Saturday, September 17, 2022

(SEE BANNER, ABOVE) The location of climate tipping elements in the cryosphere (blue), biosphere (green), and ocean/atmosphere (orange), and global warming levels at which their tipping points will likely be triggered. Pins are colored according to our central global warming threshold estimate being below 2°C, i.e., within the Paris Agreement range (light orange, circles); between 2 and 4°C, i.e., accessible with current policies (orange, diamonds); and 4°C and above (red, triangles).

Conservative premiers betray feds with fertilizer disinformation


The National Observer

Days after signing a landmark $2.5-billion deal with the provinces and territories to subsidize Canada's farmers, federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau says she was betrayed by a cadre of conservative premiers. The leaders of the three Prairie provinces, who had supported the pact, echoed a far-right disinformation campaign linked to Canada's Freedom Convoy movement telling farmers the feds were going to force them to drastically curb fertilizer use. 

Details here.

Saskatchewan farmland, new serfdom

By Dennis Gruending

A PinP photo.

A man being described as a “farm czar,” owns 225,000 acres of Saskatchewan farmland. That is equal to the size of about 125 farms based on the average farm size in the province. 

Is that what we want for rural Canada? Story here.


Sunday, September 11, 2022

Nitrogen Fertilizer: New Report Takes Big-Picture Look

A farm fertilizer plant in Brandon, MB. Photo by Larry Powell.

SASKATOON, Sask: The National Farmers Union (NFU) recently released a report entitled Nitrogen Fertilizer: Critical Nutrient, Key Farm Input, and Major Environmental Problem.  The report takes a big-picture look at nitrogen fertilizer, details its many benefits and also its negative impacts, and makes the case for optimizing rather than maximizing tonnage.  

The report examines the path governments and farmers must navigate as we make our way toward Canada’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) emission-reduction commitments.  The report is the NFU’s submission to the federal government’s consultations on its target to reduce fertilizer-related emissions by 30%.

GHG emissions from Canadian agriculture and farm input manufacturing are up by one-third since 1990.  The primary cause is rising emissions from nitrogen fertilizer production and use.  Darrin Qualman, NFU Director of Climate Crisis Policy and Action, commented: “These upward trends in emissions from agriculture and fertilizer are incompatible with Canada’s commitment to reduce economy-wide emissions by 40% by 2030.”

Nitrogen fertilizer is a crucial and valuable farm input that most farmers will continue to use.  But rapid increases in nitrogen tonnage in Canada and around the world are creating problems.  Canadian tonnage has almost doubled since 2006; Saskatchewan tonnage has quadrupled since 1992.  Qualman noted: “GHG emissions won’t go down if fertilizer tonnage continues to go up.”

He underscored the voluntary nature of the government’s 30% reduction target for fertilizer-related emissions, saying: “Contrary to rhetoric from some, governments are not proposing bans or forced reductions; governments are using incentives and cost-sharing programs to get farmers onside with voluntary efficiency measures and rate reductions.  Federal and provincial governments have allocated hundreds-of-millions of dollars to fund these voluntary cost-share programs.  And as governments help farmers use fertilizer more efficiently, farmers’ costs can go down and their margins can go up.”

The NFU report also details lack of competition in the fertilizer sector and potential profiteering. “Record-high fertilizer prices and company profits cut deep into farmers’ incomes.  We can reduce farmers’ dependence and vulnerability and reduce emissions at the same time,” said Qualman.

He concludes: “Defending fertilizer is not the same as defending farmers.  Fertilizer companies prosper when they sell as much as possible.  Farmers prosper when they use only as much as necessary.”

—30—

For more information:

Darrin Qualman, Director of Climate Crisis Policy & Action

(306) 230-9115

qualman@nfu.ca

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Spring forward: Changing climate’s early winter wakeup call is a buzz kill for bumblebees

Biology Dep't. - University of Ottawa

Bee on scarlet-runner bean. A PinP photo.


Climate change is waking bumblebees earlier from winter hibernation, putting the species at risk with impact on human agricultural crops

New research from the University of Ottawa has found the earlier arrival of spring in parts of North America negatively impacts bumblebee survival, which could potentially threaten bee-pollinated agricultural crops and other plant sources.

Published in Biological Conservation, this paper is among the first to study climate change’s influence on seasonal weather changes in relation to bumblebees. Researchers from the Faculty of Science found the bees are not correspondingly shifting their activity timing earlier in the year, threatening their ability to find food sources or causing bees to miss out on them altogether.

“This study represents crucial groundwork for understanding that climate can impact the seasonal timing of biological events,” says lead author Olga Koppel, a PhD student in the Faculty of Science’s Department of Biology.

“Bumblebee survival is strongly in our best interest, as we rely heavily on bee-pollinated agricultural crops, including vegetables, fruits, and even clothing fibres such as cotton. The over 40 bumblebee species that are native to North America provide this invaluable economic service.”

Climate change is being linked to global biodiversity decline and its impact on species is a quickly growing field of research. Climate change increases the likelihood of earlier spring onset and flowering in many areas including spring plants, wild plants and trees. These are a necessary food source for winter hibernating bumblebee queens, who search for pollen and nectar after waking up hungry in need of energy.

