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The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn't a Technology

The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn't a Technology

Han de Groot

The latest IPCC report does not mince words about the state of our planet: we must act now to achieve global change at a scale that has “no documented historical precedent” in order to avoid the climate catastrophe that would result from a 2 degree C rise in average global temperature. Climate change already disproportionately affects the world’s most vulnerable people including poor rural communities that depend on the land for their livelihoods and coastal communities throughout the tropics.

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Great article but we should not keep talking about just trees. We need to let everything native grow unimpeded. Trees are great but they are very slow to capture CO2 and they store it in the tree structure which can then easily be released through many different situations.

Grass and many other perennial and even annual plants grab more CO2 faster and locks it into the soil. Many of these grasses also have better albedo effect than trees so they reflect more rays than a forest. They also serve the function of grazing fodder and if well managed, creating many jobs, the can help provide the most healthy, nutritious foods possible.

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It is important to note that deforestation is not the only problem forests are facing. Forests, worldwide, are facing climate change issues, too, same as the rest of the natural world. Thanks to a warming climate, forests are changing in their composition and species makeup in ways that we yet to fully understand. Then, too, we’ve all been witness to the increase in fires in the western part of this country as the climate warms and dries, there. The forests that you see, now, if they’re still there in 50 years, will look quite different. As always, nothing in this world escapes a change in climate.

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For millions of Bay Area residents, I don’t need to draw a picture – it was only last November we heard a wildfire fire had “swept over” Paradise. Just gone, in a matter of minutes. Then for weeks our air was clogged with the ashes of Paradise. For many of us, this was transformative – much more so than 9/11. It meant all our lives, from now on, are going to be like this. This is now.

The two most beautiful trees around here, the Monterrey Cypress and Monterrey Pine, are taking leave of us – young ones, old ones, all at once like the dolphins in Hitchhiker’s Guide (thanks for all the fish). The oaks that carpet the foothills are turning to skeletons. I’m no arborist, I’m just a walker, and this is what I see with my own eyes.

I’m not trying to be depressing. I feel it’s necessary to acknowledge the unpleasant aspects of ecocide as we experience them. This is now. There’s also an important lesson: no, we cannot securely sequester enough carbon in trees – because it’s hotter now, and all the trees are quite sick. And because all the surface reservoirs on Earth freely exchange carbon.

Unarguably, the only way to stop carbon emissions is to stop fossil fuel extraction – to recognize that extraction of carbon from geologic reservoirs to the surface is the fundamental crime of ecocide. First, we stop that. Next, we can figure out what to do about the mess we’ve made.

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You are exactly right. Mr De Groot is right to value forests but he fails to see the grass through the trees. Most of the world is arid and not suitable for forests, at least not yet.
Grass, as you say, can sequester carbon much more quickly and can have root systems every bit as extensive as forests. Since their carbon bank is below ground, they are safe from fire. They also support the growth of nearly all the plants that humans use for food. Also, the main focus should not be on the plants we grow, but on the soil we grow and protect. It is the soil, not the plants that ultimately store the carbon safely. Trees store a lot of carbon but are subject to many mortal threats as well as a natural lifespan. It we improve the soil in the agricultural land we have, we can eliminate the need to cut down forest to create more crop area. Save the forests for sure, but improving the soils in our arid grasslands will sequester a lot more carbon as well as rainwater much faster and more securely than forests.

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You are exactly right. Mr De Groot is right to value forests but he fails to see the grass through the trees. Most of the world is arid and not suitable for forests, at least not yet.
Grass, as you say, can sequester carbon much more quickly and can have root systems every bit as extensive as forests. Since their carbon bank is below ground, they are safe from fire. They also support the growth of nearly all the plants that humans use for food. Also, the main focus should not be on the plants we grow, but on the soil we grow and protect. It is the soil, not the plants that ultimately store the carbon safely. Trees store a lot of carbon but are subject to many mortal threats as well as a natural lifespan. It we improve the soil in the agricultural land we have, we can eliminate the need to cut down forest to create more crop area. Save the forests for sure, but improving the soils in our arid grasslands will sequester a lot more carbon as well as rainwater much faster and more securely than forests.

Good comment jneastra. I have a friend who is involved with forestry and reforestation projects in logged areas and burn areas. They are saying they are having hundreds of acres of saplings that have been planted dying off. He said there is always a small % that don’t take but never have they had whole regions die. It is due to the Climate Crisis, either to dry or heavy rain washing out whole hillsides.

