Thursday, August 31, 2017

World’s soils have lost 133 billion tonnes of carbon since the dawn of agriculture, study estimates

How awful!  And how awful it is that world food production has never been higher!  Even China is now a net food exporter.  How awful that we are drowning in agricultural surpluses and food has never been cheaper.  Do these galoots even think??  Getting CO2 into the air HELPS plants, including food crops

The degradation of the Earth’s soil by humans has been an environmental catastrophe on a similar scale to the deforestation of much of the planet, a new study suggests.

Experts estimated that 133 billion tonnes of carbon has been removed from the top two metres of soil since farming began some 12,000 years ago, about the same as the total amount lost from vegetation.

However the figure is still dwarfed by the 450 billion tonnes of carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution began and humans started burning fossil fuels on an unprecedented scale.

Soil is obviously vitally important for the growth of crops that feed humans and livestock. Concern has been growing what some refer to as the “soil fertility crisis”, a problem that can be masked by the use of artificial fertilisers.

Carbon released from the soil also contributes to global warming.

But the researchers suggested the figures showed the potential for soil to absorb carbon, something that could be used to reduce the level of the greenhouse gas in the atmosphere by using different agricultural techniques.

Writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they said: “The incredible rise of human civilizations and the continuing sustainability of current and future human societies are inextricably linked to soils and the wide array of services soils provide.

“The consequences of human domination of soil resources are far ranging: accelerated erosion, desertification, salinization, acidification, compaction, biodiversity loss, nutrient depletion, and loss of soil organic matter.

“Of these soil threats, loss of soil organic matter has received the most attention, due to the critical role [it] plays in the contemporary carbon cycle and as a key component of sustaining food production.”

The total figure for the lost carbon was estimated at 133 billion tonnes, saying: “These soil-organic-carbon losses are on par with estimates of carbon lost from living vegetation primarily due to deforestation.”

The researchers found the UK, northern and central Europe, parts of China and the US corn belt were particular hotspots.

This is partly because of the high levels of carbon that would have originally been in the soil in these areas, but also the type of farming typically practised there.

Unsurprisingly, losses from cropland were significantly higher than from land used for grazing animals. But arid grasslands were also vulnerable if they were over-grazed, leading to significant erosion.

One of the researchers, Dr Jonathan Sanderman, of the Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts, told the website Carbon Brief: “Considering humans have emitted about 450 billion tonnes of carbon since the industrial revolution, soil carbon losses to the atmosphere may represent 10 to 20 per cent of this number.

“But it has hard to calculate exactly how much of this has ended up in the atmosphere versus how much has been transported due to erosion.”

He said they had defined 10,000BC as “a world without a human footprint”.

“What we did was develop a model that could explain the current distribution of soil carbon across the globe as a function of climate, topography, geology and land use,” Dr Sanderman said.

“Then we replaced current land use with historic reconstructions including the ‘no land use’ case to get predictions of soil carbon levels back in time.”


Changes in flooding show no trend over time

Warmists think floods are going to become more frequent but it hasn't happened yet

Climate-driven variability in the occurrence of major floods across North America and Europe

Glenn A.Hodgkins et al.


Concern over the potential impact of anthropogenic climate change on flooding has led to a proliferation of studies examining past flood trends. Many studies have analysed annual-maximum flow trends but few have quantified changes in major (25–100 year return period) floods, i.e. those that have the greatest societal impacts. Existing major-flood studies used a limited number of very large catchments affected to varying degrees by alterations such as reservoirs and urbanisation. In the current study, trends in major-flood occurrence from 1961 to 2010 and from 1931 to 2010 were assessed using a very large dataset (>1200 gauges) of diverse catchments from North America and Europe; only minimally altered catchments were used, to focus on climate-driven changes rather than changes due to catchment alterations. Trend testing of major floods was based on counting the number of exceedances of a given flood threshold within a group of gauges. Evidence for significant trends varied between groups of gauges that were defined by catchment size, location, climate, flood threshold and period of record, indicating that generalizations about flood trends across large domains or a diversity of catchment types are ungrounded. Overall, the number of significant trends in major-flood occurrence across North America and Europe was approximately the number expected due to chance alone. Changes over time in the occurrence of major floods were dominated by multidecadal variability rather than by long-term trends. There were more than three times as many significant relationships between major-flood occurrence and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation than significant long-term trends.

