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posted by azrael on Saturday August 02 2014, @04:43AM   Printer-friendly
from the burning-stuff-produces-carbon-dioxide dept.

It has long been known that biomass burning -- burning forests to create agricultural lands, burning savannah as a ritual , slash-and-burn agriculture and wildfires -- figures into both climate change and public health.

But until the release of a new study by Stanford University Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, the degree of that contribution had never been comprehensively quantified.

Jacobson's research, detailed in a paper published July 30 in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, is based on a three-dimensional computer model simulation of the impacts of biomass burning. His findings indicate that burning biomass is playing a much bigger role in climate change and human health issues than previously thought.

"We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning," Jacobson said. "That means that it causes the premature deaths of about 250,000 people each year."

Carbon, of course, is associated with global warming. Most carbon emissions linked to human activity are in the form of carbon dioxide gas (CO2), but other forms of carbon include the methane gas (CH4) and the particles generated by such fires -- the tiny bits of soot, called black carbon, and motes of associated substances known as brown carbon.

Related Stories

New Report Calls for "Deep Decarbonization" to Stay Within 2 Degs Centigrade Limit 39 comments

Ars Technica brings us another report on Climate change.

Given what we know about the sensitivity of the climate to added greenhouse gases, it's possible to calculate how much more carbon dioxide we can admit while still having a reasonable chance of staying within the two degree Celsius envelope. What's striking about these calculations is how many large changes we'll have to make in order to get there. According to Jeffrey Sachs of Columbia University's Earth Institute, the per-capita emissions would have to drop from five tons annually (where they are now) to 1.6 tons by 2050.

To accomplish this, Sachs says that all nations will have to undergo a process he calls "deep decarbonization," which is part of the title of a report he's helped organize and deliver to the UN today. Pathways to Deep Decarbonization, prepared by researchers in 15 different countries, looks into what's needed to achieve sufficient cuts in our carbon emissions. The report finds that current government pledges aren't sufficient, and the technology we need to succeed may exist, but most of it hasn't been proven to scale sufficiently.

Achieving this, the report's authors argue, will have to come with a normal pace of economic growth: "There is no prospect of winning the fight against climate change if countries fail on poverty eradication or if countries do not succeed in raising the living standards of their people." Although this may add to the challenge of lowering carbon emissions, the report concludes that "Robust economic growth and rising prosperity are consistent with the objective of deep decarbonization."

The report identifies what Sachs called "three pillars" of emissions reductions: low-carbon electricity, massive efficiency gains, and a greater electrification of transit and infrastructure. (Sachs also added that land use changes could also have a major impact.)

Ok, folks you can't just put your head in the sand and pass this off as Science fiction. Do you honestly believe that the governments around the world will actually do something about this, or shall we just hope for a nice asteroid so we don't have to deal with long term planning?

Satellite Data Shows Livestock Emitted More Methane than Oil and Gas Industry in 2004 33 comments

A just-published analysis of data received from a satellite in 2004 has shown that at least during that year, livestock in the U.S. emitted more methane into the atmosphere than did the oil and gas industry. In their article published in Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, a team of researchers from Harvard University, California Institute of Technology and the University of California studying the data note that such emissions were far higher than was reported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Specifically, the researchers found satellite data showed livestock emitted 13 million tons of methane over the summer in 2004 (the EPA reported 9.7 million tons). They found the satellite data also showed that the combined emissions of the oil and gas industry amounted to 7 million tons (the EPA reported 9.9 million tons).

Unfortunately the sensor on the satellite was unable to show methane amounts after 2004, thus more data is not available. That will, however, change soon as a new satellite with sophisticated atmospheric gas monitoring sensors aboard is set to launch next year. More information on the role that methane plays in changing our climate can be found here.

Australia Votes to Repeal Carbon Tax 18 comments

Australia's Senate has voted to repeal the carbon tax, a levy on the biggest polluters passed by the previous Labor government. Prime Minister Tony Abbott, whose Liberal-National coalition beat Labor in an election last year, had made the repeal a central aim of his government.

