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.
Archive for ‘NO2, Black Carbon & other GHGs’
Radical Natural Climate Solutions
Friday, November 16th, 2012
Shorter Lived Climate Forcers: Agriculture Sector and Land Clearing for Livestock
Wednesday, 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 )
Forget carbon, this is worse: researcher
Friday, 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
Tuesday, 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
Cut out meat to stop nitrogen pollution say scientists
Monday, April 11th, 2011
First they told us not to eat meat because of climate change. Now scientists are telling the public to adopt a ‘demitarian’ diet, that contains half as much meat, to stop an even more dangerous threat to the planet – nitrogen pollution.
The first study in the world to calculate the total costs of nitrogen pollution across a whole continent found that the problem is costing each person in Europe up to £650 every year because of health and environmental damage.
The main cause of the pollution is agriculture through the manure of animals and the nitrogen fertilisers spread on crops. Around half of nitrogen added to farm fields in Europe leaks into the surrounding environment rather than feeding plants. This causes algae slimes to grow in water and on trees, suffocating wildlife and disturbing delicate ecosystems.
Also nitrogen ‘smog’ released into the air by burning fossil fuels in power stations and cars cause breathing or heart problems that take six months off the life of all Europeans, as well as being a greenhouse gas.
The ground-breaking European Nitrogen Assessment by more than 200 scientists from 21 countries concludes that nitrogen pollution poses an even greater threat to humankind than carbon. The cost is greater than the benefits gained by using nitrogen fertiliser to grow food and therefore it is in the EU’s interest to take action.
Dr Mark Sutton, the UK lead author, said the best way to control the problem is through eating less meat.
He explained that most of the nitrogen used in agriculture is used to grow feed crops for animals or comes from manure.
Therefore cutting down on animal protein, would significantly reduce the amount of pollution.
“The largest challenges are to manage nitrogen better in agriculture and to moderate Europeans’ consumption of animal protein,” he said. “Amazingly, livestock consume around 85 per cent of the 14 million tonnes of nitrogen in crops harvested or imported into the EU; only 15 per cent is used to feed humans directly. European nitrogen use is therefore not primarily an issue of food security, but one of luxury consumption.”
Already celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney and Joanna Lumley have urged people to give up meat at least once a week for ‘Meat Free Mondays’. The United Nations and well known academics like Lord Stern also advocate cutting down on meat to help the environment.
Dr Sutton, from the Centre of Ecology and Hydrology, and the other scientists involved in the project have signed an agreement pledging to be ‘demitarians’ or eat half as much meat.
He also said people can switch to public transport and use less energy in order to cut nitrogen use.
However he ruled out a tax on nitrogen fertiliser because of the threat to food security.
Source: Cut out meat to stop nitrogen pollution say scientists – The Telegraph UK
Date: 11 April 2011
Benefit to cutting ‘black carbon’
Tuesday, February 22nd, 2011
Cutting atmospheric soot, methane and ground-level ozone is the quickest way to tackle climate change in the short term, according to a new report.
The governing council of the UN Environment Programme (Unep) in Nairobi will hear that reducing these short-lived emissions could reduce warming by half a degree.
And it would be more easily achieved than reducing emissions of the gas principally implicated in long-term climate change, CO2.
It would also have spin-off benefits because soot and ground-level ozone harm human health – and ozone damages crops.
The assessment comes from Unep and World Meteorological Organization, in collaboration with a global team of scientists.
Its authors insist that nations must continue to strive to reduce CO2 emissions, which will continue to warm the atmosphere for more than 100 years from the time they are produced.
But it says that using existing technologies and institutions to cut ozone and black carbon (soot) can halve regional warming for 30 to 60 years whilst averting millions of premature deaths and avoiding tens of billions of dollars of crop losses annually.
Black carbon comes from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, mostly through diesel engines and biomass burning – including in cook stoves and brick kilns.
It heats the atmosphere directly and also increases warming when particles fall on to snow and ice and reduce their reflectivity.
Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects us from harmful rays. At ground level it is a serious pollutant formed by the action of sunlight on methane, carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and oxides of nitrogen.