Journal of Hydrology, Volume 552, September 2017, Pages 704-717

Are Electric Cars Doomed To Fail … Again?

 After years of heavy promotion and billions in taxpayer subsidies, plug-in electric cars remain a tiny niche market. And now it looks as if they could lose out to an energy source nobody talks about — hydrogen.

In mid-August, Hyundai unveiled a hydrogen fuel-cell powered SUV that has a range of 360 miles. When it hits the showrooms next year, it will join the Honda Clarity FC and the Toyota Mirai in the fuel-cell car market.

Unlike electric cars — which still can only go a little more than 200 miles on a charge — fuel-cell cars can go more than 300 miles. And refueling takes minutes, not hours.

Fuel cells aren't new technology. They powered the Apollo spacecraft in the 1960s. President Bush tried to give fuel-cell cars a push with $1.2 billion to develop the technology. But environmentalists like plug-in cars better, so one of the first things President Obama did as president was kill Bush's fuel-cell project and pour money into electric cars, promising to have a million on the road by 2015.

Prodded by government, the auto industry has been racing to introduce plug-in electrics. But almost nobody wants to buy them. Just over 100,000 plug-in electrics sold in the first half of this year — accounting for 1% of auto sales. And despite continued attempts to force feed the market, it's not clear that electric cars will ever be more than a niche product, given their drawbacks.

Fuel-cell cars, in contrast, could catch on quickly. Toyota expects to sell 3,000 Mirais this year, despite the fact that it's just available in California, where there are only 30 hydrogen filling stations.

That is supposed to be hydrogen's big handicap — the lack of infrastructure. But that can be quickly resolved. California expects to have 100 refueling stations within a few years, and Toyota is working to set up a chain of them in the Northeast. If fuel-cell cars catch on, it won't take long for hydrogen stations to start popping up all over.

Tesla's Elon Musk, who has put everything into battery-powered cars, dismisses hydrogen as "incredibly dumb," saying it's "just very difficult to make hydrogen and store it and use it in a car."

That sounds a lot like what electric carmakers were saying in the early 1900s (when electric cars were all the rage) about the gasoline-powered cars. We all know how that turned out.

In our view, the government shouldn't be trying to force the car market in any direction. Let consumers be the judge of what's the best, most reliable, most convenient, most affordable way for them to get around.

Today, it's gasoline. Tomorrow, it might very well be hydrogen.


Why Trump’s Upcoming Decision on Federal Lands Matters

The ongoing controversy about the federal government’s role in managing land may soon come to a head.

Earlier this month, in accord with a presidential executive order issued in April, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivered recommendations to the president on national monument lands that are being reviewed by his department.

Details about the report—whether lands should be reduced, and if so, which ones—are expected from the White House in the coming days.

The highly anticipated report has stirred a great deal of angst this summer, particularly among environmental activists who are convinced the Interior’s review is an unprecedented ploy to sell off or sully federal lands.

For example, luxury outdoor retailer Patagonia argued the following in its first ever television ad: “Public lands have never been more threatened than right now because you have a few self-serving politicians who want to sell them off and make money.”

Beautiful scenes of the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, and Zion pan across the screen as the company urges viewers to defend these lands and hold Zinke accountable.

The Patagonia commercial and much of the conversation this summer have been muddled with hyperbole and misinformation. It’s worth taking a step back to understand the issue.

Who’s Involved

In April, President Donald Trump requested that Zinke review all presidential national monument designations or expansions since 1996. In particular, Trump requested review of designations of areas over 100,000 acres and/or those that were “made without adequate public outreach and coordination” to determine if revisions were necessary.

Other presidents have reviewed and altered national monuments—among them Presidents William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Ike Eisenhower.

What’s at Issue

The subject of Interior’s report is presidential use of the Antiquities Act of 1906. The law allows presidents to unilaterally designate federal lands as “historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest.” These designations change how land is managed and who has access to it.

Trump is considering the need to reduce the size of, or altogether eliminate, some of these monuments.

Contrary to what the Patagonia commercial and many others would imply, reducing the size of a national monument or even rescinding its status does not open up the federal land to be overrun by oil interests or clear cut by the foresting industry.

Federal lands are managed by a web of laws determining who can do what and when. For example, at least nine other laws also address artifact preservation on federal lands.