Being able to match the timing of floral resources gives bumblebee species an edge. Survival, however, for those emerging from hibernation before the arrival of spring flowers – their main food source –is unlikely and leads to smaller colonies with lower odds of persisting in that area the following year. Bumblebees who sync with the changing timing of spring take full advantage of the season’s floral resources and are more likely to persist over time.

Lead authors Koppel and Jeremy Kerr, a Full Professor and Chair in the Department of Biology, examined the relationship between climate and bumblebee spring emergence in a database of specimens from museum collections across North America, comprising 21 species and 17,000 individuals. The authors found climate strongly explained variation in spring emergence timing in 15 of the 21 bumblebee species.

“This research has demonstrated that bumblebee emergence timing can be biased heavily in the direction of climate changes, which has implications for similar research on other species, as well as for the urgent conservation of these valuable pollinator species,” says Koppel. “This study provides a roadmap for evaluating large-scale temporal responses to climate change for many insects and other animals.”


Friday, September 2, 2022

Fishing equipment feeding North Pacific Garbage Patch  - Canada shamefully contributes its share

Scientific Report 

A small number of industrialised fishing nations are contributing the majority of floating plastic waste in the North Pacific Garbage Patch, reports a new paper published in Scientific Report. The findings highlight the important role fishing industries play in both contributing to and solving the problem of oceanic plastic pollution.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch (NPGP) is a large mass of plastics floating in the North Pacific subtropical gyre (a system of ocean currents). Previous expeditions have suggested that fishing nets, ropes and larger plastic fragments may form up to three quarters of the objects in the region.

Plastic Research at The Ocean Cleanup, analysing the items caught by System 001/B in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, looking for clues on origin based on language and country codes. Credit: The Ocean Cleanup.

Laurent Lebreton and colleagues analysed 573 kilograms of debris (consisting of 6,093 items larger than 5 centimetres) collected from the North Pacific subtropical gyre during an expedition between June and November 2019. The debris was collected from latitudes between 33.0 and 35.1 degrees North and longitudes between 143.0 and 145.6 degrees West. The plastic debris pieces were inspected for evidence of their country of origin, such as language, company name or logo. The authors also modelled how plastic debris may enter the ocean using ocean current data.


Samples of plastic caught in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch by System 002, the most recent iteration of our ocean cleaning system: a crate (with visible Japanese text), eel traps and nets are all visible, all of which originate from fishing activities. Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Although 33% of the debris were unidentifiable fragments, the second largest category of objects (26%) was fishing equipment such as fish boxes, oyster spacers, and eel traps. Plastic floats and buoys made up 3% of the objects, but accounted for 21% of the total mass. The authors report that, for the 232 plastic objects where the origin could be identified, 33.6% (78) were from Japan, 32.3% (75) were from China, and 9.9% (23) were from South Korea. A further 6.5% (15) of such objects originated from the USA, 5.6% (13) from Taiwan, and 7.3% (11) from Canada. The authors report that, according to their models, plastic debris in the NPGP was more than ten times more likely to originate from fishing activities rather than land-based activities. They note that most of the identified countries contributing to the plastic debris have industrialised fishing.

These findings highlight the need for transparency from the fishing industry and strengthened cooperation between countries to regulate waste management on board fishing vessels and monitor abandoned fishing gear in the oceans, according to the authors.

Monday, August 29, 2022

Climate science: Greenland ice sheet to contribute over 270mm to sea-level rise

Nature Climate Change

The overall loss of ice from the Greenland ice sheet — alongside increasing precipitation, ice flow discharge and meltwater runoff — will lead to at least 274 mm in sea-level rise, regardless of future climate warming projections, according to a study published in Nature Climate Change.

The glaciologist team setting up an automatic weather station on the snowy surface above the snow line during the melt season. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

Greenland’s ice budget deficit emerged after the 1980s when it began losing more ice, due to surface melt runoff and ice flow discharge, than it gained in the accumulation of precipitation. However, despite its importance to future sea-level rise, the ability to accurately predict Greenland’s response to climate change is hindered by the imprecise measurements of land, atmosphere and ocean boundaries in current models.

Professor Jason Box taking ice samples standing on exposed ice below the snow line of the Greenland Ice Sheet in West Greenland during the melt season. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

Using climate data from 2000 to 2019, Jason Box and colleagues calculated the committed changes in ice-sheet volume and area incurred by Greenland’s ice imbalance. The authors reveal that surface ablation through meltwater runoff was the primary driver of the variability of the Greenland ice sheet mass budget from year to year. 

In the recent (2000–2019) climate, the Greenland ice has built up a disequilibrium which will inevitably correct itself by reducing total mass by at least 3.3 percent in order to regain equilibrium at a new average snow line in a higher alteration. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

Losses from the ice sheet will already lead to a rise of at least 274 mm in sea level from 5,900 km2 of ice retreat — equivalent to a volume loss of 3.3% — regardless of future climate scenarios.
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The minimum global sea level rise and likely global sea level rise resulting from the committed mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet. Credit: The Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, GEUS

If the high melt year of 2012 is considered to be indicative of normal in the future, then ice loss and consequent sea-level rises could be committed to 782 mm, which the authors conclude should act as a warning for Greenland’s future, as temperatures rise in the twenty-first century.