Received on 17.10.17: Mato Grosso – On Friday, October 13th, about 80 Indigenous Munduruku People landed at the construction site of the São Manoel hydroelectric plant, after a seven-day trip on the Teles Pires River, to demand compliance with agreements that were closed – and not met – with the companies responsible for the construction […]
Better stewardship of the land could have a bigger role in fighting climate change than previously thought, according to the most comprehensive assessment to date of how greenhouse gas emissions can be reduced and stored in forests, farmland, grasslands and wetlands using natural climate solutions.
The peer-reviewed study, led by scientists from The Nature Conservancy and 15 other institutions, and published today in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, expanded and refined the scope of land-based climate solutions previously assessed by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC). The findings are expected to bolster efforts to ensure that large scale protection, restoration, and improved land management practices needed to stabilize climate change are achieved while meeting the demand for food and fiber from global lands.
Accounting for cost constraints, the researchers calculated that natural climate solutions could reduce emissions by 11.3 billion tonnes per year by 2030 – equivalent to halting the burning of oil , and offering 37% of the emissions reductions needed to hold global warming below 2 degrees Celsius by 2030. Without cost constraints, natural climate solutions could deliver emissions reductions of 23.8 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, close to a third (30%) more than previous estimates .
Mark Tercek, CEO The Nature Conservancy said: “Today our impacts on the land cause a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions. The way we manage the lands in the future could deliver 37% of the solution to climate change. That is huge potential, so if we are serious about climate change, then we are going to have to get serious about investing in nature, as well as in clean energy and clean transport. We are going to have to increase food and timber production to meet the demand of a growing population, but we know we must do so in a way that addresses climate change.”
Christiana Figueres, convener of Mission 2020 and former head of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), said: “Land use is a key sector where we can both reduce emissions and absorb carbon from the atmosphere. This new study shows how we can massively increase action on land use – in tandem with increased action on energy, transport, finance, industry and infrastructure – to put emissions on their downward trajectory by 2020. Natural climate solutions are vital to ensuring we achieve our ultimate objective of full decarbonisation and can simultaneously boost jobs and protect communities in developed and developing countries.”
The Biggest Natural Climate Solution: More Trees
According to FAO, 3.9 billion hectares or 30.6% of total land area is forest. The researchers found that trees have the greatest potential to cost-effectively reduce carbon emissions. This is because they absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, removing it from the atmosphere. The results of the study indicate that the three largest options for increasing the number and size of trees (reforestation, avoiding forest loss, and better forestry practices) could cost-effectively remove 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually by 2030, equivalent to taking 1.5 billion gasoline-burning cars off the roads.
Restoring forests on formerly forested lands, and avoiding further loss of global forests, are the two largest opportunities. Success depends in large part on better forestry and agricultural practices, particularly those that reduce the amount of land used by livestock. Reducing the footprint of livestock would release vast areas across the globe for trees and can be achieved while safeguarding food security. Meanwhile, improved forestry practices across expanded and existing working forests can produce more wood fiber while storing more carbon, maintain biodiversity, and help clean our air and water. The researchers found that the top five countries where forests could reduce emissions the most are Brazil, Indonesia, China, Russia and India.
The Vital Role of Agriculture
According to FAO, agricultural lands cover 11% according of the world’s surface, and changing the way we farm these could cost-effectively deliver 22% of emissions reductions according to the study, equivalent to taking 522 million gasoline cars off the road. Smarter application of chemical fertilizers (Cropland Nutrient Management), for example, improved crop yields while reducing emissions of nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Other effective interventions include planting trees among croplands and improved management of livestock.
Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, former Prime Minister of Niger and CEO of NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa’s Development), said: “Since COP 21 in December 2015 in Paris, the major role of agriculture and forestry to combat climate change has been clearly recognized. As developed countries put more emphasis on mitigation, developing countries try to adapt their agriculture to a changing world. This new study underlines the importance of nature, and especially trees and soils, as support for carbon sequestration through the cycle of plants based on photosynthesis. Promoting carbon sequestration in soils, with adapted agricultural and forestry practices, could lead to win-win solutions on mitigation, adaptation and increase of food security. Those are the triple objective of the “4 per 1000″ Initiative already supported by 250 countries, organizations and institutions. We know what to do, now it’s time to act!”
Paul Polman, CEO of Unilever, said: “Climate change threatens the production of food staples like corn, wheat, rice and soy by as much as a quarter – but a global population of nine billion by 2050 will need up to 50% more food. Fortunately, this research shows we have a huge opportunity to reshape our food and land use systems, putting them at the heart of delivering both the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The Coastal Carbon Sink
Wetlands are less extensive than agricultural or forest lands, covering 0.7 – 0.9 billion hectares or 4% – 6% of the land surface of the Earth, but they hold the most carbon per acre and offer 14% of potential cost-effective natural climate solutions. Avoiding the draining and conversion of peatlands, is the largest of these opportunities. Peatlands are estimated to hold one quarter of the carbon stored by the world’s soils, yet approximately 780 000 hectares (1.9 million acres) are lost globally each year, in particular for palm oil cultivation. The researchers found that their protection could secure a store of 678 million tonnes of carbon emissions equivalent a year by 2030 – comparable to removing 145 million cars from the streets.
