US Scientific Body Releases Report: What to Do About Climate Change

by , 05/20/10
filed under: Environment, global warming

climate change, global warming, national research council, national academy of sciences, congress, action

In 2008, Congress commissioned a report about climate change by the most important scientific institution in the US, the National Academy of Sciences. The study was (finally) released yesterday in three parts by a wing of the Academy, the National Research Council, saying that humans are most definitely to blame for climate change, and to boot they’ve outlined actions that we can take to reverse it. Congress is calling it the largest report on climate change ever, and it details the need for carbon taxes, renewable energy investment, carbon sequestering technologies, implementation of wide reaching policies and the need to address equity issues concerning who is most deeply affected by climate change.

climate change, global warming, national research council, national academy of sciences, congress, action

Up until now we’ve mostly seen reports that are all about he did, she did. He polluted that, she emitted that. There is a lot of pointing fingers and very little outline of action. This report changes is different. It calls for the United States to step up, take immediate action to seriously reduce our emissions and to become the world leader in the fight against climate change. There is an entire section discussing the fact that the US alone can’t stop global warming by reducing emissions, but we can set the stage for the world to follow in our footsteps if we do the right thing.

The right thing is a lot of things, actually. The report notes that our current business practices threaten our existence. It asks for a stringent national greenhouse gas budget framework into which all further policies regulating industry should fit. It calls for policies across the government that are flexible and make room for the use of the incredible innovation available now and recommends giving national, state and local governments room to use local talent and provide the support necessary to make advancements successful.

climate change, global warming, national research council, national academy of sciences, congress, action

Most interestingly perhaps, the report notes that people of lower income levels are likely to suffer disproportionately because of climate change. Job losses will affect this group as high polluting industries are scaled out. However, job opportunities are likely to rise as green manufacturing increases. The report calls for assistence from the government to make this transition smooth by providing education, training and retraining programs for people in low income brackets.

The report also calls for the US to design innovative ways to prepare for rising water levels, noting that if the globe continues to warm it is likely that our coastlines will shrink. All-in-all this report seems like a great outline for what we as a country should do next. Though, as we’ve seen all along in the fight against climate change the emergence of new science does not a change make. Let’s hope Congress takes these suggestions seriously, passes their recent climate bill and starts helping the world make big changes towards fighting this problem.

+ Read the full report or a summary here

+ National Academy of Sciences

Via New York Times Green

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  2. Erich J. Knight August 14, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    All political persuasions agree, building soil carbon is GOOD.
    To me, in the long run, the final arbiter / accountancy / measure of sustainability will be soil carbon content and the truth of proper land-management and Biochar systems will be self-evident.

    The Agricultural Soil Carbon Sequestration Standard is in final review by the AMS-ARC branch at USDA, which allows Farmers account for their good work.

    My read of the agronomic history of civilization shows that the Kayopo Amazon Indians and the Egyptians were the only ones to maintain fertility for the long haul, millennium scales. Egypt has now forsaken their geologic advantage by building the Aswan dam, and are stuck, with the rest of us, in the soil Carbon mining, NPK rat race, to the bottom.

    In E. O. Wilson’s “The Future of Life” he opens the book with a letter to Thoreau updating him on our current understanding of the nature of the ecology of the soils at Walden Pond.

    Arthropods present in dozens-hundreds, then barely visible to the naked eye, the numbers jump to thousands; Nematode and enchytraied pot worms, mites, springtails, pauropods, diplurans, symphylans, and tardigrades seethe in the underground. Their home is a labyrinth of miniature caves and walls of rotting vegetable debris cross-strung with ten yards of fungal threads. Penetrate microscopic water films on grains of sand, and find ten billion bacteria in a thimble full.
    and Wilson concludes;

    “Now it is up to us to summon a more Encompassing Wisdom.”

    Agriculture allowed our cultural accent and Agriculture will now prevent our descent.

    Wise Land management; Organic farming and afforestation can build back our soil carbon,

    Biochar allows the soil food web to build much more recalcitrant organic carbon, ( living biomass & Glomalins) in addition to the carbon in the biochar.

    Every 1 ton of Biomass yields 1/3 ton Charcoal for soil Sequestration (= to 1 Ton CO2e) + Bio-Gas & Bio-oil fuels = to 1MWh exported electricity, so is a totally virtuous, carbon negative energy cycle.

    Biochar viewed as soil Infrastructure; The old saw;
    “Feed the Soil Not the Plants” becomes;
    “Feed, Cloth and House the Soil, utilities included !”.
    Free Carbon Condominiums with carboxyl group fats in the pantry and hydroxyl alcohol in the mini bar.
    Build it and the Wee-Beasties will come.
    Microbes like to sit down when they eat.
    By setting this table we expand husbandry to whole new orders & Kingdoms of life.
    ( These oxidised surface charges; carbonyl. hydroxyl, carboxylic acids, and lactones or quinones, have as well a role as signaling substances towards bacteria, fungi and plants.)

    This is what I try to get across to Farmers, as to how I feel about the act of returning carbon to the soil. An act of penitence and thankfulness for the civilization we have created. Farmers are the Soil Sink Bankers, once carbon has a price, they will be laughing all the way to it.
    Unlike CCS which only reduces emissions, biochar systems draw down CO2 every energy cycle, closing a circle back to support the soil food web. The photosynthetic “capture” collectors are up and running, the “storage” sink is in operation just under our feet. Pyrolysis conversion plants are the only infrastructure we need to build out.

    For those looking for an overview of biochar and its benefits, These authors have done a very nice job of distilling a great deal of information about biochar and applying it to the US context:

    US -Focused Biochar report: Assessment of Biochar’s Benefits for the USA

    Ultimately we must leave the combustion age behind. Charcoal to the soil is a bridging first step as other energy conversion technologies bloom from Nano and bio reasearch. Thankfully we can do Pyrolitic Biofuels now.

    Oil interest must come to see the overwhelming value of their carbon as the feedstock for the manufacture ( via carbon nanotubes, fullerines, DNA programed nano self assembly, etc.) of virtually all things in the near future.

    This convergence of different technologies will end the Combustion age.

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