Climate change strips nutrients from food crops

Fruits and vegetables (Colourbox)

From  A new study has further revealed how climate change is reducing yields and sucking the nutrients from our vegetables and legumes, raising serious questions over the future of food security and public health around the world.

The study is apparently the first of its kind to methodically examine to what extent environmental changes such as water scarcity, increases in temperature and a greater concentration of carbon dioxide could impact the nutritional quality and yield of crops vital to our everyday nutrition.

Concrete is tipping us into climate catastrophe

from The Guardian: …Cement, the key component of concrete and one of the most widely used manmade materials, is now the cornerstone of global construction. It has shaped the modern environment, but its production has a massive footprint that neither the industry nor governments have been willing to address.

Because of the heat needed to decompose rock and the natural chemical processes involved in making cement, every tonne made releases one tonne of C02, the main greenhouse warming gas…

…up to 8% of the world’s, are now sourced from cement production. If it were a country, the cement industry would be the third largest in the world, its emissions behind only China and the US…

…technological change will not alone drive cement emissions down fast enough. What is needed to speed up cuts is a global cement, or concrete tax. Only if the whole industry is forced to pay far more for the emissions of its product will companies shift to cleaner practices…

…The cement industry has transformed the world and enriched both itself and mankind. But it now threatens to tip the environment into uncontrolled warming. It’s now payback time and the industry must respond urgently to the problem it has helped to create.

SEE ALSO: Cement Produces More Pollution Than All the Trucks in the World

I don’t believe the pressing need for decarbonization has broadly reached the construction industry in many parts of the world,” Vass said.

Carbon offsets are not our get-out-of-jail free card

From the UN:  Buying carbon credits in exchange for a clean conscience while you carry on flying, buying diesel cars and powering your homes with fossil fuels is being challenged (ed. note first draft term was “unacceptable”) by people concerned about climate change.

…Offsets also risk giving the dangerous illusion of a “fix” that will allow our billowing emissions to just continue to grow.

Scientists, activists and concerned citizens have started to voice their concerns over how carbon offsets have been used by polluters as a free pass for inaction. Annual emissions have to reduce by 29-32 gigatonnes of equivalent carbon dioxide (CO2e) by 2030 to maintain a fighting chance to stay below 1.5°C. This is a five-fold increase on current ambition.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the first to call everyone to action. “We are still not doing enough, nor moving fast enough, to prevent irreversible and catastrophic climate disruption,” he says.

The climate crisis is now considered our gravest existential threat. Fifty per cent of climate changing pollutants have been pumped into our atmosphere—from power stations, cars, agriculture—since just 1990, and this amount is growing every second.

If we are serious about averting catastrophic planetary changes, we need to reduce emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. Trees planted today can’t grow fast enough to achieve this goal. And carbon offset projects will never be able to curb the emissions growth, while reducing overall emissions, if coal power stations continue to be built and petrol cars continue to be bought, and our growing global population continues to consume as it does today.

This is not to say that carbon offset projects should stop, quite the opposite. We must continue to plant trees and protect forests and peatlands. Renewable energy and energy efficiency projects are critical and offset schemes play an important role in funding and upscaling them. The projects that offset schemes support are vital: trees must be planted, existing forests and peatlands that hold and absorb carbon must be protected.

(ed. commentary:  offsets should only be used for drawing down exceed CO2, not trying to offset continued high levels of fossil fuel use.)

The UK’s Prime Minister just committed the country to be “Net Zero” by 2050 – some implications and concerns

The UK is the first major economy to commit to this goal.

Here a some implications and concerns.  First from The Guardian:

  • The net zero carbon target will require sweeping changes to almost every aspect of British life, affecting our homes, the food we eat and the way we get around, as well as jobs and businesses across the board.
  • Phasing out coal use and bringing more renewable energy on stream are the key planks of the government’s strategy. Gas has become an increasingly important source of fuel in the last three decades, particularly for domestic heating, but to reach net zero it will have to be phased out too.
  • Carbon capture and storage will be needed if we are to continue to use any fossil fuels.
  • There are only about 210,000 electric vehicles in the UK, with about 1% of households using an all-electric car and about 2% using hybrids, so tens of millions of cars must be replaced to meet the net-zero target. Public transport, walking, cycling and ways of working that avoid travel will also be part of the solution.
  • The government has pledged to phase out diesel and petrol cars by 2040, but that target should be brought forward to 2030, according to the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
  • Government policy is key to making the built environment – which accounts for roughly 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint – more climate friendly, says Juliet Barfield, architect at Marks Barfield. “The government must regulate if we want to bring down emissions.”
  • Repurposing and refurbishing existing buildings is nearly always preferable to demolishing and rebuilding, unless the existing construction is dangerous or of such poor quality it cannot be remedied. Concrete is one of the most commonly used construction materials, but its emissions are sky-high: if the global concrete industry were a country, it would be the world’s third biggest emitter. Alternative materials from timber to wool are not widely used, and while innovators are working on ways to bring down emissions from concrete – using additives from coffee grounds to beetroot, for instance – it remains a significant source of carbon.
  • Growing more trees is the key plank of the government’s strategy on land use, along with better soil management – Michael Gove, the environment secretary, has set out plans for the UK’s first soil strategy since the “dig for victory” campaigns of the second world war. Soil is one of the world’s biggest carbon sinks, but can also be a major source of carbon depending on the farming techniques used.
  • Urban trees can also be a vital way of reducing carbon, cleaning air pollution and reducing the impact of climate change by providing shade and health benefits. The government has put up £10m for 130,000 new trees in towns and cities in the next two years. There is no national policy on trees, however, and some local authorities and landowners such as Network Rail have embarked on tree-cutting programmes without clear oversight of the environmental costs and benefits.
  • Ultimately, however, meat consumption must be reduced: moving from a high-meat to a low-meat diet would cut emissions by 35%, the CCC found.
  • Sue Ferns, senior deputy director general at Prospect, says: “We need a just transition for all the workers affected and this means we need to work proactively to ensure that the damage inflicted on coal communities in the 1980s is not repeated.”