Politicians have been locked in a fierce row about the tax for years. Labor says it helps to combat climate change, but the Liberals claim it penalises legitimate businesses. The Australian Senate voted by 39 to 32 votes to repeal the tax. Introduced in July 2012, it charges the 348 highest polluters A$ 23 (£ 13; US$ 22.60) for every tonne of greenhouse gases they produce.

The Climate Institute think-tank said in a statement that the move left Australia "bereft of credible climate policy".

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot said the carbon tax had been "useless and destructive". He says he plans to replace it with a A$2.55bn taxpayer-funded plan under which industries will be paid to reduce emissions and use cleaner energy.

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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @05:54AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @05:54AM (#76662)

    Although I strongly believe in anthropongenic global warming, I am adamant in striving to better myself and decrease my carbon footprint wherever possible. Let us be unlike Al Gore, who did more than any other person to raise the awareness of AGW but whose house uses 20 times the average electricity, and more like George W Bush, whose Crawford, TX home is a model of energy efficiency [] (they collect rainwater and recycle water from their showers and sinks, for goodness sake!) Although Dubya was a vile president, his carbon footprint was the smallest of all presidents [].

    So while I support most liberal causes, I am forced to admit that the fondness many liberals have for pot [] is no doubt another major contributor to the ever growing global warming plight. Although I myself have never used it, I understand that it is a pleasant experience. But I do occasionally drink beer and sometimes even wine. Alcohol, despite the malignant image it has received in the past decades [], is a far "greener" drug. Much of the whiskey industry, for example, is exceptionally environmentally-friendly, since it uses recycled barrels [] in the manufacturing process.

    • (Score: 2) by M. Baranczak on Saturday August 02 2014, @08:15PM

      by M. Baranczak (1673) on Saturday August 02 2014, @08:15PM (#76764)

      So while I support most liberal causes, I am forced to admit that the fondness many liberals have for pot is no doubt another major contributor to the ever growing global warming plight.

      Huh? Pot contributes to global warming, but only when liberals are fond of it?

      I can only assume that you're talking about the power that's used for indoor growing. First, I really doubt that it's a major contributor. Certainly nowhere close to transportation or manufacturing. Second, the reason people are growing indoors is to hide that shit from the cops. If you plant it outdoors, you get free energy from the Sun.

      • (Score: 1) by Joe Desertrat on Monday August 04 2014, @02:26AM

        by Joe Desertrat (2454) on Monday August 04 2014, @02:26AM (#77061)

        "If you plant it outdoors, you get free energy from the Sun."

        Not only that, pot and hemp are environmentally friendly plants to grow if grown in a proper environment. They pretty much grow like weeds. I've seen pot sprout and grow several times from casually discarded seeds.

        Replace all the tobacco farms with pot and hemp farms and you will see a large decrease in the required pesticide and fertilizer use, both are harmful to the environment in use and in their production. Replace most farms growing crops for bio-fuels with hemp and you might actually see a net energy gain from the process, without any subsidies being required.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @06:52AM

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @06:52AM (#76666)

    Climate change is an immature science. And an immature science is immature.

  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by bradley13 on Saturday August 02 2014, @08:40AM

    by bradley13 (3053) on Saturday August 02 2014, @08:40AM (#76682) Homepage Journal

    I actually downloaded the paper and had a look. This is, sadly, typical of what passes for climate science. As near as I can tell from a quick look, the entire results of the paper are summed up in this sentence from the abstract:

    Transient 20 year simulations indicate BB may cause...

    "Simulations indicate", "may cause". The paper makes no effort to verify the results of the simulations against anything. All it does is create various simulations, run them, and use the results to attribute some portion of global warming and global mortalities to biomass burning. None of the results seem to provide any sort of verifiable predictions that would prove or disprove the correctness of the models.

    Ok, let's try another angle. The lead author is an engineer, maybe the modeling techniques themselves are innovative contributions to the field of modeling? Let's look at the descriptions of the models:

    In the first (Sim1), all processes were accounted for. In the second (Sim2), all processes except absorption..."

    That's the kind of information we have on the "1D" modeling techniques. For the "3D" models, we know a few of the parameters (example: "14 size bins ranging from 2nm to 50um"), but the models themselves are not described, and their direct results are not verified against reality.

