Posted by & filed under Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Rehabilitation.

We are all pretty concerned these days about the ongoing battle for biodiversity and life on this planet. With new seed regulation in the EU, The Monsanto Rider in the US, the failure to prevent colony collapse of the global bee population, financial crisis, war crisis, humanitarian crisis, and probably countless other worrisome processes not on our radar yet, politics and economics prove to be disabled and defunct in setting off appropriate solutions. We find our society caught in a loop of ongoing cynical and senseless debates about a financial crisis and war on terrorism, witnessing billions if not trillions of euros and dollars being swapped around the globe, but knowing that these wasted energies won’t be able serve us any solution.

Amidst all these mind consuming and wasteful atrocities being played out against all species on this planet, we are distracted from the one big threat which is still severely ambuscading upon us in sub-visibility.

According to the AMEG (the Arctic Methane Emergency Group)[1] The Arctic sea ice is melting away faster then anyone predicted it to happen [2].

In as soon as in 2015 we could witness the complete summertime collapse of the Arctic ice cap — setting off devastating and irreversible runaway climate change feedback loops.

As we all know, the Arctic ice cap functions as a huge mirror that reflects a large amount of sunlight back into space, thus having a tremendous cooling effect on the global climate. In the case of an icecap meltdown, the missing arctic mirror will allow the water of the arctic oceans to absorb massive amounts of energy which will be fed to the lower layers of the ocean and warm up the ocean floor. Furthermore the ocean floor stores enormous amounts of methane, a greenhouse gas much more potent than CO2, in a frozen form called Methane-hydrate. It could be released entirely and abruptly into the atmosphere through the warming of the ocean floor, and it’s already happening now.

For climate change, it’s like injecting nitrous-oxide into a combustion engine — it’s the turbo boost for heating up the climate.

The situation is of unprecedented danger in the history of civilisation. Humans are not psychologically prepared to deal with such mortal danger except by suppressing thoughts of it. But we, as a human society, have to “get a grip” if we are to survive. [3]

The choice of words here is serious, and it doesn’t seem like we are going to make it until 2030. We have to realize that this runaway climate change is nothing humans are able to adapt to. [4]

We have to realize that we are not getting the smooth ride into a mild and adaptable climate change — it’s not going to be a gradual transition to +3°C in 2100 or so. According to the data it will be abrupt and harsh climate ‘weirding’, into a situation that humans are unable to survive in. We will struggle desperately to maintain and secure our oil platforms, nuclear and chemical plants, to prevent fatal catastrophes. Feeding people with the present, status quo system, will not be possible at all.

“The situation is so urgent that, unless appropriate action is taken within a few months, the window of opportunity will be lost. Adaptation to the consequences will be impossible, as famine spreads inexorably to all countries.” [3]

The Report is from 2012 and they speak of a window of opportunity of a few months, which ultimately means: Now, we are actually already missing the gap.

We should ask ourselves if there are currently any political debates or immediate global actions averting icecap meltdown taking place? The answer is no! The climate summits all failed in their entirety. We are in an ongoing bullshit debate about the ‘financial crisis’ and ‘austerity measures’ all over the place, but the threat of immediate climate change? It’s nowhere on the broader horizon… and this is totally insane.

So what are we going to do? We have to act now and not tomorrow! The AMEG published an immediate “Strategic Action-plan” [5] which proposes large-scale geo-engineering. Geo-engineering in this case means introducing synthetic aerosols into the atmosphere which can artificially create clouds or brighten them up so that they reflect more sunlight back into space. In face of the seriousness of the situation, this technology, also known as chemtrails, might become necessary, if we don’t start acting fast and substantially. But this won’t work on its own, especially not in the long run.

With regard to our current political and economical situation, it seems pretty hopeless. We won’t get anywhere soon if we go on demanding reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, etc. from our political and corporate leaders, because they are more scared about losing profits then being wiped out by dramatic climate change. They will just not let it happen. It’s also a sure bet that we will not find the holy-grail of marketable, climate neutral energy production technologies — which would make Big Oil, Gas and Nuclear redundant — in the next 50 years.

