Sunday, December 12, 2021

Native Americans’ farming practices may help feed a warming world

The elevated structures look very expensive to build so the economics of using them as farms would have to be very dubious

Indigenous peoples have known for millennia to plant under the shade of the mesquite and paloverde trees that mark the Sonoran Desert here, shielding their crops from the intense sun and reducing the amount of water needed.

The modern-day version of this can be seen in the Santa Catalina Mountains north of Tucson, where a canopy of elevated solar panels helps to protect rows of squash, tomatoes and onions. Even on a November afternoon, with the temperature climbing into the 80s, the air under the panels stays comfortably cool.

Such adaptation is central to the research underway at Biosphere 2, a unique center affiliated with the University of Arizona that’s part of a movement aimed at reimagining and remaking agriculture in a warming world. In the Southwest, projects are looking to plants and farming practices that Native Americans have long used as potential solutions to growing worries over future food supplies. At the same time, they are seeking to build energy resilience.

“We’re taking Indigenous knowledge,” said Greg Barron-Gafford, a professor who studies the intersection of plant biology and environmental and human factors. But instead of relying on tree shade, “we’re underneath an energy producer that’s not competing for water.”

On both sides of the Arizona border with Mexico, scientists are planting experimental gardens and pushing the potential of an “agrivoltaic” approach. Thirsty crops such as fruits, nuts and leafy greens — which require elaborate irrigation systems that have pulled vast quantities of water from underground aquifers and the Colorado and other rivers — are nowhere to be found.

“We’ve had 5,000 years of farmers trying out different strategies for dealing with heat, drought and water scarcity,” said Gary Nabhan, an ethnobotanist and agrarian activist who focuses on plants and cultures of the Southwest. “We need to begin to translate that.”

The University of Arizona’s Desert Laboratory on Tumamoc Hill will break ground next spring on Tumamoc Resilience Gardens, an initiative to be located at the base of a saguaro-studded hill within an 860-acre ecological preserve in the heart of Tucson. It will show how people can feed themselves in a much hotter, drier future.

The core of the project’s design will be passive rainwater harvesting to support a variety of edible, arid-adapted plants. Some of those will be planted under solar panels, while others will benefit from centuries-old strategies such as rock berms and rock piles to increase moisture, according to Benjamin Wilder, the lab’s director.

Southern Arizona is an epicenter of the movement not just because of the intense environmental pressures that the region faces but because of the presence of the Tohono O’odham Nation southwest of Tucson.

Since the early 1970s, a group of Nation members have run the San Xavier Cooperative Farm and grown “traditional desert cultivars” in accordance with their ancestral values — particularly respect for land, water and plants.

“We’re all about using what is out there,” Sajovec said. Among the center’s heirloom varieties: 60-day corn, a fast-maturing desert-adapted vegetable, and the tepary bean, a high-protein legume particularly suited to the climate because of leaves that can fold to withstand direct sunlight during the peak of summer.

Johnson captures precipitation during the Arizona monsoon season to sustain crops on his field in the desert lowlands. “It’s using the rainwater,” he explained, “using the contour lines, using your environment and nature to grow food.”

Perhaps even more daunting than the rising temperatures of climate change are the water shortages that many parts of the world will confront. In Tucson, the Santa Cruz River is now dry because of too much diversion and burgeoning demand, according to Brad Lancaster, an expert on rainwater harvesting.

“The majority of the water that irrigates landscapes and Tucson and Arizona is not local water” but tapped from the Colorado River, Lancaster said. Unless severe drought conditions reverse and the river level improves, mandatory federal cutbacks mean farmers will lose a significant amount of that critical resource starting next year.

“The goal is how can we use rainwater and storm water, passively captured, to be the primary irrigator,” said Lancaster, who lives in a local neighborhood that has been transformed through passive water harvesting into an “urban forest,” with wild edible plants such as chiltepin pepper and desert hackberry lining the sidewalks.

He is planning a similar system at Tumamoc Resilience Gardens, using basins and earthen structures to spread water across the landscape and reduce channelized flows. Nabhan, who also is involved in the site’s design, sees it as replicable and, more importantly, scalable.

“We hope [planting] these gardens will be the same as planting an apple orchard,” Nabhan said, walking around his own creation at his home in Patagonia, a small town about 18 miles north of the Mexico border. The fenced space holds 40 species of agave, three species of sotol, prickly pear and other varieties of cactuses and succulents.

“The key concept,” he said, “is that we’re trying to fit the crops to the environment rather than remaking the environment.”


U.N. climate panel confronts implausibly hot forecasts of future warming

Weather has grown more severe, seas are measurably higher, and mountain glaciers and polar ice have shrunk sharply. And after years of limited action, many countries, pushed by a concerned public and corporations, seem willing to curb their carbon emissions.