The report says: “A small number of emission reduction measures targeting black carbon and ozone precursors could immediately begin to protect climate, public health, water and food security, and ecosystems.
“They include the recovery of methane from coal, oil and gas extraction and transport, methane capture in waste management, use of clean-burning stoves for residential cooking, diesel particulate filters for vehicles and the banning of field burning of agricultural waste.”
It says the task of reducing these gases needs strategic investment and institutional plans and continues: “The identified measures complement but do not replace anticipated carbon dioxide reduction measures.
“Major CO2 reduction strategies mainly target the energy and large industrial sectors and therefore would not necessarily result in significant reductions in emissions of black carbon or the ozone precursors methane and carbon monoxide.
“Significant reduction of the short-lived climate forcers requires a specific strategy, as many are emitted from a large number of small sources.
It has been known for several years that non-CO2 gases are important short-term climate forcers but the impetus to control them was boosted by a paper in Nature Geoscience in April 2009.
A model by Drew Shindell from Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies suggested that 45% or more of the Arctic warming over the past 30 years was likely to have been caused by changes in black carbon and sulphate aerosol particles.
There have been attempts to include short-lived forcing agents into the on-going UN climate talks but although methane is included in the basket of gases to be controlled by rich nations, other ozone precursors and black carbon have been kept out of the talks on the grounds that negotiations are quite complicated enough.
Unep envisages that strategies to tackle the short-lived forcers could be possibly tackled under regional pollution agreements without the need for a global deal.
But some experts still argue that including these pollutants in UN talks would be a benefit.
Dr Mike McCracken, chief scientist for the US NGO The Climate Institute told BBC News: “Most of the emissions on these short-term warming agents are coming from developing countries.
“Most governments want to cut the emissions anyway because of the health of their people and their crops. But because the pollutants aren’t included in the climate talks, the developing countries can’t get any credit for cutting them.
“We have to credit them in the climate talks for creating a global benefit as well as a regional benefit.”
Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development said: “We also have to start now with aggressive cuts in CO2 if we want to win the longer term climate battle. But it’s not one or the other – we need to cut both CO2 and the other climate forcing agents.
“This assessment makes clear that cutting CO2 now will not reduce warming in the next 20-30 years. This means passing the 2C level several decades earlier if we don’t reduce these local air pollutants.”
The latest UNEP initiative runs in parallel with another initiative to use the Montreal Protocol on ozone-depleting substances to phase down hydrofluorocarbons, which are also other powerful climate forcers.
Professor David Fowler from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology in Midlothian told BBC News that the role of ground level ozone was particularly pernicious as ozone pollution was slowing the growth of plants which would otherwise be absorbing CO2 emissions.
“Many countries have introduced controls for the ozone precursors. These have helped knock the peaks off ozone concentrations in the UK, but during the last 20 years the tropospheric background ozone has been growing steadily…and is often in the UK spring close to or in excess of values which effect vegetation.”
In other words, people and crops in the UK are suffering from ground-level ozone pollution provoked by the emission of gases somewhere else in the northern hemisphere.
“The effects of tropospheric ozone on the carbon cycle are similar in magnitude (in radiative terms) to its effects as a greenhouse gas,” Professor Fowler said.
“This background pollution requires hemispheric scale control measures.”
Source: Benefit to cutting ‘black carbon’ – BBC News UK
Date: 22 Feb 2011
Can we control black carbon in the Arctic by reducing agricultural fires?
Sunday, November 14th, 2010
Looking forward to seeing the presentations and meeting reports from the ‘International Meeting on Open Burning and the Arctic: Causes, Impacts, and Mitigation Approaches‘ conference held in St. Petersburg last week.
The Clean Air Task Force blog post on the conference is included below for reference:
One long day down, and one to go at a global meeting in St. Petersburg, Russia, where climate scientists, fire experts, farmers, regulators and NGOs have been discussing the role of springtime fires on climate change in the Arctic and what must be done to reduce the occurrence of set fires in northern latitudes.
The Arctic is warming at an alarming rate, threatening not just regional ecosystems but coastal areas around the world that are vulnerable to sea level rise.
Carbon dioxide is the main pollutant responsible for this warming, but recent research shows that black carbon, or soot, from incomplete combustion may also be responsible for much of the Arctic’s warming.
