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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Scott Staggenborg, K-State Department of Agronomy (785) 532-7214 email@example.com
Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications (785) 532-7105 firstname.lastname@example.org
May 11, 2009
* Scientists attempt to pinpoint source of large methane release at end of last Ice Age
* Fire plays larger role in climate change than conventionally believed
* EPA budgets for Greenhouse Gas Registry
* EPA proposes rule to boost biofuel production
* Agricultural coalition's principles for greenhouse gas legislation
* Climate change predicted to cause forests to lose ability to serve as carbon sinks
Scientists attempt to pinpoint source
of large methane release at end of last Ice Age
Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas. There is a considerable amount of methane stored in wetlands, in deep seafloor deposits, and other locations in the earth’s ecosystem. Any sudden release of significant quantities of methane from these deposits would have a dramatic effect on atmospheric greenhouse gas levels.
A study published in April 24, 2009 issue of the journal Science (“Atmospheric Science: Shifting Gear, Quickly”) examined the likely source of a large methane release during the sudden warming that occurred on Earth about 11,600 years ago, near the end of the last Ice Age. The authors of the study concluded that the major methane increases that occurred at that time were due to the growth of wetlands and the methane releases associated with that, which occurred shortly after some significant warming in the Northern Hemisphere. The methane probably did not come from sudden bursts of the gas trapped in deep seafloor deposits.
This could have implications for current conditions in the Arctic region.
“There are clear analogies with the modern Arctic, especially because global warming is expected to be strongest in the Arctic. Within the next few decades, reduced summer ice cover, earlier springs, and later freeze-up may cause radical change in Arctic wetland and permafrost regions. There was a sudden decrease in ice cover in summer 2007. Very warm summer weather, possibly driven by global warming, has occurred recently in the Arctic. This may trigger new wetland sources as well as fossil and thermokarst methane emissions.
“Could the Arctic be preparing to shift gear again? If a shift on the scale and rapidity of past changes were to happen tomorrow— including intensified methane emissions from wetlands, decaying permafrost, and hydrate breakdown on Arctic continental margins and slopes—then the consequences for humanity could be very severe. Far from the Arctic, crops could fail and nations crumble. It is thus essential to decipher what took place in the past.”
For complete details, see:
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications
Fire plays larger role in climate change
than conventionally believed
Fire accounts for roughly
half of greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and about twenty percent of
total emissions from human activities, according to a study ("Fire in the Earth
System") published in the April 24, 2009 issue of the journal Science. The
authors suggest fire plays a larger role in climate change than conventionally
The authors believe that fire is a primary catalyst of global climate change. They estimate that deforestation due to burning by humans is contributing about one-fifth of the human-caused greenhouse effect -- and that percentage could become larger.
Other research suggests that higher temperatures could trigger a feedback effect whereby emissions from forests will increase due to reduced rainfall and increased incidence of fire and tree-killing pest outbreaks. Increased emissions will in turn exacerbate these impacts.
Fires are obviously one of the major responses to climate change, but fires are not only a response -- they feed back to warming, which feeds more fires, according to the authors.
For details, see:
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications
EPA budgets for
Greenhouse Gas Registry
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2010 budget includes new funding to create a domestic greenhouse gas (GHG) registry and to study offsets. The EPA will dedicate $17 million of its $10.5 billion budget to the development of a registry of US greenhouse gas emissions, a necessary first step toward regulating emissions. The money will be used to fund data reporting, implementation efforts, and measurement technologies, the EPA said.
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said the agency expects to have the details of the registry finalized by the end of the year. In March, the EPA unveiled a reporting rule that would require 13,000 installations that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent a year to report their emissions.
According to the EPA, these installations account for between 85-90 per cent of U.S. GHG emissions. The proposal is currently in a public comment period. Jackson said funding for the registry was a concrete step toward regulation of GHG emissions either under a cap-and-trade program or through the federal Clean Air Act. EPA regulation of GHG emissions is expected if Congress fails to pass cap-and-trade legislation.