But as climate scientists face this alarming reality, the climate models that help them project the future have grown a little too alarmist. Many of the world's leading models are now projecting warming rates that most scientists, including the modelmakers themselves, believe are implausibly fast. In advance of the U.N. report, scientists have scrambled to understand what went wrong and how to turn the models, which in other respects are more powerful and trustworthy than their predecessors, into useful guidance for policymakers. "It's become clear over the last year or so that we can't avoid this," says Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Ahead of each major IPCC report, the world's climate modeling centers run a set of scenarios for the future, calculating how different global emissions paths will alter the climate. These raw results, compiled in the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (CMIP), then feed directly into the IPCC report. The results live on as other scientists use them to assess the impacts of climate change, insurance companies and financial institutions forecast effects on economies and infrastructure, and economists calculate the true cost of carbon emissions, says Jean-François Lamarque, a lead climate modeler at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) and CMIP's new director. "This is not an ivory tower type of exercise."

In the past, most models projected a "climate sensitivity"—the warming expected when atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is doubled over preindustrial times—of between 2°C and 4.5°C. Last year, a landmark paper that largely eschewed models and instead used documented factors including ongoing warming trends calculated a likely climate sensitivity of between 2.6°C and 3.9°C. But many of the new models from leading centers showed warming of more than 5°C—uncomfortably outside these bounds.

The models were also out of step with records of past climate. For example, scientists used the new model from NCAR to simulate the coldest point of the most recent ice age, 20,000 years ago. Extensive paleoclimate records suggest Earth cooled nearly 6°C compared with preindustrial times, but the model, fed with low ice age CO2 levels, had temperatures plummeting by nearly twice that much, suggesting it was far too sensitive to the ups and downs of CO2. "That is clearly outside the range of what the geological data indicate," says Jessica Tierney, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Arizona and a co-author of the work, which appeared in Geophysical Research Letters. "It's totally out there."

To find out why, modelers probed the guts of the simulations, focusing on their representation of clouds, long the wild card of climate change. The models can't simulate clouds directly, so they rely on known physics and observations to estimate cloud properties and behavior.

In previous models ice crystals made up more of the low clouds in the midlatitudes of the southern Pacific Ocean and elsewhere than satellite observations seemed to justify. Ice crystals reflect less sunlight than water droplets, so as these clouds heated and the ice melted, they became more reflective and caused cooling. The new models start with more realistic clouds containing more supercooled water, which allows other dynamics driven by warming—the penetration of dry air from above and a subduing of turbulence—to thin the clouds.

But that fix has allowed scientists to spy another bias previously countered by the faulty cooling trend. In both the old and new climate models, the patchy cumulus clouds that form in the tropics thin out in response to warming, allowing in more heat than satellite observations suggest, according to a study by Timothy Myers, a cloud scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. "Even though one feature of the climate is now more realistic, another that's persistently biased has been revealed," Myers says.

By the time modelers exposed that bias, the supercomputing runs were already done and the IPCC report was nearing completion. And many of the hot models otherwise simulate the climate extremely well overall, doing a better job than their predecessors at capturing atmospheric connections between remote ocean basins and the distribution of rainfall. "You want a way you can use those models for what they have without getting stuck with their climate sensitivity," Schmidt says.

So the IPCC team will probably use reality—the actual warming of the world over the past few decades—to constrain the CMIP projections. Several papers have shown how doing so can reduce the uncertainty of the model projections by half, and lower their most extreme projections. For 2100, in a worst-case scenario, that would reduce a raw 5°C of projected warming over preindustrial levels to 4.2°C. It's good news for the modelers—but also a clear, and dismaying, sign that global warming has gone on long enough to help chart its own path, says Aurélien Ribes, a climate scientist at France's National Centre for Meteorological Research. "Observations now provide a clear view for what climate change will be."

The IPCC report is also likely to present the spatial impacts of different amounts of warming—2°C, 3°C, 4°C—rather than saying how quickly those impacts will be felt. That heat-based technique worked well in an interim IPCC report in 2018, on the impacts of 1.5°C of warming, and would preserve good information from the hot models, even if they suggest these thresholds will come too soon.

The modelers hope to do better next time around. Lamarque says they may test new simulations against recent paleoclimates, not just historical warming, while building them. He also suggests that the development process could benefit from more time, with updates every decade or so rather than the current report interval of every 7 years. And it could be helpful to divide the modeling process in two, with one track focused on scientific experimentation—when a large range of climate sensitivities is helpful—and the other on providing a best estimate to policymakers. "It's not easy to reconcile these two approaches under a single entity," Lamarque says.

A cadre of researchers dedicated to the task of translating the models into useful projections could also help, says Angeline Pendergrass, a climate scientist at Cornell University who helped develop one technique for weighting the model results by their accuracy and independence. "It's an actual job to go between the basic science and the tools I'm messing around with," she says.

For now, policymakers and other researchers need to avoid putting too much stock in the unconstrained extreme warming the latest models predict, says Claudia Tebaldi, a climate scientist at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and one of the leaders of CMIP's climate projections. Getting that message out will be a challenge. "These issues don't translate very well in practice," she says. "It's going to be hard for people looking to make some projection of a water basin in the West to make sense of it."

Already scientific papers are appearing using CMIP's unconstrained worst-case scenarios for 2100, adding fire to what are already well-justified fears. But that practice needs to change, Schmidt says. "You end up with numbers for even the near-term that are insanely scary—and wrong."