Dr. William H. Schlesinger, Professor Emeritus of Biogeochemistry and former president of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, said: “This study is the first attempt to estimate systematically the amount of carbon that might be sequestered from the atmosphere by various actions in forestry and agriculture, and by the preservation of natural lands which store carbon very efficiently. The results are provocative: first, because of the magnitude of potential carbon sequestration from nature, and second, because we need natural climate solutions in tandem with rapid fossil fuel emissions cuts to beat climate change.”
Expanding Public and Private Sector Climate Action on Land
While the study highlights the potential of natural climate solutions as a major solution to climate change, renewable energy, energy efficiency and clean transport together receive about 30 times the investment .
Justin Adams, Global Lands Managing Director, The Nature Conservancy, commented: “Just 38 out of 160 countries set specific targets for natural climate solutions at the Paris climate talks, amounting to 2 gigatonnes of emissions reductions. To put this in context, we need 11 gigatonnes of reductions if we are to keep global warming in check. Managing our lands better is absolutely key to beating climate change. The PNAS study shows us that those responsible for the lands – governments, the forestry companies and farms, the fishermen and property developers – are just as important to achieving this as the solar, wind and electric car businesses.”
Edited for mb3-org.com
A no-till field. Credit: Indiana University
A new IUPUI study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture answers a long-debated agricultural question: whether no-tillage alone is sufficient to prevent water pollution from nitrate. The answer is no.
Researchers in the Department of Earth Sciences in the School of Science at IUPUI conducted a meta-analysis to compare runoff and leaching of nitrate from no-till and conventional tillage agricultural fields. Surface runoff and leaching are two major transportation pathways for nitrate to reach and pollute water.
Due to its mobility and water solubility, nitrate has long been recognized as a widespread water pollutant.
“What we found is that no-till is not sufficient to improve water quality,” said Lixin Wang, an assistant professor and corresponding author of the paper. “In fact, we found that no-till increased nitrogen leaching.”
The study suggests that no-till needs to be complemented with other techniques, such as cover cropping and intercropping or rotation with perennial crops, to improve nitrate retention and water-quality benefits.
After studying concentration of nitrate—nitrate amount per water volume unit—and nitrate load, or total amount of nitrate, researchers found surface runoff from no-till fields to contain a similar nitrate load to surface runoff from conventional tillage fields.
In contrast, nitrate load via leaching was greater with no-till fields than with conventional tillage fields.
No-till leaves crop residue on the soil surface and limits soil disturbance except for small slits to add fertilizer. An estimated 20 percent of all croplands in the U.S. are under no-till management. It reduces soil erosion by avoiding tilling year after year, which leads to soil getting washed away into lakes and rivers. Because reducing soil loss reduces nutrient loss, it was assumed that no-till would reduce water pollution, Wang said.
“Overall, we found the adoption of no-till resulted in increased nitrate loss via leaching due to the frequent occurrence of macropores, such as those created by dead roots and earthworm burrows, in soils that have been under long-range no-tillage management,” Wang said.
Researchers examined how nitrate loss through surface runoff and leaching were impacted by other factors, including aridity, rainfall variability, soil texture, crop species, duration of tillage and fertilizer type.
The research findings are presented in a paper, “Impacts of no-tillage management on nitrate loss from corn, soybean and wheat cultivation: A meta analysis,” that was published Sept. 21 in the journal Scientific Reports.
Edited for mb3-org.com
by Charlie Smith, The Georgia Straight, August 10, 2017 This morning, two B.C. NDP cabinet ministers outlined steps their government is taking to address public concerns over Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion project. The owner, Texas-based Kinder Morgan, wants to triple shipments of Alberta oil through its system to 890,000 barrels per day. That would lead to […]
By Seth Borenstein | AP
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Friday officially told the United Nations that the U.S. intends to pull out of the 2015 Paris climate pact.
But the State Department’s announcement doesn’t formally start the process of the U.S. getting out of the voluntary agreement. That’s still to come.
Still, the department described its communication as a “strong message” to the world, following President Donald Trump’s decision in June to leave the accord.
“The State Department is telling the U.N. what the president already told the world on June 1 and it has no legal effect,” said Nigel Purvis, who directed U.S. climate diplomacy during the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.
Purvis said countries can’t withdraw from new international agreements, including the Paris climate one, until three years after they go into effect. The Paris agreement went into effect on Nov. 4, 2016.
