Tuesday, October 06, 2020

Is Reforestation the Best Way to Fight Climate Change? This Study Says Yes

This is basic science. Trees EAT CO2. So if CO2 is a problem, trees are the obvious solution

And modern agricultural methods are so efficient — partly due to use of “fossil” fuels — that much less land is now needed to produce a given volume of food crops. So a lot of land has already gone back into pine plantations

And a lot of Africa — particularly the Sahel — could be used for trees if Third World farmers could be diverted from feeding goats on it. Giving them free grain could be seen as an incidental cost of forestry

Electric vehicles. Carbon-capture devices. Replacing cattle with bison. Lots of ideas have been tossed around for addressing climate change, but a new study suggests that one of the most effective solutions is pretty simple: Just plant more trees—a trillion of them to be exact.

The research, conducted by the Swiss university ETH Zurich, found that around 0.9 billion hectares (roughly 2.2 billion acres) of land is suitable for reforestation around the globe. If it were populated with trees, they could capture about 205 billion metric tons of carbon: That’s two-thirds of all the human-generated carbon emissions released since the Industrial Revolution.

“We all knew that restoring forests could play a part in tackling climate change, but we didn’t really know how big the impact would be,” professor and study co-author Thomas Crowther said in a press release. “Our study shows clearly that forest restoration is the best climate change solution available today.”

Trees are a natural defense. As they grow, they pull carbon out of the air through photosynthesis. That makes reforestation an especially enticing strategy for counteracting emissions, since there’s no expensive technology required—just water, soil, and sunlight.

To estimate the amount of possible tree cover, the ETF Zurich researchers first calculated how much forested land the planet could support under current climate conditions. To do so, they assessed tens of thousands of high-resolution satellite images to measure existing forests, The Guardian reports. Then they combined that data with information on soil types, topography, and climate to create a map of potential tree cover.

The map showed about 4.4 billion hectares of potential forest—a significant increase from the 2.8 billion hectares of forest currently spread across the earth. Then, Crowther and his team subtracted the areas that couldn’t support trees because they’re occupied by cities or farms. They included grazing land, since some trees on the pasture wouldn’t interfere with livestock, according to The Guardian. That left 0.9 billion hectares of land—an area slightly larger than the United States—not used by humans that would be suitable for trees.

Six countries stand out as the best candidates for reforestation, according to the study. The first is Russia, which has 151 million hectares of suitable land for forests; followed by the United States, with 103 million hectares; Canada, Australia, Brazil, and China round out the list.

What’s more, the authors refute the idea that a warming planet will increase forest cover. Their data shows that higher temperatures might enlarge forests in the northern latitudes, but the gains will be offset by losses in the dense tropical rainforests, which could become too hot to be habitable.

Although reforestation seems like a no-brainer, the study addresses a key gap in understanding how it would work as a climate-change strategy. Before the study, it wasn’t clear how many trees could be planted without encroaching on human living space or food production, and what effect the plants would have. It’s valuable information for organizations looking for effective ways to fight climate change.

“This is a hugely important blueprint for governments and private sector,” Christina Figueres, former UN climate chief, told The Guardian.

Not all the experts are convinced by the study’s numbers, however. Zeke Hausfather, an analyst at Carbon Brief, told The New York Times that the proposed reforestation would likely only capture about one-third of carbon emissions. Even so, he and other experts agreed that planting trees should be included in any comprehensive climate action plan.

In Crowther’s view, growing forests represents the cheapest and most viable strategy for dealing with carbon emissions. It’s also a way for everyone to help, either by planting trees themselves or donating to forest restoration initiatives.

“But we must act quickly, as new forests will take decades to mature and achieve their full potential as a source of natural carbon storage,” he said.


Global Warming controversy in Maine

On the evening of Sept. 15, just after the 6 o’clock news hour and a press cycle dominated by Dr. Anthony Fauci’s praise for how Vermont has handled the Covid-19 crisis, Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced he had vetoed the Global Warming Solutions Act.

Scott, who had long signaled he had concerns with the Democrats’ key piece of climate change policy, knew that his decision to veto H.688 — just seven weeks before the Nov. 3 election — would be viewed unfavorably by some voters.

Scott decided to go ahead with the veto, hoping Vermonters would understand that, while he does believe in climate change and that it must be addressed, he simply disagrees with the roadmap outlined in the bill.

