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The Orphaned Solution

Alternative Energy

“By combining compost with biochar, or feeding biochar to those herds of migrating herbivores, the story could become one of negative emissions — net sequestration — almost immediately, continuing indefinitely. “

Let’s summarize: so here we stand. The ocean is going out, the fish are flopping in the sand. Do we stay and scoop them up or do we run for the hills?

If the problem we have is too much carbon in the sky (and conversely too little in the ground), then the solution is to deprive the sky while feeding the ground.

And yet, for much of the climate change policy community, biochar is still not on their radar. It’s too new.

In 2011 a Duke University study by the Technical Working Group on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases reviewed the research literature to assess the state of knowledge on the mitigation potential of a wide range of agricultural land management activities. They reported:

Out of 42 practices reviewed, 26 seem to have positive mitigation potential. Eleven of those were supported by significant research (more than 20 field or lab comparisons), 13 by a moderate level of research, and two, while promising, have little research.

Despite an 8000-year track record of adding and holding carbon in soils, biochar was among those last two. The other was mob grazing through Holistic Management.

Eric Toensmeier’s book, The Carbon Farming Solution, which is otherwise excellent, falls into this trap, falsely labeling biochar untested and potentially dangerous.

He may draw this conclusion from two seriously flawed (not to say insidiously undermined) studies by the US National Academy of Sciences and the UK Royal Society. Both of those studies lumped biochar under the heading of geoengineering and then assigned it to the same dumpster as all the other already debunked carbon capture schemes without bothering to speak with any actual biochar scholars.

For the geoengineering techno-utopians, methods of atmospheric carbon extraction such as BECCS, air capture of CO2 or limestone salting imply estimated costs of 100 to >570 trillion dollars to deploy, and entail large risks with uncertain feasibility and duration. Among the uncertainties is our ability to muster sufficient political consent to impose expensive taxes and tariffs on carbon emissions in order to justify the economic burden of these efforts. When faced with dire economic environments, the public may simply choose to disregard moral duties towards future generations.

Biochar, in contrast, requires no tax subsidies (although that would accelerate the needed conversion) because it provides enough financial rewards as a renewable energy source and biofertilizer to justify the cost of making it from various woody wastes, most of which are burned away. It is easy to verify — just do annual or decadal soil tests — and easy to perform life-cycle costing because it has been commercially available for many years.

Reframing Biochar

When we use terms like “carbon-minus” or “carbon-negative” we set off associations that immediately cause the majority of us to back away, or to regard the information as detrimental to us in some way. Last week we spoke of the important work on cognition provided by Alfred Korzybski’s theory of general semantics.

Just as an aside, one of Korzybski workshops, in the Autumn of 1939, was attended by a 25-year-old William S. Burroughs and the 36-year-old Samuel I. Hayakawa.  Hayakawa, the nephew-in-law of Joseph Stalin, went on to become president of San Francisco State College (where, among the students he trained, was Stephen Gaskin) and a US Senator for California (1977-83) where he had untold influence on the seductive rhetorical practices of silver-screen-idol-turned politician Ronald Reagan and the Republican Party he led, later catalogued by George Lakoff in Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate.

We know that words that seem threatening, such as those that imply, hard conditions, forced austerity, higher taxes and so on, trigger a denial reflex in the human brain, one which was not possessed by our mammalian ancestors but which is important to our genetic survival. Once we realized that not only is it our karma to kill to live (right down to the billion of helpless microbes in every teaspoon of tofu), but each of our fates to suffer and die, we would go raving nuts were it not for the saving grace of the denial reflex.

So what should we use instead of carbon-minus? We like “cool.”

Cool soothes the brain and chills the endorphins that might cause denial impulses to form. Cool is chill. We are more relaxed, more receptive.

An example of “cool” branding was provided by the pilot Carbon Minus Project in Kameoka City, Kyoto Prefecture, Japan. The Hozu rural farmers’ cooperative, concerned about the overgrowth of bamboo that was destroying satoyama (managed forest commons) began producing bamboo biochar to amend their soils. Using a “Cool Vege” brand to denote the benefit of carbon sequestration, the university assisted cooperative demonstrated impressive success in marketing their produce to climate-conscious consumers.