So what’s left if we can’t stop them pulling all of us along on this path to desolation? Is there something left we can do immediately, which provides the possibility of climate change reversal in a short amount of time, and to which the defense mechanisms of Big Money wound not react to with aversion? Is there something which actually would make it possible to allow us to continue burning fossil-fuels for some time, while still saving the climate?

And it gets even more explicit: Is there any measure which does all that but costs almost nothing other than human labour, and furthermore also produces food, while rebuilding biodiversity?

In my opinion there is one thing we could do, astonishingly simple and beautiful, which could prove to be the only solution immediately available.

According to a Stanford study about biofuels [6 ] there are currently 1 to 1.2 billion acres of abandoned agricultural land "lying fellow" world wide.

That’s 1,000,000,000 acres.

Additional to that we have about 3,191,800,000 acres of desert landscapes on the earth.

That’s a total of 4,191,800,000 acres of unused land available and I bet that this is a conservative calculation. According to a "Congressional Research Service" paper [7]
the average temperate forest sequesters about 68 tons of carbon. So again let’s make a conservative calculation and assume that it’s about 50 tons of carbon sequestered by the average acre of temperate forest.

We just have to multiply 4,191,800,000 acres of unused land by the 50 tons of carbon stored per acre of forest and we get about 209,590,000,000 tons of carbon we could store in food forests grown in 10 years, on land currently not used by anyone. That’s 209.6 gigatons of carbon!

If we now put that in comparison to the roughly 400 Gt of Carbon we released into the atmosphere since 1750 [8], this is half of the pie! And just with using unused, barren landscapes and plants.

We all know that a solution to the problem can only function if we don’t threaten anyone’s business at all, that’s just how it is. We also know that a solution must be reasonably inexpensive, because there is no one willing to pay for it. It has to be a win-win situation.

And even if we assume that the above calculation is too optimistic, if we won’t manage to grow dense forest in all these places, 100 gigatons will still do the job for a certain amount of time. It would have a enormous positive impact on our climate, and it would definitely save us from abrupt climate change.

So, many people would stop me now and call me completely nuts. They would probably say its impossible to grow forests in the desert! But permaculture proves them wrong. It’s totally possible to grow food-creating forests anywhere on the planet, in all climate zones.

So this is it… and in my opinion it’s the only viable, affordable, sustainable, and even possible thing we can and have to do to save our asses. It would be the biggest and greatest, and most beautiful project humanity has ever embarked on. It would wind back climate change, bring food to the world, and allow for peace between the people of the world. And it would be a great start for regrowing the rest of the earth too!

It will be a great logistical challenge, and yes it will still cost us something. But the point is that it’s totally possible. So if we want to pull this off, and if we want to survive, we should start to organize immediately.

References:

  1. http://www.ameg.me/
  2. http://a-m-e-g.blogspot.de/2012/09/ameg-policy-brief.html
  3. http://a-m-e-g.blogspot.de/2012/12/ameg-strategic-plan.html
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6KhGoPlahA
  5. http://a-m-e-g.blogspot.de/2012/12/ameg-strategic-plan.html
  6. http://news.stanford.edu/news/2008/july9/biofuel-070908.html
  7. http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL31432.pdf
  8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_dioxide_in_Earth’s_atmosphere

More on problem:

More on solution:

9 Responses to “Reversing Climate Change in Just Ten Years, With Plants!”

  1. Andy

    Maybe you should try and grow a tree in a desert. It just doesn’t work like that. Harsh landscapes grow very very slowly, unless you also want to input a lot of nutrients and water. Also something seems out with the estimates of carbon sequestration. Or the world would have run out of carbon long before fossil fuels were ever discovered.

    Reply
  2. Rosie

    Andy, you are wrong. I have planted trees in open desert and they are doing fine. I agree with Lucas. It is possible, it is the only solution and we have to do it now.

    Reply
  3. Peter

    I don’t think this alarmist type catastrophizing helps the debate. A warmer world may actually be a wetter, more agriculturally productive world. Always looking for the negative angle in relation to any change ends up turning people off.

    Reply
  4. Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor

    Hi Peter. Yes, wetter with more floods in some places, and bone dry in others. Without the moderating effect of foliage, tree cover and humus-rich soils that we used to have centuries ago, the extremes we’ve witnessed over the last decade will only increase in frequency and severity. Some things we should be alarmed about.

