SOIL CARBON AND CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS
From Kansas State University's:
Consortium for Agricultural Soils Mitigation of Greenhouse Gases (CASMGS)
Charles W. Rice, K-State Department of Agronomy, National CASMGS Director
(785) 532-7217 email@example.com
Scott Staggenborg, K-State Department of Agronomy (785) 532-7214 firstname.lastname@example.org
Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications (785) 532-7105 email@example.com
June 11, 2009
* Cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2050 could stabilize global warming
* Carbon emissions linked to global warming in simple linear relationship
* Nitrous oxide and methane emissions from continuous corn cropping in Ohio
* Soil carbon sequestration in semi-arid environment of Spain
* Industry fears offset demand can’t be met
* Agriculture sector wants Congress to specify types of offsets in climate bill
* Commercial-scale carbon capture projects will take another decade to complete
Cutting CO2 emissions in half by 2050
could stabilize global warming
If CO2 emissions are halved by 2050 compared to 1990, the increase in global warming can be stabilized below two degrees C. This is shown by two studies by German, Swiss and British researchers in the April 30, 2009 issue of the journal Nature.
To contain global warming, and its risks and consequences, warming compared to pre-industrial times (pre 1900) should not exceed two degrees C. Although, according to the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is no specific temperature threshold for dangerous climate changes, over one hundred countries have adopted this “2°C target.” Scientists have used a new probability model to calculate how much CO2 our atmosphere tolerates under these target specifications.
To reach this 2°C target, a maximum of 1000 billion tonnes of CO2 may be emitted into the atmosphere from 2000 to 2050. Roughly speaking, today, around one third of this amount has already been emitted.
“The behavior of CO2 in the atmosphere is best described as a full bathtub,” says Reo Knutti, professor at the Institute for Atmosphere and Climate at ETH Zurich, and co-author of one of the two studies. The inflow of the bathtub is large, but the drainage is small. The CO2 emissions are increasing every year, but the CO2 is only removed from the atmosphere very slowly. To not let the bathtub overflow, the inflow must thus be stopped early enough. “It is wrong to believe that the temperature will remain constant with constant emissions,” says Knutti.
The models show that there is a 75 percent probability that global warming will not exceed two degrees if a maximum of 1000 billion tonnes of CO2 are emitted into the atmosphere from 2000 to 2050. This number seems high, but 234 billion tonnes had already been emitted into the atmosphere between 2000 and 2006. If emissions remain at this high level, or even increase, the budget would be exhausted before 2030. The results show that time to act is short. Knutti is pleased that greenhouse gas emissions in Switzerland in 2007 were 2.7 percent lower than in 1990 but the values continue to be too high: at least a 50 percent reduction is needed worldwide by 2050; the global long-term goal would be less than one tonne per person per year. Currently, some 6 tonnes of CO2 per person are emitted in Western Europe each year, 19 tonnes in North America and 3 tonnes in China.
The researchers believe that the next forty years until 2050, in which, according to the study, CO2 emissions must be halved, will be a good indicator of how global warming will develop. “If, in 2050, we find that our measures have been successful and are working, and if we continue to implement them, we can assume that we are on the right track,” says Knutti.
Global CO2 emissions and warming compared to pre-industrial times for a scenario without climate policy (red) and a scenario in which the emissions are restricted to 1000 billion tonnes of CO2 (blue) from 2000 to 2050. The intervention can limit the probability of exceeding the 2°C threshold to 25%. (Nature, April 30, 2009. Credit: Image courtesy of ETH Zurich)
The complete articles can be found at:
-- ScienceDaily, May 4, 2009
Carbon emissions linked to global warming
in simple linear relationship
Damon Matthews, a professor in Concordia University's Department of Geography, Planning and the Environment, has found a direct relationship between carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. Matthews, together with colleagues from Victoria and the U.K., used a combination of global climate models and historical climate data to show that there is a simple linear relationship between total cumulative emissions and global temperature change.
These findings were published in the June 11, 2009 edition of Nature. It has been difficult to estimate how much climate will warm in response to a given carbon dioxide emissions scenario because of the complex interactions between human emissions, carbon sinks, atmospheric concentrations and temperature change. Matthews and colleagues show that despite these uncertainties, each emission of carbon dioxide results in the same global temperature increase, regardless of when or over what period of time the emission occurs.
“Most people understand that carbon dioxide emissions lead to global warming,” says Matthews, “but it is much harder to grasp the complexities of what goes on in between these two end points. Our findings allow people to make a robust estimate of their contribution to global warming based simply on total carbon dioxide emissions.”