A response from climate scientist Kevin Anderson:

  • although on the one hand the Government’s “net -zero” proposal is for the UK to make its ‘fair’ contribution to delivering on the Paris Agreement, on the other it is recklessly pursuing UK shale gas (an energy source that is 75% carbon by mass!). Moreover, it recently celebrated both BP’s new Clair Ridge oil platform, with its accompanying quarter of a billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, and the new Glengorm gas field, adding a further 100 millions tonnes of CO2. To top it all, they plan to expand Heathrow, facilitating more flights with more fossil fuel consumption and hence more carbon emissions (even with efficiency improvements across the sector).
  • the mitigation proposals of Government and its Committee on Climate Change (the CCC) rely in large measure on future and highly speculative Negative Emission Technologies (NETs)[1]. These technologies exist, at best, as small pilot schemes, and often only in the imagination and computers of professors and entrepreneurs. So in reality we are passing the buck on to our children to invent and deploy technologies to suck the CO2 out of the air that we choose to continue to emit today. The unprecedented and planetary scale of NETs assumed by the Government and the CCC needs to be understood.[2] Already the tentative potential of NETs is being used to undermine the requirement for immediate and widespread decarbonisation, passing further unacceptable burdens and risks onto the next generation.
  • against the advice of their own Committee on Climate Change the UK Government intend to rely on ‘international credits’ whereby they can buy so-called offsets from other countries rather than making the reductions themselves. This is typically paying poorer nations to plant trees, change industrial processes, install renewables, etc. Such developments internationally are necessary to meet the Paris Agreement’s climate commitments, but not as a means for permitting the UK’s ongoing emissions. With the UK’s world leading renewable energy potential we should be making the reductions ourselves not paying others to do it for us.
  • the share of the global ‘carbon budget’ that the UK Government and its Committee on Climate Change assume appropriate for the UK, is far higher than any defensible quota. So the UK not only has significant responsibility for historical emissions, but it is planning to take a disproportionately large slice of the remaining global carbon pie; colonialism thriving in 2019!
  • Finally, and based on work with University of Manchester & Uppsala colleagues, to meet its Paris obligations the UK must achieve zero-carbon energy by around 2035; that’s ‘real-zero’ not ‘net-zero’. This requires an immediate programme of deep cuts in energy emissions rising rapidly to over 10% p.a.; such an economy-wide agenda will need to embed equity at its core if it is to succeed mathematically and politically, as well as morally.

Other concerns

  • But the more egregious loophole is the decision to retain the ability to use international carbon credits to offset Britain’s emissions. This goes directly against the recommendations of the Committee on Climate Change, which said only last month that it was “essential that the commitment [to net-zero] was comprehensive [and] achieved without use of international credits”.
  • Using international credits allows Britain to carry on emitting greenhouse gases  while offsetting those emissions by planting trees in other countries or helping pay for low-carbon energy projects. These things need to happen but they should not be instead of cutting greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, they should be in addition.
  • the suspicion that, for all the declarations of a climate emergency, the government’s approach is still incremental, based on making green-tinged tweaks to business as usual, in the vain hope that we will somehow creep towards our target of net-zero.


today’s climate impacts are bad, and they are from past emissions…

From Peter Kalmus:  10 years 6 months 18 days to 2030, when we should be halfway to global net-zero GHG emissions according to the IPCC to avoid increasingly dire impacts.

Keep in mind that today’s impacts are effectively due to emissions from ~decades ago and emissions are rising exponentially….

Technology won’t be the answer to climate change #2

SA:  The excerpt below is from a paper in Science that unfortunately shows how unlikely it is that the world will meet the Paris Agreement temperatures (2C or less, ideally 1.5C).  The  conclusion is that we cannot rely on carbon dioxide removal technology during the meaningful time when it would be most needed.

“Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) cannot be relied on to contribute substantially to limiting global warming over the next several decades, which is the timescale relevant for achieving the Paris Agreement temperature goals. Some scenarios compensate for longer timescales until net negative emissions become possible by allowing for an “overshoot” of CO2 and associated global mean temperature that is later compensated by even greater amounts of mitigation and CDR. However, such overshoot scenarios present a substantial additional climate risk, and it is not clear at all why a continued lack of progress in the present should be followed by much greater progress in the future. Taken together, these considerations make the Paris temperature goals increasingly implausible.”