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.
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?
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'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 (Â£ 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.