In light of this study and other recent research, Matthews and a group of international climate scientists have written an open letter calling on participants of December's Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change to acknowledge the need to limit cumulative emissions of carbon dioxide so as to avoid dangerous climate change.
The complete article can be found at:
-- ScienceDaily, June 10, 2009
Nitrous oxide and methane emissions
from continuous corn cropping in Ohio
A recent study by David A.N. Ussiri, Rattan Lal, and Marek K. Jarecki, at The Ohio State University, examined the effects of tillage practices on nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) emissions in long-term continuous corn plots. This research is published in the July 2009 edition of Soil and Tillage Research.
N2O and CH4 have been linked to climate change. Conservation tillage practices such as no-tillage have potential to increase carbon sequestration in agricultural soils but patterns of N2O and CH4 emissions associated with no-till practices are variable.
The study was conducted on continuous corn experimental plots established in 1962 on a Crosby silt loam (fine, mixed, mesic Aeric Ochraqualf) in Ohio. The study consisted of no-till, chisel till, and moldboard plow till treatments. The N2O and CH4 fluxes were measured for one year at 2-week intervals during growing season and at 4-week intervals during the off season.
Long-term no-till significantly decreased soil bulk density and increased total nitrogen concentration of the 0–15 cm layer compared to moldboard plow and chisel till. Generally, no-till treatment contained higher soil moisture contents and lower soil temperatures in the surface soil than chisel till and moldboard plow till during summer, spring and autumn.
Average daily fluxes and annual N2O emissions were more in moldboard plow till and chisel till than no-till. On average, no-till was a sink for CH4, while moldboard plow till and chisel till were sources of CH4. Lower N2O emission and increased CH4 oxidation in the no-till practice are attributed to decrease in surface bulk density, suggesting increased gaseous exchange. The N2O flux was strongly correlated with precipitation, air and soil temperatures, but not with gravimetric moisture content.
Data from this study suggested that adoption of long-term no-till under continuous corn cropping system in the U.S. Corn Belt region may reduce Global Warming Potential associated with N2O and CH4 emissions by approximately 50% compared to moldboard plow till and chisel till management.
The complete article can be found at:
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications
Soil carbon sequestration in
semi-arid environment of Spain
A recent study by C. López-Fando and M.T. Pardo of the Centro de Ciencias Medioambientales (CSIC) in Madrid, Spain, examined the effects of various tillage intensities on the topsoil profile distribution (0–30 cm) of pH, soil organic carbon (SOC), organic nitrogen (N) and available nutrients on a semi-arid soil from Central Spain. This research is published in the July 2009 edition of Soil and Tillage Research.
The authors examined the effects of several tillage intensities: no-tillage, minimum tillage with chisel plow, conventional tillage with moldboard plow, and zone-tillage subsoiling with a paraplow applied in alternate years in rotation with no-tillage.
Measurements made at the end of 5 years showed that in the 0–30 cm depth, SOC and N had increased under no-tillage and zone-tillage compared with minimum tillage and conventional tillage. Most dramatic changes occurred within the 0–5 cm depth. No-tillage and zone-tillage plots, however, exhibited strong vertical gradients of SOC and N with concentrations decreasing from 0–5 to 20–30 cm.
Soil pH under no-tillage and zone-tillage was 0.3 units lower than under minimum tillage or conventional tillage at a depth of 0–5 cm. This acidifying effect was restricted at the surface layer and in the 20–30 cm interval, pH values under no-tillage and zone-tillage were higher than in minimum tillage and conventional tillage plots.
These results suggest that in the soil studied, zone-tillage in rotation with no-tillage maintain most of the advantages associated with no-tillage, and present a definite potential for use as a partial-width rotational tillage practice.
The complete article can be found at:
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications
Industry fears offset demand
can’t be met
The Waxman-Markey bill, the leading climate legislation in Congress, will create such huge demand for offsets in the US that project developers will struggle to meet it, sources say.
Even with plans to scale up the UN’s clean development mechanism (CDM) beyond 2012 as part of a global climate pact to succeed the Kyoto protocol, many believe potential for the mechanism is limited, especially with huge demand coming from the US.
“It’s virtually impossible to go that way, which is why the US is choosing another way,” said Lex de Jonge, chairman of the executive board which oversees the UN project-based scheme to generate carbon credits in the developing world.
“Simply because supply is not big enough,” he added. The Waxman-Markey bill allows for up to 2 billion carbon offset credits to be used for compliance each year from 2012. US lawmakers are likely to allow up to 1.5 billion of these to come from foreign projects -- if there is a shortfall
of domestic offsets -- to meet the GHG reduction targets.