    Reply
  5. Aapo Leinonen

    Hi everyone.

    It is good that alarming situation in the arctic has gotten attention also on this website.

    There is one thing that could be done to slow down the melting of the arctic (among other things to fight back climate change of course), which would make a lot of sense: abandoning the International Maritime Organisation decision (made in 2008) to cut down marine traffics’ sulphur emission. Decision would make the highest allowed sulphur content of ship fuel to be 0.5 percent by 2020. Currently the sulphur content is typically around 2 percent.

    Decision was made because sulphur causes health hazards for humans. Still, open sea marine traffic make only a very small contribution to this health issue, while sulphur emissions on the open sea make a contribution – propably even an important one – to cooling the planet, by acting as cloud condensation nuclei. Also, since most of the marine traffic is concentrated on the northern Atlantic and pacific oceans – which are the most important areas for formation of arctic clouds – the effect is even more important.

    So I suggest the we won’t decrease the sulphur emissions of marine traffic, at least not on summertimes. In the winter situation is different, because in the winter clouds can only warm arctic areas, as there is no sun. Also dispersing marine traffic could be wise, to increase the cooling effect. Taking up the usage of sail kites (in addition to motors fueled by sulphur rich fuel) would naturally do this, as the most direct route is not always the fastest one when wind is also used to drive the ship.

    More information can be found from report that can be down loaded for from the link below. I know the writersof report, so if you have any questions I might be able get another of writers to answer or to deliver some answers (both of the writers are pretty busy though.)

    The link for free download: http://www.into-ebooks.com/download/215/

    Regards, Aapo L

    Reply
  6. donald mcpherson

    I appreciate the author sticking his neck out to propose something so seemingly simple and beautiful. Although his data might be somewhat anecdotal and the logistics of planting vast forests would be daunting it could be that this is out last and best choice. A typical deciduous tree like oak produces 70,000-150,000 acorns per year (few hundred year old specimen), birch are in the range of 15-75 million seed per tree. There are more suitable species but this is the first data that came to hand. Let’s raise $ [Kickstarter or local chapters], We can plant trees and let the rest debate this and that. Supposedly 100 billion trees will do the trick. [www.plantabillion.org/] Using permaculture techniques it does seem possible to do this but only if we do it. I saw a talk by Bill Mollison on rapidly transforming some really dry Australian coastline using tree plantings to modify air flow. We are so so smart and there is nothing we can’t remedy if we just start and abandon the idea of waiting for the professional debaters and pragmatic government officials to reach conclusion and consensus.

    Reply
  7. Marianne Green

    Lucas, You are precisely echoing my thoughts of these past two weeks. All other conversations – austerity measures, banksters, conspiracy theories, financial crises,party political wranglings,etc, are becoming more and more irrelevant to me. The one thing that is keeping my head above the waters of despair, is the online PDC course I’m currently doing with Geoff.
    Here in the UK, even in this tiny, densely populated country, I see vast areas of land that could be far more opportunistically used for food forests, agroforestry, and small intensive permaculture food production in towns and cities. Providing fresh, highly nutritious food as well as increasing biodiversity, and providing ecological and production services giving resiliency to climate change impacts. It seems to me the design, the application and the planting is the easy bit. It’s the cultural change, the paradigm shift, the projection of the vision that is the difficult part. Films and videos are a huge asset in this respect. Small groups – U3As, Facebook groups, blogs, sustainability groups, gardening organisations ….. . Just keep showing the possibilities, the demonstration sites, the global PC projects.

    Reply
  8. Charles Arnold-Hearthwise

    There are a rew points which seem to have been missed. Of the one billion acres lying fallow almost all of those acres are actually growing plants. As to the deserts, this is a great idea but I would like to know where the water and the plant matter, along with the fertilizers would be coming from. It would seem to me to be difficult to provide water to the entire Sahara Desert, parts of the Gobi Desert and other areas. Additionally, changing the climate in these areas would meet immediate and rock hard resistance from environmentalists as well as bureaucrats whose job it is to enforce government environmental regulations.

    Reply

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