I have been studying up on the latest climate change research. After seeing a recent TED talk by David Roberts and by NASA climate scientist James Hansen one gets the impression we have been burying our heads in the sand. Its easy to understand how the powers that be are not wanting to change. Many vested interests will see their worlds collapse, they fight this tooth and nail. Change we must and quick if we care to keep living on this planet.
Climate science can be quite complex when trying to be exact, however we need not be exact here. Some simple facts remain. Here is my attempt at stating the case for climate change simply and bluntly.
Our planet is heated by the sun’s radiant energy emitted as white light. This travels through our atmosphere largely undisturbed heating all objects it contacts.
Those objects absorb the light to varying degrees and reflect it back as infrared heat.
Would it not be for our atmosphere that infrared heat would escape and we would freeze. The amount that the heat does escape is limited by the thickness of greenhouse gases (mainly CO2).
The average temperature of our planet is therefore in direct correlation with the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There is a time delay however due to the extreme mass of the oceans. They act as a heat sink taking between 50 and 100 years to heat up.
The CO2 has been rapidly increasing due to our increasing consumption of fossil fuels over the last 50 years. The average earth’s temperature can be fairly accurately predicted by the level of CO2 in the atmosphere so we are going to get quite warm here.
There are two ways to deal with this problem. Mitigation is the attempt to reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere, adaptation is the attempt to deal with the effects when mitigation is not possible.
The one two punch of mitigation by shear size and scope are forests and grasslands. Properly managed they can reabsorb the excess CO2 over time.
Arable land used for agriculture can be managed differently thereby sequestering CO2 rather than being a sizable emitter which currently is the case.
We need to find a way to become virtually carbon free in the US in the next ten years. Time to get off our butts.
Since Mint Creek Farm is engaged in the act of growing food on agricultural land we have been working on a sustainable model that would feed us while sequestering carbon back into the soil as organic matter. Our main gig is to return arable cropland back to perennial pasture with a polyculture of plants. We intensively graze a variety of critters on pasture, moving them frequently, while giving the land a long rest period. Currently we are still on our “first cutting” in hay makers lingo. This means that there is still ground that we have not grazed this growing year even once. We are in the midst of abundance rather than shortage.
Currently the midwest is in a pretty bad drought. We are staring down at significant loss in our corn crop. Some will experience complete loss. Assuming the farmer had crop insurance (read government subsidy) they will do it again next year.
Diversity is a great risk mitigation tool. The only diversity monocultures see are the plethora of chemicals used to attempt to salvage a crop. Its time we look long and hard at increasing diversity in our agriculture as our weather becomes increasingly variable.
When I was sixteen I read “The Limits to Growth” and “The Population Bomb”. Both works took data about our planet and resources and projected them out. As could be expected they were wrong about many things but yet correct on many counts as well. That was forty years ago. Forty years from now will be 2052. What will our world be like?