Nothing stands in the way of the “cool” brand being extended to any product or service that reverses climate change. It is a sticky meme.

4 pour 1000

There are other reasons that good solutions may not get traction that have less to do with our fight or flight reflex. At COP-21 in Paris in 2015 the French government backed an initiative called 4 pour 1000. France had obtained pledges from over 25 countries – and would bring that number to 50 during COP-21 – as well as hundreds of food, agriculture and research organizations.

The “4/1000 Initiative: Soils for Food Security and Climate” was a voluntary effort launched through the Lima-Paris Action Agenda.

“The conclusion is simple,” said French Foreign Minister Le Foll. “If we can store the equivalent of 4 per 1000 (tons of carbon) in farmland soils, we are capable of storing all man-made emissions on the planet today.”

“This is the most exciting news to come out of COP-21,” said Andre Leu, president of IFOAM – Organics International. “By launching this initiative, the French government has validated the work of scientists, farmers and ranchers who have demonstrated the power of organic regenerative agriculture to restore the soil’s natural ability to draw down and sequester carbon.” It positions farmers as the pioneering climate heroes of the next generation.

But then what happened? At COP-22, France still featured 4 pour 1000 in its literature and displays, but it had attracted few new adherents or pledges in the year since Paris. There were no real success stories to point to, no carbon fields waving in the sunlight. Just hot air.

Food writer Michael Pollan, in a Washington Post Op-Ed during the Paris summit, wrote:

Marin County ranchers have found that applying a single layer of compost, less than an inch thick, to rangelands stimulates a burst of microbial and plant growth that sequesters dramatic amounts of carbon in the soil – more than 1.5 tons per acre. And research has shown that this happens not just once, but year after year.

If the practice were replicated on half the rangeland area of California, it would sequester enough carbon to offset 42 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, roughly equal to all the CO2 emitted by the State’s electric utilities each year. Adding an inch of compost to all the rangelands each year would sequester as much as electric utilities, residential and commercial emissions combined.

What is left out of that calculation are the big gorillas in California’s emissions picture: the industrial sector (77 million metric tons) and transportation, most notably the freeway system (200 million metric tons). California would need to convert its deserts to rangelands to get that much carbon locked away every year.

That is really the problem with 4 pour 1000: the math doesn’t pencil out. Le Foll’s goal of adding 0.4 percent carbon to just existing farmlands will not revert the atmosphere and oceans to pre-industrial harmony. Spreading an inch of compost, as Michael Pollan suggests, won’t do it either.

While compost stimulates soil organisms and that moves carbon down from the surface into the root zone for longer sequestrations, most compost decomposes closer to the surface and emits greenhouse gases in the process. That is just the labile carbon cycle, get used to it.

Holistic Management

There is also this problem in Allan Savory’s chemistry. When those advocating Holistic Management, after the fashion of the Savory Institute and others, claim that they can build deep carbon in soils by mob grazing on rotational pastureland, they are speaking of labile carbon. Labile carbon never stops going around. More ominously, climate warming accelerates soil outgassing. One of the standard nightmare scenarios that could even be playing out as we write this involves long-stored labile carbon in swamps, peat bogs, grassy plains and permafrost that may be liberated in one enormous carbon pulse that sends Earth’s atmosphere to something akin to that of Venus in a very short time.

Personally we love compost, dung beetles and mob grazing. Compost is the nearest farming gets to a cure-all: it holds the key to recovering dead and damaged soils. It’s cheap and easy, works anywhere, and once it has time to do its magic, any of the common problems of farming and gardening go away. Plants get healthier, animals get stronger, and societies become more secure. Our foods become more abundant, disease-resistant and nutritionally dense.

Compost can be seen as the basic food supply of any garden. It provides a circular economy. It closes the loop between human uses and what gets left afterwards. It supplies the microbial decomposers, re-arrangers and transporters who turn wastes back into resources and deliver them in forms and on schedules that plants need.

But if you are a microbe or a dung beetle, you need more than food. You also need shelter. You need a habitat that helps you survive and encourages you to thrive. And if you are a climate scientist, or just someone concerned with rapid warming of the planet, you are looking for a real solution — something capable of rebalancing the various carbon stores between land, ocean and atmosphere.