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Skyscrapers should be required to wear green hats. Maybe all buildings should have green hats.

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Hang plants out of every window. A family doesn’t have to own land to do gardening.

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I want to see all of the alternative agricultural, silvacultural and aquaponic carbon restoration schemes weighed against each other in detail.

One scheme grows deep rooted grasses. Grasses can have roots 30 feet deep. Once a year an herbivore (a cow, a sheep) clips the grasses off to within an inch of the ground and the roots die back too, leaving the carbon deep in the ground for, say, a gold standard of 2000 years.

Amish farms in eastern Pennsylvania can grow an astounding 6 tons of corn per acre on their carbon-rich soil. How is that for carbon sequestration?

One problem with growing trees is forest fires. How often does all that carbon go up in smoke, coating Greenland’s ice sheet with soot and melting it away? Should we occasionally harvest the wood and cut fire lines?

Peat bogs are powerful carbon sequestration machines per acre of land. Would it make sense to build a few artificial peat bogs? Would it make sense to impound salt water on desert land behind small earth berms and bubble some air through it, turning desert land into tropical marine peat bog territory.

Would it make sense to use a windmill to bubble air into over-fertilized rivers and in the dead zones off the coast of Louisiana, capturing carbon dioxide and reducing the nitrogen overload in these rivers?

Just wondering. We need people to do the work.

Finally, I ignore the person hired by fossil fuel’s ad agency to make irrelevant comments on this comments forum.

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Actually, your example illustrates the point nobody wants to face: that shifting carbon between surface reservoirs may be an essential short term strategy – but to charge ahead vainly while continuing to unearth more and more geologic carbon is sheer madness. Tell me how this truth serves anyone’s interest besides those of children who deserve a future. Who, then, wants it suppressed?

Plant corn in carbon-rich topsoil and much of that carbon leaves the soil, enters the corn, and from there tours the surface reservoirs for millions of years.

We cannot countenance any more extraction of fossil fuels. That’s the first priority. I doubt the article’s author disagrees. I’m just tactically of the opinion that we need to end extraction right now, rather than easing our way into that inevitable necessity.

Kidding ourselves that lesser measures can even slow down, let alone stop the ongoing damage from extraction is likely to be as effective as the Russiagate hoax was in getting at Trump.

It is possible to have arid forests.

They’re not identical, of course. But they can be productive. One of the ways that forests can reduce the need for what we usually refer to as agricultural land is that they can produce what we need.

Of course, you are correct as to the need for other species as well. But the forests themselves become more stable than grassland systems and stabilize the climate immediately around them effectively–with mixed species, including much more than a few types of tree.

And of course there are also some places where other biomes are more appropriate.

But as to desert forests, here’s a particularly good look at how it can be done:

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Excellent article HOWEVER a vital component was overlooked – HEMP!!! Faster growing than trees, uses less water, enhances soil and absorbs more carbon! The article states, “Trees can enhance farm productivity and provide farmers with another source of revenue through the sale of fruits, nuts or timber—all while storing carbon dioxide.” Take note that HEMP absorbs more carbon and is an excellent food source providing revenue as well as 50,000 other products like carbon absorbing car panels, building materials and biodegradable ‘plastic.’ I cry when I see the forests surrounding us here in Southside Virginia cut down to profit corporations when we could be growing HEMP instead! HEMP is our economic and ecological solution. WISH we could get word to this author and the WORLD!

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The fact your saying the best technology is Forrest’s, All the scientific research that’s been carried out and your own figure finding to allow you to compose your article with as many factual figures as possible as well as typing it out and posting it world wide instantly at the touch of button to ensure as many of the worlds population reads it, is all thanks to technology and is also responsible for the progresses that are being made on a daily basis on medical issues and illnesses, not to mention advancements in all industries, climate change may be a biproduct of technology and far more needs to be done with more Forrest’s being planted but like it or not technology is a requirement that constantly helps improvements being made in all aspects of life and in fact helps prolong life expectancy as the less technology we have had in the past the younger people were dying,

growing the other plants present in a forest .many possibilities for brand new economy and employment - ithink we need to consider the impact of raising animals for human consumption though -‘well managed’ an imperative.

soil improvement is the benefit from the green growing stuff ! so interrelated and yet another obvious option for political planners - when they realise they can graft just as much from restoring the planet, we may get some encourag
ing legislation that will give investors security !!??