The day before Scott’s decision, student activists sent out a call to protest outside the Statehouse and pressure the governor to support the climate bill.

“Gov. Scott has the opportunity to be a leader in environmental and social justice policy in this country, but if he vetoes the Global Warming Solutions Act (H.688), he will endanger young people, low-income groups, communities of color, indigenous communities, the disabled, women, and other frontline and marginalized groups,” Emily Thompson, the political coordinator of Sunrise Middlebury, wrote to the press on Sept. 14.

“Obviously I knew that there would be a very visceral type of response from the public who didn’t really understand why I would do this and come to the conclusion that I didn’t believe in climate change — which is not the truth,” Scott said in an interview the Saturday after his veto.

The governor would also like to remove language that opens the state up to lawsuits if it does not meet emission goals.

The Republican governor’s veto of the climate bill has presented his Democratic challenger, Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, with an opening to attack the popular incumbent.

However, it remains to be seen whether the climate debate will have any effect on the gubernatorial result Nov. 3.

Zuckerman, an organic farmer who has touted his environmental bonafides for decades, has long made addressing climate change an integral piece of his policy platform and has criticized Scott for lacking the vision needed to lead on the issue.

“This veto fits in line with the old Republican trope that it’s business versus the environment,” Zuckerman said in a recent interview. “We have an incredible opportunity to create jobs and build our economy with a healthy climate future in mind.”

On the campaign trail, the governor has highlighted his work to create tax incentives for electric vehicles, expand access to large-scale battery storage, and push for more weatherization efforts throughout the state.

Zuckerman says these efforts are too shortsighted and there should be a full-scale Vermont Green New Deal to properly combat climate change in the state.

But while the Legislature overturned Scott’s veto, the governor has continued to oppose the Global Warming Solutions Act, recently signaling he is reflecting on another potential way to kill the plan.

On Sept. 29, during a press conference, Scott said his administration was thinking about challenging the constitutionality of the Global Warming Solutions Act — arguing that the Democrats have delegated the governor’s authority to a new climate council, negating the executive’s ability to fulfill constitutional duties.

“We’re still contemplating that,” Scott said of a possible legal challenge.

The governor also argues he has put forward more concrete ways to address climate change than the Democratic-controlled Legislature has during the past four years.

“I would put my record on action against the Legislature’s any day of the week,” Scott told VTDigger. “You have to be honest about this; they’ve had the majority.

“We have an overwhelming majority of Democrats in the House, I guess when you start pointing a finger at someone, you typically have three fingers pointing back at yourself, and I would ask them what have they put forward,” the governor said.

Scott points his own finger at his electric vehicle proposals, which include installing charging stations throughout the state, adding to the state fleet, and being part of a nine-state zero emission vehicles plan.

Poll says Scott is way ahead

Whether the climate bill and Scott’s veto will dent the governor’s popularity remains to be seen. But it seems unlikely as people remain focused on Covid-19 and the economy in the runup to the election.

A Vermont Public Radio/Vermont PBS poll that surveyed Vermonters Sept. 3-Sept. 15 has the Republican well in front of Zuckerman, 5% to 24%. In a sign of Scott’s strong support throughout the state, 48% of Democratic-leaning voters said they would vote for the Republican incumbent while 41% would cast a ballot for Zuckerman, the Democratic nominee.

“I don’t think this issue is going to have much effect at all,” said Eric Davis, professor emeritus of political science at Middlebury College, about the climate change veto. Davis said Scott is far too popular in the state and his steady handling of the Covid-19 crisis has made a successful challenge in this election nearly impossible.

“Dave Zuckerman can talk about climate change, he can talk about the minimum wage, he can talk about paid family leave — all those things he would have loved to have talked about back in January and February,” Davis said.

“But for Dave Zuckerman to win, he has to make a good case to the voters that the leadership of the state that has the lowest rate of Covid cases in the country should be replaced in the middle of the pandemic,” he said. “I don’t think Dave Zuckerman has any shot.”


Brazil: Bolsonaro calls Biden’s Amazon comments “disastrous”

SAO PAULO (AP) — Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday attacked U.S. presidential candidate Joe Biden for saying the South American nation should suffer “significant economic consequences” if devastation of the Amazon rainforest continues.

Biden said during Tuesday’s debate with President Donald Trump, an ally of Bolsonaro, that foreign countries should give Brazil $20 billion to stop Amazon deforestation, and that the country should face repercussions if it fails.