And that’s where biochar comes in.

The Coalition on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (C-AGG) is a multi-stakeholder coalition whose participants include 150 organizations including agricultural producers and producer groups, scientists, environmental NGO’s, carbon market developers, methodology experts, and investors, and other proponents of voluntary agricultural GHG mitigation opportunities and benefits. According to their website:

Despite the critical and pivotal role the agricultural sector can play in climate change mitigation and adaptation, climate change policies and programs are largely directed at point-source emissions reductions activities and approaches. Agricultural and land use GHG mitigation opportunities pose a different set of challenges that require different approaches more appropriate to the sector. Diversity and change are inherent characteristics of agricultural systems.

C-AGG attempts to tap the enormous potential for carbon sequestration in soils by

  • Developing appropriate incentives, tools, and decision support systems to scale sustainable agriculture and climate change solutions
  • Achieving agreement on monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) frameworks and metrics to quantify greenhouse gas emissions and ecosystem services
  • Supporting asset value generation for sustainably managed landscapes and development of thriving carbon and ecosystem service markets and results-based payments

Once you begin to measure whether and when what happens in the soil stays in the soil, some conclusions become unavoidable.

The recalcitrant carbon cycle — biomass to biochar — locks carbon up for thousands to millions of years. While useful to stimulate the soil biology, it has the added benefit of holding more oxygen and water, which better mitigates the damage of extreme weather. It also helps the nitrogen cycle, another thing that is seriously out of balance but seldom mentioned.

By combining compost with biochar, or feeding biochar to those herds of migrating herbivores, the story could become one of negative emissions — net sequestration — almost immediately, continuing indefinitely.

And that’s where fake news comes in.

We encountered critics of biochar even before we wrote The Biochar Solution. The loudest of them is Biofuelwatch, an organization we previously respected but no longer do because they are tone deaf to serious and friendly correctives. Because they are close with many social justice, ecology and indigenous rights organizations, their completely irrational proclamations against biochar have been picked up by many in the environmental community and repeated as if they had not already been shown to be not merely without merit, but ridiculous.

In our book we discussed the critics’ arguments that we thought had some merit – such as the temptation for large landowners to monocrop genetically modified plantations of fast-growing trees to make biochar for carbon credits — and what could be done to require biochar to be produced more responsibly. Indeed, the word “biochar” should itself connote ecologically responsible sourcing and production, in much the same way that “biodynamic” cannot be used by food growers who don’t follow the rules.

But the outlandish claims by Biofuelwatch, repeated loudly and frequently — statements like “No matter how it is done, or what is burned, combustion creates pollution,” “soil carbon is not so much determined by the molecular structure of the carbon itself, but rather by surrounding soil ecosystem properties,” or “pyrolysis is difficult to control and remains largely unproven for commercial application” continue to find traction both in the alternative media and in policy reviews.

These spurious arguments continue to engage a series of very public but false debates. They happen at high profile events and in respected journals but they are false in the sense that those arguing for biochar are using science — laboratory testing, review and re-testing in the real world — while those arguing against are using only polemic, and will not waiver from patently absurd, well-disproven claims even when backed into a corner.

Biofuelwatch’s Rachel Smolker occasionally gets it right, as when she argued:

Forests, soils, ecosystems all are far more than agglomerations of carbon. They are intricate, multidimensional, interconnected, and complex beyond our imaginings and hence beyond our ability to measure, manipulate, and control.

But she is arguing as much against science as against biochar. She is arguing against extending the human ability to measure, manipulate, and control.

In that, she may not be far wrong.

These previous essays have laid out the different dimensions of our problem: a runaway climate threatening near term human extinction; a mode of social organization in conflict with fixed biophysical limits; trusted authorities failing to get it right; confirmation and normalcy bias obscuring our vision; and orphaned solutions sitting it out while the clock ticks. In our next post we will begin to explore a way out of this swamp.

