a direct and cost effective solution to chronic disease, WPF is asking the Government to lead by example and to initiate nationwide incentives and campaigns for a societal shift towards more plant-based nutrition.  According to Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, WPF Executive Director, “Advanced nutrition science has provided us with the simple and cost effective solution of a wholesome plant-based diet for preventing and even reversing these diet related diseases.  People can make an informed choice when they know the full facts and that needless suffering and loss of loved ones can be avoided to a large extent.”

He added “Bill Clinton made the change to a plant-based diet after having stint surgery.  He knew about the advantages of plant-based diets, but made the change for his daughter Chelsea’s wedding – he wanted to be alive and healthy for his grandchildren.”

 

Notes to the Editor:

WPF assimilates, documents and presents scientific data relating to climate change; including deforestation, disease, drought and global hunger.  It serves as an access-point for information to assist media and concerned parties to engage these topics and to encourage governments, public bodies and other institutions to introduce beneficial legislation and policies resulting in the subsequent mitigation of climate change and minimization of associated human, planetary and economic costs; also safeguarding water supplies, preserving forests, minimizing environmental degradation, improving health and alleviating global food shortages.

The WPF paper, ‘Plant-based Diets: A Solution to Our Public Health Crisis’ can be accessed here:  http://www.worldpreservationfoundation.org/references



Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock

August 10th, 2011

In this video presentation, Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, World Preservation Foundation Senior Scientist, puts forward the case for how, with the devastating effects of climate change being felt ever-more quickly and with increasing intensity, the importance of embracing fast-acting solutions to mitigate climate change has increased dramatically.

In recent years, greater understanding of climate science has advanced considerably, and scientists and even policy makers now recognise that climate change in the short term is being driven by extremely potent, shorter-lived climate forcers. By reducing these climate forcers — namely black carbon, methane and tropospheric ozone — cooling begins rapidly.

Globally, the production of meat and dairy are significant contributors of these fast warming agents with far reaching consequences on planetary warming and environmental devastation. These include the major effects of black carbon due to biomass burning, on West Antarctica as well as the tropical monsoons; deforestation; soil carbon loss; and, food and water security. It’s estimated that 47% to 60% of the black carbon reaching West Antarctica and causing rapid melting is due to biomass burning resulting from livestock pasture management.

CO2 from pasture maintenance fires, reforestation of pastures and soil carbon uptake on relief of grazing pressure may also play a part in a fast-acting solution to the climate crisis.

This video is a synopsis of the paper Gerard wrote that examines the contributions of agriculture, namely livestock farming, to planetary warming through the shorter-lived climate forcers, and the effect of animal agriculture abatement on alleviating global warming and environmental collapse. We also propose four policy measures to immediately reduce the shorter-lived warming agents.

(By: Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop: Senior Scientist, World Preservation Foundation )



Afforestation will hardly dent warming problem: study

June 19th, 2011

Schemes to convert croplands or marginal lands to forests will make almost no inroads against global warming this century, a scientific study published on Sunday said.

Afforestation is being encouraged under the UN’s Kyoto Protocol climate-change treaty under the theory that forests are “sinks” that soak up carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air through photosynthesis.

But environmental researchers, in a new probe, said that even massive conversion of land to forestry would have only a slender benefit against the greenhouse-gas problem.

This is partly because forests take decades to mature and CO2 is a long-lasting molecule, able to lurk for centuries in the atmosphere.

But another reason is that forests, even as they absorb greenhouse gas, are darker than croplands and thus absorb more solar heat — and in high latitudes, this may even result in net warming.

Vivek Arora of the University of Victoria in British Columbia and Alvaro Montenegro of St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia modelled five scenarios in which afforestation was carried out over 50 years, from 2011 to 2060.

They used a Canadian programme called CanESM1 that simulated the impacts on land, sea and air if Earth’s surface temperature rose by some 3.0 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 compared to 1850.

Even if all the cropland in the world were afforested, this would reduce the warming by only 0.45 C (0.81 F) by a timescale of 2081-2100, according to the study, which appears in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Fifty-percent afforestation would brake it by an even tinier 0.25 C (0.45 F).

Both scenarios are, of course, wildly unrealistic because of the need to grow food.

Fifty-percent afforestation would require at least a doubling in crop yield to feed the human population because half of the crop area would be taken out of use.

The other three scenarios found that afforestation in the tropics was three times more efficient at “avoided warming” than in northerly latitudes and temperate regions.

The study said that afforestation does have other benefits, for the economy and the ecoystem.

“There’s nothing wrong with afforestation, it is positive, but our findings say that it’s not a response to temperature control if we are going to be emitting (greenhouse gases) this way,” Montenegro told AFP.

The study said bluntly, “Afforestation is not a substitute for reduced greenhouse-gas emissions.”

In forest programmes, policymakers would be advised to focus afforestation efforts in the tropics but also push hard against deforestation, which accounts for 10 to 20 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions globally.

Avoiding deforestation is under discussion for post-2012 climate action under the UN flag.

Source: Afforestation will hardly dent warming problem: study – Physorg

Date: 19 June 2011



Forget carbon, this is worse: researcher

June 17th, 2011

Attention should turn to nitrous oxide if climate change is to be properly addressed, according to a Brisbane-based member of a Nobel Prize-winning team who says the gas has 300 times the impact of carbon dioxide.

Queensland University of Technology professor Richard Conant was part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize along with Al Gore.

Professor Conant’s latest research suggests the best way to reduce greenhouse emissions is to improve the way nitrogen fertiliser, which releases nitrous oxide, is applied to crops throughout the world.

Greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture come from two main sources: 38 per cent from nitrous oxide from poor soil fertilisation and 34 per cent from methane from stock.

Professor Conant said the nitrous oxide could be better controlled than methane-emitting pigs and cattle.

“The three greenhouse gases related to agriculture are carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane,” he said.

“They have different impacts on the atmosphere. Now if we say carbon dioxide has an impact of one, methane has an impact of say 21 times.

“Nitrous oxide has an even bigger impact, something like 300 times the impact of CO2.”

The figures represent the ability of a molecule to absorb the long wave energy radiation from the earth.

Nitrous oxide was, per molecule, a bigger destroyer of the cushioning greenhouse environment surrounding the earth, Professor Conant said.

“Nitrous oxide is not the main greenhouse gas, it is just that for every molecule of greenhouse gas, it just absorbs a lot more of the energy from the earth,” he said.

Professor Conant’s latest research suggests it is possible to produce more food and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by improving the way nitrogen fertiliser is applied in developing countries.

Professor Conant, who now works at QUT’s Institute of Sustainable Resources, has used computer modelling to analyse the way nitrogen is applied throughout the world to cereal crops, like maize, rice, wheat, millet and sorghum.

Collectively, these cereals make up about 70 per cent of the world’s food production.

“Literature in this field implies that with greater (nitrogen) fertilisation we can expect that we are going to be less efficient at growing food,” Professor Conant said.

“So there is this fear out there that we are seeing diminishing marginal returns on our nitrogen inputs to the system.”

However, Professor Conant’s research into international cereal crop farming shows that is not the case.

“I think that while in some countries the nitrogen inputs are increasing, the benefits from those nitrogen are not increasing as much in the developing world as they are in the rich world,” he said.

If better food yields could come from improved nitrogen fertilising, Professor Conant said more food could be produced with a lower greenhouse impact.

“By bridging this gap, food production in developing countries can grow more quickly than nitrogen inputs grow in those countries,” he said.

Professor Conant’s research will be housed at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation and used by all member nations.

Source: Forget carbon, this is worse: researcher – Brisbane Times AU

Date: 16 June 2011



Curb soot and smog to keep Earth cool, says UN

June 14th, 2011

Sharply reducing emissions of soot and smog could play a critical role in preventing Earth from overheating, according to a UN report released on Tuesday.

Curbing these pollutants could also boost global food output and save millions of lives lost to heart and lung disease, said the report from the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

Even as climate talks remain deadlocked on how to share out the task of cutting CO2, parallel action on “black carbon” particles and ground-level ozone would buy precious time in the quest to limit global temperature rise to 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), it said.

Record output in 2010 of carbon from energy use and unprecedented CO2 levels in the atmosphere suggest that efforts to maintain the 2.0 C cap, widely seen as a threshold for dangerous warming, may already be doomed, say scientists.

On current trajectories, temperatures are set to go up 1.3 C (2.3 F) — on top of the 0.9 C (1.6 F) jump since human-induced warming kicked in — by 2050, bringing the total compared to preindustrial levels to 2.2 C (4.0 F).

But quickly tackling black carbon and smog-related ozone could slash 0.5 C (0.9 F) off the temperature increase projected for 2030, putting the two-degree target back on track, the new findings suggest.

“There are clear and concrete measures that can be undertaken to help protect the global climate in the short and medium term,” said Drew Shindell, a researcher at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the 50 scientists behind the new assessment.

“The win-win here for limiting climate change and improving air quality is self-evident and the ways to achieve it have become far clearer.”

The report was unveiled in Bonn as delegates from more than 190 nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) struggle to make headway in the deeply stymied negotiations.

Black carbon, found in soot, is a byproduct of incomplete burning of fossil fuels, wood and biomass, such as animal waste. The most common sources are car and truck emissions, primitive cook stoves, forest fires and industry.

Soot suspended in the air accelerates global warming by absorbing sunlight. When it covers snow and ice, white surfaces that normally reflect the Sun’s radiative force back into space soak up heat instead, speeding up the melting of mountain glaciers, ice sheets, and the Arctic ice cap.

The tiny particles have also been linked to premature death from heart disease and lung cancer.

Ground-level, or tropospheric, ozone — a major ingredient of urban smog — is both a powerful greenhouse gas and a noxious air pollutant. It is formed from other gases including methane, itself a potent driver of global warming.

A threefold increase in concentrations in the northern hemisphere over the last century has made it the third most important greenhouse gas.

Unlike carbon dioxide, which lingers in the atmosphere for centuries once emitted, black carbon and ozone disappear quickly when emissions taper off.

“The science of short-lived climate forcers has evolved to a level of maturity that now requires … a robust policy response by nations,” said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP.

Measures recommended for reducing black carbon include mandatory use of diesel filters on vehicles, phasing out wood-burning stoves in rich countries, use of clean-burning biomass stoves for cooking and heating in developing nations, and a ban on the open burning of agricultural waste.

For ozone, the report calls for policies that curb organic waste, require water treatment facilities to recover gas, reduce methane emissions from coal and oil industries, and promote anaerobic digestion of manure from cattle and pigs, both major sources of methane.

The report estimates that nearly 2.5 million deaths from outdoor pollution, mainly in Africa and Asia, could be avoided every year by 2030 if black carbon levels dropped significantly.

Far less ground-level ozone could also avoid important losses in global maize, rice, soybean and wheat production, it said.

Source: Curb soot and smog to keep Earth cool, says UN – PHYSORG

Date: 14 June 2011



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