The Brazilian leader has insisted on economic development of the region, drawing condemnation from environmentalists, climate scientists and foreign leaders who say the forest is an important carbon sink and must remain standing to achieve climate change goals.

“The greed that some countries have over the Amazon is a reality,” Bolsonaro said on Twitter. “But the confirmation by someone who is fighting for the command of his country clearly signals that he wants to give up a cordial and profitable coexistence.”

Bolsonaro has repeatedly accused unnamed imperialist forces of trying to take over the Amazon, which harkens back to the stance of the 1964-1985 military dictatorship.

Bolsonaro also labeled Biden’s comments as “regrettable,” as well as “disastrous and gratuitous.” While Bolsonaro’s original tweets correctly named the Democratic candidate, the English translation provided by his office referred to “Mr. John Biden.”

“What some have not yet understood is that Brazil has changed,” Bolsonaro said. “Its president, unlike left-wing presidents of the past, does not accept bribes, criminal land demarcations or coward threats toward our territorial and economic integrity. Our sovereignty is non-negotiable.”

During Tuesday’s debate, Biden said Brazil’s rainforests are being torn down.

“I would be gathering up and making sure we had the countries of the world coming up with $20 billion, and say, ‘Here’s $20 billion, stop tearing down the forest. And if you don’t then you’re gonna have significant economic consequences.’”

Preliminary official data published on Aug. 7 indicated that deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon region over the past 12 months could be at a 14-year high. The Brazilian Amazon lost 9,205 square kilometers (3,554 square miles) of vegetation in the 12 months ending in July, according to data from the country’s space agency.

Rubens Barbosa, Brazil’s ambassador to Washington between 1994 and 2004, says the rift might not affect the relationship between the two countries in a Biden administration.

“Bolsonaro built a personal relationship with Trump. But he has a difficult relationship with French President Emmanuel Macron, and that did not harm Brazil-France relations,” Barbosa told The Associated Press.

MaurĂ­cio Santoro, a professor of political science at the State University of Rio de Janeiro, said the statements show that “Bolsonaro’s relationship is with Trump, not with the U.S..” He said the international isolation around Brazil’s leader could deepen if Biden wins the election.

“If Brazil wants to keep a good relationship with a Biden administration it will have to make many concessions in the environmental area, beef up the enforcement on deforestation, wildfires issues, and show that it is taking the criticism seriously,” Santoro said.

Earlier on Tuesday Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles used Twitter to express doubt about Biden’s pledge.

“Only one question: those $20 billion of aid from Biden, is that per year?.” Salles asked, adding that amount is “40 times bigger than the Amazon fund” sponsored mainly by European nations.

Under international pressure for action against fires in the Amazon, Bolsonaro put the army in charge in May. But The Associated Press found the operation dubbed as “Green Brazil 2” has had little effect and prosecution of rainforest destruction by ranchers, farmers and miners has almost halted.


TX: City officials declare disaster after brain-eating amoeba found in tap water

This is very Third World

Officials in the city of Lake Jackson, Texas, issued a disaster declaration on Saturday in response to drinking water contaminated with a brain-eating amoeba. The city is under a “do not use water order,” and has requested an emergency declaration from the state.

“The City of Lake Jackson, County of Brazoria, Texas, is facing significant threats to life, health and property due to contaminated drinking water,” the city said in its emergency request to Governor Greg Abbott. “The impact of this threat is severe. The potential damages include: sickness and death.”

Mayor Bob Sipple wrote that the incident “is of such severity and magnitude” that the city cannot control the threat on its own.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality warned the Brazosport Water Authority late Friday of the potential contamination of its water supply by naegleria fowleri.

The authority initially warned eight communities not to use tap water for any reason except to flush toilets, but on Saturday it lifted that warning for everywhere but Lake Jackson. The city of more than 27,000 residents is the site of the authority’s water treatment plant. The advisory also was canceled for two state prisons and Dow Chemical’s massive Freeport works.

The advisory will remain in place until the authority’s water system has been thoroughly flushed and tests on water samples show the system’s water is again safe to use. The authority said in a statement that it was unclear how long it would be before the tap water was again safe.

The authority’s water source is the Brazos River.




Preserving the graphics: Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere. But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases. After that they no longer come up. From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site. See here or here


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