This post is part of an ongoing series we’re calling The Power Zone Manifesto. The next installment, the introduction to Book Two: The Solution, appears next week. We post to The Great Change on Sunday mornings and 24 to 48 hours earlier for the benefit of donors to our Patreon page.

The Great Change by Albert Bates

35 Comments on "The Orphaned Solution"

  1. Cloggie on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 8:43 am 

    If you can put it in, you can put it out again.

    Grow a lot of vegetation, mow it, put it on a heap and after 6 months sell it as compost, rather than burn it.

    Problem solved.

  2. Davy on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 9:56 am 

    Too little too late and the story of all such ideas we see periodically as carbon solutions. The scale of these kinds of geoengineering dynamics is a fantasy in size and timing. You can’t create a subsystem of a carbon system like our current civilization and clean it up from within. The subsystem of the greater system would have to be bigger than the system itself to even begin to reverse what has been done. We would need to eliminate almost all other activities besides agriculture. Agriculture would need to be made into one enormous permaculture back to the land effort. All large cities would need to be depopulated in what would surely turn out to be a Pol Pot style “killing fields”. Population would have to drop by half to a tenth before any hope of change could be scaled.

    If you admit to failure and the coming end of modern civilization then that is where these ideas bear fruit. These are marvelous ideas for a society in decline along with thousands of others that provide niches to get an edge on decline. Doing the same of what got us here is slow suicide. Slow suicide is the status quo. Biodynamics has some great localized applications but is insignificant in the bigger picture in my mind. That doesn’t not mean it is irrelevant in many localized efforts.

  3. penury on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 10:12 am 

    Apparently the establishment has discovered Climate change. This is the second article I have read this morning which demonstrates the fear and stupidity of our University thinkers. First was: to thicken Arctic ice we should build windmills to spray the ice cap with water yo increase the thickness of the ice, now this. When these types of stupidity each start being released at the same times you know fear has rep;aced thinking.

  4. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 11:04 am 

    Someone give me a heads up when even one, just one, of these schemes is implemented on a scale that makes a dent.

    In the meantime, reality marches on not at all concerned about the hopes and dreams of the puny humans.

    The hottest EVER! Heat records smashed as Sydney temperatures hit 47C and desperate residents flock to the beach for relief

    Sydney suffered through its hottest day ever as temperatures climbed to 47C in the outher suburbs

    Thousands flocked to the world famous Bondi Beach where temperatures reached a comparatively mild 35C

    Temperatures will cool to around 23C overnight, but fire authorities said the real test lay ahead

    Firefighters battled 53 fires across New South Wales, 16 of which are not contained

    A combination of high pollution and scorching temperatures is potentially deadly, authorities said

    Queensland weather: South-east residents swelter as temperature records tumble

    “”We’ve seen a number of records fall and they should continue to fall this afternoon,” he said.”

  5. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 11:07 am 

    Humans causing climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces

    Researchers behind ‘Anthropocene equation’ say impact of people’s intense activity on Earth far exceeds that of natural events spread across millennia

    “The authors of the paper wrote that for the past 4.5bn years astronomical and geophysical factors have been the dominating influences on the Earth system. The Earth system is defined by the researchers as the biosphere, including interactions and feedbacks with the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere and upper lithosphere.

    But over the past six decades human forces “have driven exceptionally rapid rates of change in the Earth system,” the authors wrote, giving rise to a period known as the Anthropocene.

    “Human activities now rival the great forces of nature in driving changes to the Earth system,” the paper said.”

  6. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 11:12 am 

    February 11, 2017: A gazillion high temperature records broken today in the US

  7. Cloggie on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 11:39 am 

    “Logic” applied by the local weatherman here:

    the beginning of temperature recording was somewhere between 38-70 years ago. The temperatures recorded 38-70 years ago are for all eternity the norm and any degree above these random temperatures is a clear indication that we’re F*, F*, F*!!!! libtard Friday in his own estimation the right to call everybody a “cancer monkey”, except himself of course, some restrictions do apply.

    Where he himself, according to his own standards, is the largest “cancer monkey” of them all, as he worked as a blue collar worker in the Alberta oil patch.

    You’re full of shit Friday.