Then the process takes a year.
The State Department cited the same timeline, saying it can officially start withdrawing as soon as November 2019. That means the earliest the U.S. can be out of the climate agreement is Nov. 4, 2020 — the day after the next presidential election.
In a statement, the State Department said the U.S. will continue to participate in international meetings and negotiations on current and future climate change deals. The next meeting is in Bonn, Germany, in November.
Trump is “open to re-engaging in the Paris Agreement if the United States can identify terms that are more favorable to it, its business, its workers, its people and its taxpayers,” the department said.
Under the agreement, countries set their own national plans for cutting climate emissions. That means Trump can come up with different targets for the United States than those set by President Barack Obama. But Trump can’t unilaterally change the text of the Paris deal.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed that Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received “a communication” from U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley “expressing the intention of the United States to exercise its right to withdraw from the Paris Agreement, as soon as it is eligible to do so under the Agreement, unless it identifies suitable terms for reengagement.”
“The secretary-general welcomes any effort to re-engage in the Paris Agreement by the United States,” he said.
Dujarric reiterated Guterres’ June 1 statement calling the U.S. decision to withdraw “a major disappointment for global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote global security.”
“It is crucial that the United States remains a leader on climate and sustainable development,” Dujarric said. “Climate change is impacting now. He looks forward to engaging with the American government and all other actors in the United States and around the world to build the sustainable future for our children and future generations.”
Under Obama, the U.S. agreed to reduce polluting emissions more than a quarter from 2005 levels by the year 2025. There is no climate court. All that’s required in the agreement is a plan and reporting on progress toward reaching self-set goals.
No matter what the U.S. does, the Paris agreement remains in effect because enough other countries ratified it.
The Paris agreement aims to prevent the Earth from heating up by 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) since the start of the industrial age.
The world has already warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius (2 degrees Fahrenheit) since the Industrial Revolution. The overwhelming majority of scientists say the burning of coal, oil and gas is causing the Earth’s climate to change because of heat-trapping gases.
Edited for mb3-org.com
Ruling: Trump administration shortcut environmental review; Court seeks additional briefing on whether to shut down pipeline
Washington, D.C. —
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe won a significant victory today in its fight to protect the Tribe’s drinking water and ancestral lands from the Dakota Access pipeline.
A federal judge ruled that the federal permits authorizing the pipeline to cross the Missouri River just upstream of the Standing Rock reservation, which were hastily issued by the Trump administration just days after the inauguration, violated the law in certain critical respects.
In a 91-page decision, Judge James Boasberg wrote, “the Court agrees that [the Corps] did not adequately consider the impacts of an oil spill on fishing rights, hunting rights, or environmental justice, or the degree to which the pipeline’s effects are likely to be highly controversial.” The Court did not determine whether pipeline operations should be shut off and has requested additional briefing on the subject and a status conference next week.
“This is a major victory for the Tribe and we commend the courts for upholding the law and doing the right thing,” said Standing Rock Sioux Chairman Dave Archambault II in a recent statement. “The previous administration painstakingly considered the impacts of this pipeline, and President Trump hastily dismissed these careful environmental considerations in favor of political and personal interests. We applaud the courts for protecting our laws and regulations from undue political influence and will ask the Court to shut down pipeline operations immediately.”
The Tribe’s inspiring and courageous fight has attracted international attention and drawn the support of hundreds of tribes around the nation.
The Tribe is represented by the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice, which filed a lawsuit challenging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for issuing a permit for the pipeline construction in violation of several environmental laws.
“This decision marks an important turning point. Until now, the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe have been disregarded by the builders of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Trump administration—prompting a well-deserved global outcry,” said Earthjustice attorney Jan Hasselman. “The federal courts have stepped in where our political systems have failed to protect the rights of Native communities.”
The Court ruled against the Tribe on several other issues, finding that the reversal allowing the pipeline complied with the law in some respects.
The $3.8 billion pipeline project, also known as Bakken Oil Pipeline, extends 1,168 miles across North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Illinois, crossing through communities, farms, tribal land, sensitive natural areas and wildlife habitat. The pipeline would carry up to 570,000 barrels a day of crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois where it links with another pipeline that will transport the oil to terminals and refineries along the Gulf of Mexico.
For more background on this case, read the FAQ on this litigation.
By Barbara Grzincic
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a fight over the federal government’s designation of a vast area in Alaska a critical habitat for polar bears, turning aside a challenge by the state, its native peoples and the oil and gas industry.
Alaska, the Alaska Federation of Natives and the Alaska Oil and Gas Association had asked the justices to overturn a February 2016 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision upheld the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s designation of 187,000 square miles of sea ice, barrier islands and coastal land as critical habitat for polar bears.