    So...exactly what results does this paper contribute to scientific knowledge?

    Everyone is somebody else's weirdo.
    • (Score: 1, Troll) by Hairyfeet on Sunday August 03 2014, @01:00AM

      by Hairyfeet (75) <reversethis-{moc ... {8691tsaebssab}> on Sunday August 03 2014, @01:00AM (#76819) Journal

      I may get hate for saying this but this is why ALL so called "science" on BOTH sides of the AGW debate needs to be taken with a mountain of salt! On the one side you have the big oil and coal with THEIR billions of dollars at stake and on the other you have Rev Al Gore (who is in bed with Goldman Sachs who have a really nice scam set up for cap and trade []) which will make rev Al and GS several billion dollars in government mandated taxes through carbon credits so BOTH sides have every reason to use bogus figures, dodgy science, and outright bullshit to get their agenda passed...after all if YOU were gonna get billions if AGW legislation landed on side A of the fence wouldn't YOU do everything possible to get it to land on A?

      I have to say that at least we did learn something from Climategate and the attempts to silence debate by using politically charged doublespeak like "deniers" and "truthers" and that is that scientists at the end of the day are gonna care more about that grant money and where their next check is gonna come from (just like everybody else on the planet, shock!) than they are gonna care about making bogus science. For years we had this image of science left over from the 1950s, of scientists in lab coats that "only care about finding the truth!" and to hell with the consequences....look I'm not saying all scientists are hacks, I'm saying they are human and like every human whose last name isn't Gates or Buffet they have to worry about pissing off the guys writing the checks as do we all.

        So what we need to be doing is pointing out when they throw up articles like TFA based on "Simulations indicate", "may cause" dodgy science. because if its one thing we should all know by now its that these long term climate models are just not really useful for anything other than "what if" games and that all it takes is tweaking a single itty bitty variable in one of these to get wildly different results. If you wanna believe in one side or the other in the AGW debate? Fine just make sure you are basing your belief on a solid foundation and not junk science.

      ACs are never seen so don't bother. Always ready to show SJWs for the racists they are.
  • (Score: 1) by Horse With Stripes on Saturday August 02 2014, @11:43AM

    by Horse With Stripes (577) on Saturday August 02 2014, @11:43AM (#76697)

    "We calculate that 5 to 10 percent of worldwide air pollution mortalities are due to biomass burning,"

    Aren't people using fireplaces, burning leaves, trash, etc also part of this "5 to 10 percent"?

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @12:26PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 02 2014, @12:26PM (#76699)

      This whole talk of the "5 to 10 percent" is a shameful misdirection aimed with minimizing the media's coverage of the 1%. In 21st century America, the 1% is not simply hoarding most of the nation's capital and assets [], it also uses most of the country's natural resources. In other words, through their factories, importation of foreign goods and H1B workers [], the "top" 1% is responsible for most of the pollution north to Mexico []. Ask yourself, how many young urban professionals have fireplaces? How much trash do the underprivileged classes create? How many leaves does the country's most oppressed socio-economic group, the American woman, burn?

      Keep in mind that all mention of the 5% as somehow exploiting the average American is simply part of a widespread campaign to vilify one of black America's most important socially aware groups []. It is not surprising that much of the mainstream "media" has tried to label them as "muslim", painting them with the same brush as so-called "terrorists".

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03 2014, @02:00AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday August 03 2014, @02:00AM (#76824)

        I'm sorry to have to be the one to explain this to you, but not every use of the word "percent" is either a reference to or distraction from the socio-economic repression of "The 99%" by "The 1%." The word "percent," whether prefixed by "one," "ninety-nine," "five," "three," or any other number, does not necessary reference or obfuscate references to any group to whom such a designation has been applied, much in the same way that simple numbers like "eighty-eight" do not always reference Nazism. Sometimes numbers are just numbers, and percentages just percentages. Allowing the transient politics of the moment to dominate mathematical discourse is exactly the kind of thing that leads to the violent (and perhaps even justified) oppression of liberal arts majors by roving gangs of STEM fascists. In summation, I hereby co-opt your social justice movement and oppress your people in the name of 3.141592654 percent. Go check your privilege, because I just de-escalated it.