  8. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 11:54 am 

    clog, is lonely. Ain’t that why you keep playing climate contrarian? Knowing it will always garner some attention? Why it’s practically foolproof. Sad old man.

  9. Cloggie on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 12:35 pm 

    clog, is lonely. Ain’t that why you keep playing climate contrarian? Knowing it will always garner some attention? Why it’s practically foolproof. Sad old man.

    You know nothing about me. You’re diverting attention away from your shaky climate business by applying ad hominems.

    Back on topic: you have once described the rationale of your existence as “someone who is teaching the internet masses about climate change.”
    (the weirdo with the hat, that’s you Friday)

    Could you explain to the “internet masses” why temperature records of 38-70 years ago should be the norm for all ages?

    Thanks in advance!

  10. onlooker on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 12:35 pm 

    The climate deniers are looking even more foolish than the techie-renewable propenents!

  11. Antius on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 12:50 pm 

    Cloggie, these libtards are using climate science for their own ends, but that doesn’t make the science wrong. The radiative forcing effect of CO2 is quite basic physics. The fact that we are pouring it into the atmosphere in quantities of billions of tonnes per year is not disputed.

    Looking into the sky, the atmosphere appears vast, a boundless ocean of air. In fact, it is thin diffuse skin of gas. Above every square metre of the Earth there are 10 metric tonnes of air. The weight of that air, is atmospheric pressure. If we could condense and liquify that air, such that it had the same density as water, it would form a layer about 10m thick on the surface of the Earth. That’s about the height of a two storey house. Compare that to the oceans, with are 1.5km deep on average. When you look at it from that perspective, the idea that dumping 10 billion tonnes of CO2 into the air every year might be changing the atmosphere, isn’t that hard to swallow.

    If I seem to be bugging you on various fronts its because I am. I am attempting to lead you and others into accepting an inevitable conclusion. 🙂

  12. Cloggie on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 1:01 pm 

    Antius, it is all true what you say; I have used the swimming pool analogy of the atmosphere long before you honored us with your visit here.

    The issue is:

    – is it really that bad if the average temperature will increase with 1-2 degrees? At least we will be saving on heating costs.
    – while global warming, which is undisputed, will lead to run-away climate change (6 degrees or more)
    – aren’t there positive aspects to climate change (“greening of the planet” by injecting CO2 fertilizer in the atmosphere)

    Here is a video that could appeal to you as a slightly nationalist Brit with great preference for science, at least I did:
    (He admits he has a stake in the coal business)

    Comments on my blog:

  13. penury on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 1:03 pm 

    Cloggie, I will attempt a simple explanation for why temps from early years are relevant. The word in English is average, I do not know the Dutch so you can look it up. The reason an average is used is to prevent isolated events from skewing your records. An average based upon 70 or 80 years of data should be fairly reflective of reality, anytime the average is skewing one direction or another should alert you to the fact that change is occurring. As they hae shown the average IQ of humans has been dropping since the reformation, perhaps it is happening faster in some places.

  14. Davy on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 1:49 pm 

    Clog, I agree little is ever said about the positives of climate change. Part of this is becuase climate change is a sociopolitical battle of a civilization facing a possible end. The alternatives to mitigating climate change are severe making the whole subject polarizing. I am seeing much more negatives than any positives could ever contribute.

    Modern agriculture and a stable economic environment require habitable climate. We are seeing evidence climate is not going to be conducive to beneficial human development. We appear to be pushing man back to the time when climate made cities and agriculture impossible. That is what I am seeing. You lose a great deal of respect appearing to be a denier.

  15. Wildbourgman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 2:05 pm 

    “Humans causing climate to change 170 times faster than natural forces”

    We are a natural force and if we screw up everything(for us) that outcome of that will be natural. We are only animals it’s arrogant and mysticism to think otherwise. Earth will change what we do after we are gone, nothing is permanent.

    Now should we change our nature and reverse coarse that’s a different story, if we can that will be natural too.

  16. Antius on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 2:48 pm 

    Clog, there will be winners and losers. Russia will do a lot better than England and Holland, both of which will be largely under water. Anyone living on the coast is going to have to move further in land. Agriculture will exploit land further north as southern locations become drier and hotter. There will be a flow of refugees from hot to temperate regions. I don’t need to tell you all this, you know it already. I will watch your video when my kids have gone to bed.