The EPA budget also includes $5 million to develop protocols and methodologies for domestic and international offsets. “It will prepare us for the future in terms of cap-and-trade legislation,” an EPA official said. The leading House climate bill, the Waxman-Markey draft, allows for up to 2 billion carbon offsets to be used for compliance under the cap per year, although it gives few details on what types of projects would be accepted. The bill would also discount offsets 20 percent, with covered entities having to submit five offset credits for every four tons of emissions being offset.
-- Point Carbon North America May 8, 2009
EPA proposes rule to boost
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule on May 5 that would reduce GHG emissions by an average of 160 million tonnes of CO2e per year by boosting biofuel production.
The EPA launched a 60-day public comment period on its plan to ensure that the supply of renewable fuels in the US reaches 36 billion gallons by 2022, a quota established by the 2007 energy act. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson announced the request for comments on the proposal with Energy Secretary Stephen Chu and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
By 2022, the proposal would require production of:
• 16 billion gallons of cellulosic biofuels
• 15 billion gallons annually of conventional biofuels
• 4 billion gallons of advanced biofuels
• 1 billion gallons of biomass-based diesel
Under the proposal, some renewable fuels would be required to achieve greenhouse gas emission reductions compared to the gasoline and diesel fuels they displace, which the EPA calls a “first.” Renewable fuels from new production facilities would be required to reduce “lifecycle” greenhouse gas emissions by at least 20 per cent relative to lifecycle emissions from gasoline and diesel. Lifecycle refers to the greenhouse gas emissions over the life of the fuels. Corn-based ethanol would not meet that standard, the EPA said.
EPA will conduct peer-reviews on the lifecycle analysis of four renewable fuel categories – cellulosic, biomass-based, and advanced biofuels, as well as total renewable fuel. EPA said it is also soliciting peer-reviewed, scientific feedback to ensure that the best science available is used before implementation of the rule.
-- Point Carbon North America May 8, 2009
principles for greenhouse gas legislation
The following principles regarding any federal greenhouse gas (GHG), cap-and-trade legislation were issued recently by a coalition of U.S. agricultural organizations, including:
American Farmland Trust
American Soybean Association
National Association of Conservation Districts
National Association of Wheat Growers
National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
National Corn Growers Association
National Council of Farmer Cooperatives
National Farmers Union
National Milk Producers Federation
Public Lands Council
United Fresh Produce Association
Western Growers Association
1. The agricultural sector must not be subject to an emissions cap. Attempts to cap agriculture’s two million farms and ranches in climate legislation would be costly and burdensome and result in greater costs than GHG emissions reductions benefits. Greater environmental benefits can be achieved by not regulating agriculture under an emissions cap. U.S. farms and ranches managed by crop, livestock, and poultry producers can provide low-cost, real, and verifiable carbon “offsets” that:
• Greatly lower the costs to society of a cap-and-trade system while achieving real greenhouse gas emission reductions;
• Provide the offsets needed to allow changes in energy production technologies and investments in capitol and infrastructure to occur, while providing market liquidity and low-cost emissions reductions to help the market function properly; and
• Provide additional environmental benefits in the form of cleaner water, air, and better wildlife habitat, while enhancing the fertility and productivity of the soil resource needed to provide food, feed, fuel, and fiber.
2. Any cap-and-trade legislation must fully recognize the wide range of carbon mitigation or sequestration benefits that agriculture can provide. The entire U.S. Agricultural Sector can play a significant role in helping to reduce domestic GHG emissions through a market based cap-and-trade system by sequestration of carbon on agriculture lands, and reduction of emissions from livestock through dietary improvements and manure management. Crop, livestock, and poultry farmers and ranchers can play a significant role in ensuring that a market-based cap-and-trade system will succeed in reducing GHG emissions.
3. Cap-and-trade legislation that makes economic sense for agriculture. Should any cap-and-trade legislation be passed in Congress, we believe that it must be structured correctly, so that the value for farmers and ranchers exceeds the costs to them, their communities, and the US economy, all the while achieving the desired benefits for the climate.
