Tuesday, 13 January 2009

"HEAT AND HOPE: TIME RUNNING OUT FOR STEEP EMISSION CUTS"


Jan. 13-'08
by Larry Powell


A large, well-respected research organization believes the world will actually have to end carbon dioxide emissions altogether by 2050 if we want to avoid "catastrophic" climate change and a planet which is "hostile to human development and well-being."
*The Worldwatch Institute makes the sombre predictions in its 2009 "State-of-the-World" report entitled, "Into a Warming World."
Despite all of this, the 47 scientists who wrote the report believe there is still plenty of opportunity for "efficiency improvements" in such fields as renewable energy, farming and forestry; improvements that will "slow and manage" climate change.
While disaster can still be averted, "There's not much time left."
Only with massive public support, political will to shift toward renewable energy, new ways of living and "a human scale that matches the atmosphere's limits," they go on, can such an outcome be avoided.
The Institute fears that past emissions which have not yet affected the earth's average temperature, may raise it an alarming one degree celsius in future, no matter what we do!
It is estimated that nations of the world will need to spend up to $2.5 trillion a year to make the sharp reductions needed and adapt to changes in food production, population and the global economy.
Go Organic!
The Institute strongly recommends the use of organic farming methods on a large scale as a way to reduce emissions. It points out that soil stores massive amounts of carbon, preventing it from escaping into the air as greenhouse gas. Yet the millions of tons of synthetic fertilizers used, worldwide, in intensive, conventional farming, is releasing billions of tons of air emissions yearly. The report suggests a sharp increase in the use of composting, livestock manure and cover crops which "fix" nitrogen, to allow the soil to absorb or "sequester" much more carbon than it now does.
It refers to a 23-year experiment conducted by the Rodale Institute in the 'States. It found organic cropping systems increased soil carbon by up to 28 percent and nitrogen by up to 15 percent over conventional methods.
If the 65 million acres of soybean and corn now grown in the US were switched to organic farms, Rodale claims, 1/4 billion tons of carbon dioxide could be sequestered.
The report cites examples of positive changes taking place. For example, 95 million hectares of cropland are under "no-till" management worldwide. The practice, which is growing rapidly, reduces the release of carbon dioxide from the soil by greatly reducing surface disturbance of the soil.
In Parana Brazil, for example, farmers have combined no-till with organic methods. This has increased yields of wheat and soybean by one third and reduced soil erosion by 90 percent!
In the Philippines, poor farmers working with "landcare groups," have managed to reduce soil erosion, increase fertility and protect watersheds while at the same time, boosting food production and income. They've done this by leaving strips of natural vegetation on their terraced, sloped fields.
On the policy front, the Worldwatch President, Christopher Flavin, sounds another note of optimism.
Flavin says, with a new U.S. administration, perhaps the current world gridlock in climate policy can finally be broken at another key meeting on global warming coming up in Copenhagen in December.
"We can't afford to let the Copenhagen conference fail," he concluded.
All of this optimism aside, this report paints one of the gloomiest global warming scenarios yet.
Most countries which have embraced the Kyoto Accord have set more modest greenhouse gas reduction targets. Few, if any have called for reductions down to zero for the long term.
L.P.
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*The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs.
Worldwatch has catalyzed effective environmental decision making since 1974. The Institute's interdisciplinary research is based on the best available science and focuses on the challenges that climate change, resource degradation, and population growth pose for meeting human needs in the 21st century.
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Please also read.........."Too late? Why scientists say we should expect the worst."

At a high-level academic conference on global warming at Exeter University this summer, climate scientist Kevin Anderson stood before his expert audience and contemplated a strange feeling. He wanted to be wrong. Many of those in the room who knew what he was about to say felt the same. His conclusions had already caused a stir in scientific and political circles. Even committed green campaigners said the implications left them terrified.