The UN predicts around 1.6 billion CDM credits will be generated by the end of 2012. The CDM has generated a total of 289 million credits to date since projects started coming through the system in 2006.
“I’m concerned that in the early years (of a US cap-and-trade system) those offsets just aren’t going to be there,” said George Frampton, a lawyer for US firm Covington and Burling.
Despite running over 900 pages, the Waxman-Markey bill makes no specific reference to the CDM. It says any foreign offsets allowed into the US scheme must first be approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The Waxman-Markey bill suggests offsets generated from forestry projects could meet a significant part of the supply required to meet its cap.
Despite deforestation accounting for almost 20 per cent of the planet’s GHG emissions, the development of forestry offset credits has stalled due to the immense complexity involved in setting up a fair and verifiable system.
“It’s not going to be easy. But avoided deforestation is one of the likely options (for generating enough offsets) and that is going to become an enormous business,” said Covington’s Frampton.
-- Carbon Market North America, June 5, 2009
Agriculture sector wants Congress
to specify types of offsets in climate bill
Advocates of carbon offsets, ranging from farmers to project developers, are making a last-minute push to get language added to the House climate bill that would specify what types of projects would be eligible for compliance.
The Waxman-Markey bill, which was approved by the House energy committee in May, is now being reviewed by several Congressional committees who could make changes to the bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the committees have until June 19 to review the bill so it can be considered on the House floor later this summer.
As drafted, the bill would allow companies to use up to two billion offsets – half domestically sourced and half internationally – to meet their targets. But it does not specify which offset
types would be acceptable, leaving those decisions for later.
The agricultural sector has been particularly vocal about the need for the inclusion of land-use and forestry offsets. One of the strongest advocates for that is the 25 x 25 Alliance, a coalition of agricultural, forestry, business, labor, and environmental organizations.
The following is a June 2, 2009 press release from the 25 x 25 Alliance:
The 25x'25 Alliance today
issued a list of proposed amendments to the American Clean Energy and Security
Act (HR 2454), also known as the Waxman-Markey bill, that the organization said
are needed to maximize the benefits that agriculture and forestry can provide in
the cap-and-trade program outlined in the measure.
“These amendments address deficiencies in the bill, which in its current form does not insure a workable offset program, to the detriment of both the capped sectors and the uncapped agriculture and forestry sectors,” said Nathan Rudgers, former New York state agriculture commissioner and chairman of a 25x'25 Carbon Work Group. “The amendments we propose provide needed detail for a program that can deliver significant near-term biological sequestration and greenhouse gas reduction services.”
Rudgers said that the Waxman-Markey bill must fully recognize that agriculture and forestry are uniquely positioned to deliver a high volume of low-cost offsets, particularly during the early years of a cap and trade program when a quick start is most urgent. And, he said, agriculture and forestry have much to gain from this opportunity in the form of a new revenue stream.
The amendments proposed by Rudgers, a member of the 25x'25 National Steering Committee, address multiple areas within the Waxman-Markey bill, including:
"It's critical that the current legislation be
amended to provide the kind of necessary detail that will insure the viability
of the cap and trade system's offset components," Rudgers said.
To read and download a detailed summary of the 25x'25 Alliance's recommended amendments to HR2454, click here.
Also, see Carbon Market North America, June 5, 2009
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications
Commerical-scale carbon capture projects
will take another decade to complete
In 2003, under the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy, the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) launched the Regional Carbon Sequestration Partnerships, a strategy to involve all regions of North America in its CO2-mitigation efforts. The seven Partnerships represent over 350 state agencies, universities, and private companies in 42 states and 4 Canadian provinces. They are developing methods for storing CO2, as well as creating public outreach documents, websites, and digital data information systems to further the understanding of CO2 capture and storage.
Phase I of the carbon sequestration effort, completed in 2005, focused on such endeavors as gathering a national network of companies, professionals, and government officials to work together to support sequestration. Phase II saw the implementation of small-volume field tests of geologic and terrestrial sequestration in areas found favorable for carbon storage during Phase I.
Phase III began in 2008 and will run through 2017. Large-volume sequestration efforts will answer questions about such practical issues as sustainability, design of wells (for both integrity and capacity), and reservoir behavior with prolonged injections. Key operational issues will vary, because each region has distinct geologic formations, overlying seals, and structural concerns that can affect the safe and permanent storage of CO2. Results from Phase III efforts will provide the foundation for commercialization of carbon capture and storage technology.
The goal of this effort is to have the commercial deployment of carbon capture and storage ready and cost effective by 2020.
-- 2008 NETL Accomplishments Report
National Energy Technology Laboratory, US DOE
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