4. USDA should promulgate the rules and administer an agricultural offset program. USDA has the statutory authority provided in the 2008 Farm Bill, the institutional resources, and the technical expertise necessary to create and administer an agricultural offset program that works for production agriculture. USDA has a track record of working with farmers as well as studying, modeling, and measuring conservation and production practices that sequester carbon and that promote appropriate manure management and nutrient application on agricultural lands. USDA should be given adequate flexibility in implementing the offset program that allows them to account for new technologies and practices that emerge, which result in emission reductions from agricultural sources.
5. The use of domestic offsets must not be artificially limited. Current estimates predict that agricultural and forestry lands can help to reduce up to 20% of US GHG emissions on an annual basis. Therefore, we believe it is unwise and market distorting to place an artificial cap on the amount of domestic offsets a covered entity can use to meet its yearly obligations. Our goal should be to remove as much GHG from the atmosphere as possible. Artificial caps will prevent legitimate carbon sequestration, livestock methane capture, and manure gasification projects from occurring.
6. Establish carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas mitigation rates based on science. It is scientifically proven that agricultural soils sequester carbon. In fact, technologies are available to effectively measure soil carbon content. Sound and accurate measurements exits as to the amount of methane captured and destroyed in anaerobic digesters. USDA should quickly implement provisions of the recently enacted 2008 Farm Bill that directs them to develop guidelines and protocols related to farmer, rancher and forestland owner participation in greenhouse gas offsets markets. USDA has already developed a properly constructed science based model that includes statistically relevant random field measurements to help maximize agriculture’s offset credits for carbon sequestration.
7. Any cap and trade legislation must provide an initial list of project types that are eligible agricultural offsets. Both the regulated community and agricultural sector need assurances that agricultural offsets will be available to lower costs of a climate change program. The regulated community needs to know that a sufficient quantity of offsets will be available for purchase so that they can comply with a mandatory cap. The agricultural sector needs to know which project types Congress considers to be eligible as agricultural offsets in order to assess the full impact of cap-and-trade legislation on agriculture. An initial, non-exhaustive list of project types in the legislation itself is critical to addressing these concerns. Shifting the burden of making these decisions to an entity other than Congress generates uncertainty that should be avoided.
8. Recognize early actors. Agriculture is always evolving. As technologies and practices improve, farmers are converting to alternative tillage practices such as no-till or ridge-till. They are reducing fertilizer application rates and enhancing crop uptake of fertilizer nutrients. Some livestock producers are able to use methane digesters and invest in covers for manure storage or treatment facilities while others are able to reduce enteric emissions with dietary modifications. Producers that have taken these steps should not be disadvantaged by being excluded from compensation for future offsets that occur as a result of these ongoing efforts.
9. Stackable credits. Many practices undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions will provide additional public benefits, such as clean water, wildlife habitat, and reduced soil erosion. Projects participating in a greenhouse gas offset market should not be excluded from also participating in other markets for environmental services that currently exist or may arise in the future. Allowing producers to “stack” credits will maximize the economic viability of carbon sequestration and manure management projects, ensuring more projects are undertaken and synergies with other environmental priorities are developed. In addition, new climate programs should complement existing conservation programs within the Farm Bill.
For details, see:
Climate change predicted to cause forests
to lose ability to serve as carbon sinks
Climate change may have a devastating effect on the world’s forests, according to a report formally released at the UN-Headquarters in New York on April 22, during the latest session of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF). The report presents the state of scientific knowledge regarding the current and projected future impacts of climate change on forests and people along with options for adaptation.
After an exhaustive study by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO)-led Collaborative Partnership on Forests-Global Forest Expert Panel on Adaptation of Forests to Climate Change, the conclusions that have been made are:
The complete report can be found at: http://www.iufro.org/science/gfep/
-- Steve Watson, CASMGS Communications
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