    Global warming, the depletion of high EROI fossil fuels, global mineral depletion, soil erosion, fishstock depletion, habitat loss – these are all problems that stem from a single source. A growing human civilization, with increasing numbers and increasing material and energy requirements, living on a finite ball of rock 8000 miles wide, with a fixed set of resources.

    Solving one problem always seems to aggravate another. Switching to permaculture type food systems solves the soil problem, but would struggle to provide the abundance of food needed for 8 billion people. Switching to low EROI renewables appears to solve the fossil fuel depletion problem. But low EROI energy combined with a depletion of other high grade physical resources raises the depressing scenario of peak everything – falling living standards across the board.

    The problem cannot be solved if we insist on staying where we are. The human race is like a baby growing in its mother’s uterus. For a long time, the uterus is warm, spacious and comfortable, with an abundant blood supply. But as time goes by, the uterus gets more and more cramped. The blood supply no longer meets the baby’s needs as comfortably as it once did. What is the solution? Should the baby switch to an alternative energy source? Should it shrink back to a more sustainable size to mitigate the shrinking blood supply? The obvious answer is that the baby needs to be born. It needs to abandon the comfortable environment of its mother’s uterus, go through the trauma of birth and face the outside world.

    To human race, the idea of being born, of leaving the Earth and entering the wider solar system, is about as unimaginable as being born is to that baby. The solar system is a daunting place, full of vacuum, cold and hard radiation. But like the outside world for our baby, it is a world of unimaginable new opportunities, new resources, new worlds, entirely new perspectives. It is also unavoidable if we want to survive. This is the way we must now be thinking. The future is not about eeking out a more limited existence on a depleted Earth. It is about colonizing space.

    There were many false starts before us. The dinosaurs being just one. Does the human race end as another miscarriage in the uterus of the Earth, or do we move out and grow into a responsible adult? To me the answer is obvious. The first people to do this will face an enormous challenge. It is every bit as difficult for humanity to colonize space as it is for a baby to be born. It is an evolutionary step every bit as traumatic for us as it it was for our ancestors crawling out of the sea. But ultimately, those that make the journey will develop into a civilisation that we can scarcely imagine. We need to do this in our lifetimes and we need to yoke whatever technologies allow us to do it.

  17. Cloggie on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 3:43 pm 

    England and Holland, both of which will be largely under water.

    Nah… with the current rate of increase of 1 mm per year and the fact that the Dutch dike system can handle 1 m increase without problems, these worries will begin to materialize only after the second Roman Empire will expire or something.

    I will watch your video when my kids have gone to bed.

    It is densely packed with information. The best take-away point was that runaway CO2-based climate change is theoretically impossible because the relationship between CO2-concentration and temperature increase is not linear but logarithmic. He claims that 1 degree Celsius temperature increase requires a doubling of the CO2 concentration.

    The problem cannot be solved if we insist on staying where we are.

    That’s very Startrek-ish. There is no real place we can go to. There are some grandiose schemes like terrafying Mars, but that would require thousands of years. Mars is smaller than earth. I am all for a massive increase in space travel, but first we need to solve an awful lot of problems at home.

    You lose a great deal of respect appearing to be a denier.

    Davy, having the forum equivalent of a good cafe brawl every now and then is more interesting then belonging to the climate church. During the Reformation my country was the largest bunch of heretics imaginable in Europe. It’s in my

  18. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 4:21 pm 

    Clog fuck your dumb assed video. You’re just another “internet scholar” almost exclusively informed by cherry picked wikipedia pages and youtube videos. I ain’t wasting my time watching it, nor should anyone else. Instead I will continue to read my new (library) book chock full of real evidence about the history of this planet.

    “A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth” by Peter Ward and Joseph Kirschvink”

    This passage, which I copied by hand, from the introduction is telling.

    “Many of the great events of evolution cannot be repeated; evolution has had a long period to fill the biosphere with highly competitive and efficient organisms, making it unlikely to repeat, for instance, the Cambrian explosion when all of the basic body plans of animals came into being. But what can be repeated are things antipodal to living and diversifying, such as extinction, or extinction writ larger—the dreadful past catastrophes of deep time, the mass extinctions.”

