Last month our Environmental Progress News focused on the impacts of climate change. This month we are looking at what is triggering global warming, and causing drastic changes to our climate.
There is no question about the damage excess carbon in the atmosphere (known as CO2) is causing. We have identified the problem, now we need to enact a solution. Would it surprise you to learn the cause of the problem may also be the solution as well?
What is carbon? Carbon is the most important element to life. Without this element, life as we know it would not exist. Every living organism contains carbon. This short video sums up the carbon cycle, and how it can be a solution to our climate crisis.
“We cannot hope to either understand or to manage the carbon in the atmosphere unless we understand and manage the trees and the soil too.” ~ Freeman Dyson
Basically, there are three main areas that contribute to our carbon imbalance.
- Overuse of fossil fuel
- Poor Agricultural Practices
Fossil fuels are literally fossil carbon from millions of years ago. When we dig it up or drill for it, we are bringing it into our era, our world and adding to our supply of atmospheric carbon. It is in this way that it becomes a problem. For us, it is “new” carbon. When we use it to generate energy it produces additional greenhouse gases. We have become dependent on energy, for our homes, our cars, our workplaces, and we don’t want to give up the convenience energy provides in our daily lives.
And we shouldn’t have to. No one is asking us to go back to the caveman days and stop using energy.
We just need to be smart about it.
Solution – The Smart Way
Renewable energy sources are not carbon-based materials. They are derived from sources that nature constantly replenishes, such as the sun, wind and water. What we need to do is continue to develop and adopt green, sustainable energy.
The biggest distinction between renewables and fossil fuels is that renewables do not produce greenhouse gases when used to produce energy, which is why renewable sources are referred to as sustainable ‘green energy’.
Big money is invested in oil, but slowly the big companies are coming around to see the potential in renewable energy, and are beginning to invest in developing new sources of revenue through renewables. But in the end, it is the money that matters. Oil firms are becoming aware that green energy is a long term investment, which would not yield immediate monetary benefits.
What You Can Do? Reduce!
Not everyone can afford to go out and buy a solar system for their home, or an environmentally friendly car. What you can do is consume less fossil based energy. Conserve energy at home and the office, get out and walk, ride your bike, take public transportation when possible.
- Reduce meat consumption – The petrochemical and land requirements of producing meat are huge.
- Reduce fertilizer and pesticide use, both are energy intensive, and harmful to the environment. Switch to natural organic.
- Reduce plastic use, improve your recycling habits, find more ways to reuse plastic.
These may seem like small steps, and they are, but when everyone works towards reducing their carbon footprint it matters.
Deforestation is the clearing of Earth’s forests on a massive scale. Farmers looking for more land for crops and grazing, logging companies harvesting wood, developers creating urban sprawl as land is developed for new dwellings, raging forest fires, all contribute to deforestation.
Live, healthy trees play a critical role in absorbing the greenhouse gases that fuel global warming. Fewer forests means larger amounts of greenhouse gases enter the atmosphere, contributing to an increased speed and severity of global warming.
Careful management of our forest resources is needed to make sure forest environments remain intact. An important step is to eliminate clear-cutting. The cutting that does occur should be balanced by planting young trees.
We also need to improve forest management of decaying, dead trees. Once a tree dies it is no longer capturing carbon, in fact it is now emitting the carbon it has stored, which contributes to global warming. It also acts as kindling which can contribute to raging forest fires. Pyrolyzing dead trees and turning them into biochar would be the proper land management to ensure strong healthy forests.
What You Can Do
The number of new tree plantations is growing each year, but their total still equals a tiny fraction of what was once the Earth’s forested land. Forests provide us a natural carbon sink hole, absorbing the carbon that we put into the atmosphere. We need to build up our forests by increasing the number of trees. You can help by planting a tree!
Get the kids involved, organize their schools to plant shade trees in playgrounds, near buildings, they can plant trees at home, they can help to organize tree planting programs in local parks and along hot local streets. In all of these, besides providing a carbon sink, they help reduce the use of fossil fuels because they reduce the cost of cooling and reduce the “heat sink” effect of exposed asphalt.
If you are not able to plant one, make a donation to one of the many nonprofits that are out there replanting our forests. You can plant a tree for $1 through One Tree Planted, for example. Or find a local organization and get involved, either through a financial donation or getting your butt off the couch and actually doing something, like planting a tree!
Poor agricultural practices contribute to global warming two distinct ways. First, clearing land through slash and burn to make way for grazing pastures or more farmland for planting crops. Secondly, poor farmers see no alternative to removing their crop waste after harvest than open field burning.
Both practices contribute greatly to global warming, releasing vast amounts of CO2 into our atmosphere. For those of us unfortunate enough to live within farming communities, we suffer the immediate consequences of the haze and pollution.
What needs to change is the method of clearing land and removing crop waste. Pyrolysis, a thermal process which degrades organic material without the use of oxygen, turns biomass waste into biochar, a smokeless process that creates a valuable end product that sequesters carbon, and provides a rich organic soil amendment that helps improve soil.
Warm Heart Environmental Program has spent many years researching and developing “biochar ovens” that are affordable for the poorest farmer, and efficient at reducing the smoke and haze.
Converting biomass waste into biochar is not a new concept, it is an old process that is now becoming more popular around the world, as people begin to recognize it as a valuable tool to reducing greenhouse gases, and a logical and profitable way to cool off the earth.
What You Can Do
Learn more about biochar and the positive impact it can have on reversing global warming, and become a proponent.
People and towns generally burn leaves or compost them. Both produce lots of methane and NOx. Instead, convert the biomass waste to biochar, it will help cut fertilizer costs and pollution.
The world’s population is growing and the amount of arable land is shrinking, which leads to the intensification of poor agricultural practices or the cutting of lots more forests. Instead of clear cutting or intensive agriculture, we can increase arable land and improve crop production with biochar.
The pyrolysis of biomass waste needs to become the standard with which we manage our forests, our agriculture, even our own backyards.
Use your voice, your vote, to encourage lawmakers and public lands management agencies to make the move towards a cleaner, healthier, and smoke free environment.
You can also help by supporting our educational project “Stop the Smoke” to help the idea spread, well, like smokeless wildfire!