EPA proposes to hammer oil and natural gas with crazy new climate rules

EPA has posted a massive proposed rule making targeting the oil and natural gas industry, calling it a “climate review”.

The full title is “Standards of Performance for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources and Emissions Guidelines for Existing Sources: Oil and Natural Gas Sector Climate Review”

EPA has included a lot of tricky stuff in how the proposal is made. First, this is what is called a “holiday rule making” which EPA is famous for. The comment period is just 60 days long and it spans the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays.

Second, most major proposals consist of just a few documents. Typically just the proposal itself plus a technical support document or two. In this case there are a whopping 184 different documents, with no time to read them all.

Also while the webpage says that as of this writing about 16,000 comments have been received only 30 have been posted. However it may well be that the others are the junk duplicate green emails that often plague EPA commenting.

A serious early comment from the American Petroleum Institute speaks to the complexity of the proposal. API says this:

“The proposal includes substantial changes from current regulations and includes multiple areas where EPA is requesting comments. We note the need for additional time to review and respond to the proposed rules. Considerable effort will be required to analyze and understand rule implications, and to develop constructive comments. Further, EPA has explicitly solicited feedback on over 200 specific items, all of which will require time to analyze, collect any necessary data, and develop thoughtful responses. A minimum 30-day extension to the comment period will be necessary to respond to the proposed rules.”

API also says:

“With respect to rule implementation, we urge EPA to carefully consider the availability and cost of equipment, labor and other required resources needed to comply with the proposed standards. These aspects are especially critical in setting workable implementation timelines, given the hundreds of thousands of existing sources that may require retrofit, and current well-documented supply chain shortages.”

Why is EPA hammering the oil and natural gas industry, which will cost all of us dearly when these costs hit consumers? Here is their goofy rationale:

“This proposed rulemaking takes a significant step forward in mitigating climate-destabilizing pollution and protecting human health by reducing GHG and VOC emissions from the Oil and Natural Gas Industry, specifically the Crude Oil and Natural Gas source category.

The Oil and Natural Gas Industry is the United States’ largest industrial emitter of methane, a highly potent GHG. Human activity-related emissions of methane are responsible for about one third of the warming due to well-mixed GHGs and constitute the second most important warming agent arising from human activity after carbon dioxide (a well-mixed gas is one with an atmospheric lifetime longer than a year or two, which allows the gas to be mixed around the world, meaning that the location of emission of the gas has little importance in terms of its impacts).

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), strong, rapid, and sustained methane reductions are critical to reducing near-term disruption of the climate system and are a vital complement to reductions in other GHGs that are needed to limit the long-term extent of climate change and its destructive impacts.”

Note the nonsensical alarmist rhetoric: “climate-destabilizing pollution” and “disruption of the climate system” and “destructive impacts”. I earlier wrote about this methane pseudo-problem.

See .

Recent research by Happer and van Wijngaarden finds that increasing methane will have negligible impact on global temperatures, so not on climate either. Methane is harmless.


In short EPA is proposing to hammer our basic energy system with no scientific justification. As API explains: “Our members produce, process, and distribute most of the nation’s energy. The industry supports more than 10 million U.S. jobs and nearly 8% of the U.S. economy.”

This is truly methane madness.


Australia: Warmists versus conservationists in North Queensland

Wind farms wrecking the natural environment

While environmental campaigners like Steve Nowakowski remain committed to renewable energy, a Background Briefing investigation has found growing community backlash over the locations chosen for projects in North Queensland.

Local conservation groups and peak climate bodies are sounding the alarm over plans to build green energy projects in forests that predate white settlement, along corridors bordering World Heritage Areas, and on properties previously targeted for conservation protection, rather than on cleared and degraded land.

If all current proposals were to be approved, an estimated 13,332 hectares of remnant vegetation would be cleared statewide. Around 90 per cent of the land clearing will be in North Queensland.

There are currently 48, large-scale renewable energy projects that have been completed, commenced or slated for Queensland, with some of the largest facilities to be built along the electricity transmission networks that traverse the Coral Sea coast.

These transmission lines provide convenient access to the national energy grid but sometimes cut through ecologically valuable land.

“We’ve got this big wall of steel coming through along the transmission line along the western side of the Great Dividing Range, hugging the western side of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area,” Steve says.

According to James Cook University adjunct professor and evolutionary biologist, Dr Tim Nevard, Far North Queensland is one of Australia’s most biodiverse regions and many of the sites chosen for wind farms are “wholly inappropriate”.

“Biodiversity is the buffer at the end of the tracks that stops the runaway train of climate change from bursting through,” Dr Nevard says.

“Destroying biodiversity in order to have greater amounts of wind energy is a complete oxymoron. It’s ridiculous. So we shouldn’t be doing it.”




1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The elites look at the Native Americans as Serfs, living a subsistence existence in primitive conditions, i.e. their ideal for those who are not a part of their elite.

I use the word serfs because the elites consider themselves to be superior, worthy of all the luxuries and servants to meet their every whim.

And yes, they aspire to be feudal Lords and Ladies and while they'll never admit it you can easily see it in their attitudes and actions.