Samples from snow indicate that most of the black carbon in Arctic snow comes from burning biomass, and much of that is from burning crops and grasslands in northern Eurasia.
These crop and grass fires have local impacts too, of course. These fires often get out of control and spread into forests and peatlands. In fact, many of the deadly fires that plagued Russia this past summer began with fires set on grasslands or croplands.
In response to the growing threat, Clean Air Task Force and Bellona Russia have organized this event to:
- 1 Examine the range of health, safety, and climate impacts associated with open burning.
- 2 Elevate the issue of black carbon emissions from open burning, and its Arctic impacts, among researchers, governmental bodies, and NGOs in Russia and elsewhere.
- 3 Increase coordination between different organizations (governmental, research, and NGOs) in the USA, Europe, and Russia, and within those countries, working on short-lived climate forcers.
- 4 Survey indigenous practices and motivations for burning.
- 5 Explore alternatives to burning and strategies to reduce emissions from burns, including the practical, economic, cultural, and environmental implications of these alternatives.
We’re not exactly sure where we’ll end up tomorrow, but conversations have been flying and we expect some useful closure by the end of the conference. More information about the meeting is available at http://www.fires-and-the-arctic.org.
After the meeting we’ll post presentations, meeting reports, and any other outcomes on that site.
Calls to green ‘concrete jungle’
Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Trees can play an essential role in improving the quality of life in UK towns and cities, a report has said.
The Woodland Trust says planting more trees has been shown to improve air quality, reduce ambient temperatures and benefit people’s health.
The trend of declining tree cover in many areas needs to be reversed in order to improve access to green spaces in urban areas, the study adds.
The trust is also launching a campaign to plant 20m native trees each year.
“Towns and cities tend to put into sharp relief some of the key problems we are facing as a society,” said lead author Mike Townsend.
“So they are a good place to start when try to illustrate just where green spaces can deliver significant improvements for relatively little cost.”
The issues outlined in the report included physical and mental health problems, childhood obesity, air pollution, soaring summer temperatures, flash flooding and diminishing wildlife.
The trust estimated that 80% of the UK population live in urban areas, yet less than 10% of people have access to local woodlands within 500m of their homes.
“If you look back over history, Victorian times saw a real move towards parks and street trees; some of the big street trees that you find in our cities today go back to these times,” explained Woodland Trust conservation policy expert Sian Atkinson.
“What we have seen more recently is that there has been reduction in the number of trees being planted, and there has also been a loss of the lovely Victorian trees with big canopies,” she told BBC News.
“We are starting to miss these from our towns and cities, and not enough thought has been given to replacements and to ensuring that there is going to be enough tree cover in the future.”
The report also highlighted the role urban trees could play in preventing flash floods.
Ms Atkinson said: “Hard surfaces in towns and cities have increased in recent years, and we are seeing more flooding.
“One of the problems is surface water drainage. It has been shown that trees and woods are key to help control this sort of flooding.
“As well as absorbing groundwater, tree canopies help reduce the volume of rainfall hitting the ground and relieve pressure on urban drainage systems.
She called on civic planners to address the issues highlighted by the report.
“This is quite a lot of talk about green infrastructure,” she observed,
“and our message is that we hope that trees and woods are a really big part of that.”
In its Programme for Government report, the coalition government announced that it would initiate a national tree planting campaign.
During a speech in May, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman said:
“If any organism has demonstrated an ability to multi-task, it’s trees.
“They capture carbon and hold soils together, prevent flooding and help control our climate. They also add immeasurably to the quality of life of our towns and cities.”
She added that in some parts of inner London, it was calculated that each tree was deemed to be worth as much as £78,000 in terms of its benefits.
Ms Atkinson welcomed the government’s announcement:
“The UK has very low woodland cover compared with the rest of Europe. We are actually looking for a doubling in native woodland cover.
“There are some areas that have more cover than others, but – overall – there is quite a big job to do in order to increase tree cover to a level that provides all the benefits outlined in the report.”
To coincide with the publication of the report, the Woodland Trust is also launching a More Trees More Good campaign, which will look to plant 20m native trees across the UK for the next 50 years.