The Lands in Question

Perhaps where environmental groups most mislead the public is in explaining which lands are being reviewed. National monuments are distinct from other land designations like national parks, which are created by Congress.

Zinke’s review covered 27 national monuments, mostly in the western United States, though some are located in New England and in offshore federal waters. In other words, this debate has nothing to do with the Grand Tetons, Yosemite, or Zion—all of which are national parks.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the federal government owns hundreds of millions of acres in America. To put that in perspective, that’s about the same size as all of Western Europe.

Why Trump’s Upcoming Decision Matters

The reason this 110-year-old law has become so contentious is complicated.

In part, it has to do with past presidents abusing the purpose of the law. The Antiquities Act directs the president to protect artifacts on federal lands according to the “smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

However, in recent history the Antiquities Act has instead been used to pull vast swathes of land out of use.

President Barack Obama in particular used this power aggressively. The Sutherland Institute reports that 66 percent of all national monument acreage was designated so under the Obama administration, and 25 percent under President George W. Bush.

It also has to do with ensuring quality management of lands. It is no secret that the Department of Interior is facing $15.4 billion in maintenance backlogs, and $11.9 billion of that is in the National Park Service alone.

Holly Fretwell of the Property and Environment Research Center reports that “[o]nly 40 percent of park historic structures are considered to be in “good” or better condition and they need continual maintenance to remain that way.”

The “why” also has to do with who should get the most say in decision-making.

The Patagonia ad encourages people to oppose changes to national monuments because “this [land] belongs to all the people in America—it’s our heritage.” But this glosses over decades and generations’ worth of contentious debate about who “our” refers to.

Does it refer to fly fishermen, hunters, hikers, and bikers as Patagonia would have its customers believe? Does it refer to the Native Americans and locals who are directly impacted by federal land management decisions, but who have little say in the matter?

Are American natural resource industries to be excluded from the collective “our”?

If Congress doesn’t like what the Trump administration is doing, it ought to act to clarify the law. Zinke rightly noted that “the executive power under the Act is not a substitute for a lack of congressional action on protective land designations.”

At the very least, Congress ought to amend the law to give states more say in the matter.

Land management decision-making has been contentious for decades. Shifting more control from Washington to those with direct knowledge of the land in question and a clear stake in the outcome of decisions would be a step in the right direction.


Australia: Winter rain fills Perth dams to highest levels in decade

Greenie guru Tim Flannery once prophesied that Perth would become a ghost city through lack of water

LATE winter rains have spared the cash-strapped State Government from a potential billion-dollar upgrade to the water network after boosting the city’s dams to their highest levels in almost a decade.

Just weeks after the Water Corporation warned it may have to fast-track a major new source of drinking water amid plunging dam levels, heavy rainfall in July and this month has helped avoid the need for an expansion.

Figures from the Water Corp show there has been 62.8 billion litres of “stream flow” into the city’s reservoirs so far this year after a surge of more than 50 billion litres in the past month.

The run-off has left the dams at 41.6 per cent capacity — or holding 262 billion litres. This is 73 billion litres (or almost 40 per cent) more than at the same time last year.

While the run-off into Perth’s dams is still only broadly in line with the city’s post-1975 average, it is the highest level recorded by the Water Corp since 2009.

The dam boost has prevented the need to bring forward a major new drinking water source such as a desalination plant to prop up supplies.

Under the Water Corp’s planning, the State-owned group still assumes it will receive at least 25 billion litres into the dams every year to ensure it can meet demand from customers.

The corporation said that despite the relatively wet end to winter, Perth’s rainfall levels for the season were still below their long-term average.

Spokeswoman Clare Lugar said the long-term decline in Perth’s rainfall meant its dams were still only at a fraction of their capacity.

In a bid to further bolster supplies, the Water Corp will launch its latest efficiency campaign this weekend, when the winter sprinkler ban ends. “While it may feel like we’ve had a lot of rain this winter, we are still only just above the year-to-date average,” Ms Lugar said.

“As our catchments are so dry following nearly 20 years of abnormally dry weather, we’d need to get double the average rainfall for years on end to fill our dams again.”

‘We are still only just above the year-to-date average.’




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1 comment:

Spurwing Plover said...

The aussies have plenty of water now but will eco-wackos demand dam removals like their doing here in america?