Source: Calls to green ‘concrete jungle’ - news.bbc.co.uk
Date: 30 June 2010
Geoscientists call for reducing soot emissions
Saturday, June 26th, 2010
More aggressive action is required to reduce soot emissions in a bid to achieve climate policy goals such as those set forth in last December’s Copenhagen Accord, says a study.
The Princeton University researchers assessed the climatic contribution of ‘carbonaceous aerosols,’ fine particulates emitted into the air, known as soot.
Soot is a term that refers to the impure carbon particles produced by the incomplete combustion of organic matter and comes from diesel engines and coal combustion to biomass cook stoves, crop burning and wildfires.
Soot has complex effects on the global climate when airborne or deposited on snow. It has two main components: black carbon and organic carbon.
Black carbon is dark and absorbs radiation, thus warming the atmosphere; organic carbon is light coloured and reflective, so tends to have a cooling effect.
Their effects on climate are complicated, in part because they depend on how they are mixed with other particles in the atmosphere, and in part because both types of aerosols can cool the climate through their effects on cloud formation.
Black carbon also warms the Earth’s surface when it falls on snow or ice.
‘Because of uncertainties in these many effects and because of differences in whether and how these effects get incorporated into various models, past studies of soot’s contribution to global warming have ranged widely,’ said Robert Kopp, post-doctoral researcher jointly in Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public & International Affairs and its Department of Geosciences.
‘We took several key studies, put them all on a common footing, and assessed what emerged,’ Kopp said.
Using four sets of highly cited but disparate studies that span the range of past estimates, Kopp and Denise Mauzerall, associate professor of environmental engineering and international affairs at Princeton, attempted to reconcile and standardise the results into one, common global metric.
‘Unfortunately, most climate change mitigation scenarios used in policy contexts have focused exclusively on heat-trapping gases,’ Mauzerall said, according to a university release.
These findings were published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Source: Geoscientists call for reducing soot emissions - southkoreanews.net
Date: 26 June 2010
Canada to phase out coal-fired plants
Friday, June 25th, 2010
Canada plans to phase out its coal-fired electricity plants as part of its goal to become a “clean energy superpower,” said Environment Minister Jim Prentice.
Prentice said two-thirds of the country’s 51 current coal units should be retired by 2025.
“Our regulation will be very clear,” said Prentice in announcing the regulations Wednesday.
“When each coal-burning unit reaches the end of its economic life, it will have to meet the new standards or close down.”
Prentice said the retired coal-fired plants would have to be replaced with low-emitting electricity such as clean coal, natural gas, hydro, nuclear, wind and tidal power.
Regulations covering new coal power plants would come into effect at the end of 2011.
“A responsible, clear phase-out of the electricity sector’s inefficient coal-fired generation will allow ample time for the implementation of cleaner generation technologies. This will create new jobs in the clean-energy sector, while helping Canada meets its commitment to greenhouse gas reductions,” Prentice said.
The phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity generation, along with coal closure commitments from provinces and companies, will reduce emissions by about 15 million tons, an amount equivalent to Canada taking about 3.2 million cars off its roads, the government said.
Under Ottawa’s current international commitment, its emissions are supposed to fall to about 440 million tons by 2020.
Coal-fired plants make up 13 percent of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Steve Snyder, president and chief executive officer of TransAlta, said the power supplier sees opportunities to replace its oldest coal plants with a mix of natural gas generation, clean coal technology and renewable energy.
But he warned that Canada’s transition must be done in a “careful and orderly fashion” to maintain the critical reliability of the country’s electricity infrastructure.
Noting that coal accounts for more than 50 percent of current global electricity production, Roger Gibbins, president and chief executive of think tank the Canada West Foundation, said the United States, China and India are not likely to take coal out of their energy mix going forward.
“They will work for cleaner coal, but coal will not disappear from their energy strategies. Why should it for us?” Gibbins told the Calgary Herald.
Prentice also announced that Canada would provide $400 million this year for an international climate fund to help poor countries combat climate change, as negotiated at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen last December.
Source: Canada to phase out coal-fired plants - upi.com
Date: 25 June 2010
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