    “With every molecule of carbon dioxide we pump into the atmosphere we are ignoring the early sirens that rapid rises in carbon dioxide are the commonality between more than ten mass extinctions of the deep past and what is happening today. Those extinctions were caused not by asteroid impact, but from rapid increases in volancanically produced atmospheric greenhouse gases and the global warming they produced. A terrifying new paradigm of mass extinctions has arisen this century: ‘greenhouse mass extinctions,’ a name overtly chosen to describe the cause of the vast majority of species killed off by mass extinctions in the past.” – P.3

    About A New History of Life

    “Writing with zest, humor, and clarity, Ward and Kirschvink show that many of our long-held beliefs about the history of life are wrong. Three central themes emerge from the narrative. First, the development of life was not a stately, gradual process: Catastrophe, argue Ward and Kirschvink, shaped life’s history more than all other forces combined–from notorious events like the sudden extinction of dinosaurs to recently discovered ones like “Snowball Earth” and the “Great Oxygenation Event.” One startling possibility: that life arrived on Earth from Mars. Second, life consists of carbon, but three other molecules have determined how it evolved: oxygen, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen sulfide are carbon’s silent partners. Third, ever since Darwin we have thought of evolution in terms of species. Yet it is the evolution of ecosystems–from deep-ocean vents to rainforests–that has formed the living world as we know it.

    Drawing on their years of experience in paleontology, biology, chemistry, and astrobiology, Ward and Kirschvink tell a story of life on Earth that is at once too fabulous to imagine and too familiar to dismiss. And in a provocative coda, they assemble discoveries from the latest cutting-edge research to imagine how the history of life might unfold deep into the future.

    – See more at:

  19. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 4:28 pm 

    Another lesson for you clog at a level even you might be able to understand.

    The Carbon Cycle/b>

  20. makati1 on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 4:48 pm 

    Ap, I have no library to go to here that would have such reference books. But, I have accessed a YouTube (Yes, there ARE some good sources there if you look.) video that goes thru the whole ~4 1/2 billion years of the Earth’s past and covers the subjects you mention.

    “The History of Earth (HD – 720P)”

    It gives you a different perspective of “reality”. Is it 100% correct? We will never know, but it is logical and possible. And much more real than “In the beginning…”.

  21. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 5:01 pm 

    CO2 levels and mass extinction events

    The chart below is adapted from a similar graph in Dr. Peter Ward’s book, “Under a Green Sky.” It simply plots all the mass extinction events of the last 500 million years against the best estimate of carbon dioxide levels (CO2) at the time. According to his analysis all major extinctions occurred when CO2 levels exceeded a thousand parts per million (ppm).

    The cause for concern is that the current CO2 level — approximately 393 ppm — is projected to reach a thousand ppm in approximately one hundred years at the current rate of increase. What is unknown is how quickly such a chain of events could occur, and precisely what they are. In the above cited book, Ward offers a hypothesis about the changing ocean chemistry as CO2 and temperature rise significantly.
    It is still hard to project the rate of change, due to the extremely fast change of CO2 levels in modern times. Dr. James Hansen, a leading climate expert points out in his book “Storms of My Grandchildren” that at the current rate CO2 will increase one hundred ppm in approximately 40 years. During past periods of abrupt change — the most recent one occurring approximately 50 million years ago — it took roughly a million years for CO2 to change by one hundred ppm. Thus it is now changing about 25,000 times faster than in known geologic history.

    25,000 times faster. WOW! Humans really are special.

    The carbon cycle goes round and around for billions of years and it cares not about the mechanisms that release it from the earth and into the atmosphere. Weathering of rocks, volcanic traps or dopamine chasing naked apes with their carbon spewing machines, it’s all the same. Cause and effect.

  22. Uberant on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 5:09 pm 

    Who gives a shit about warming. It can warm up to 20 C globally and nobody will notice except idiots who live on the coasts. There are other interplanetary dangers that are way scarier.

  23. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 5:20 pm 

    Mak, I think I have seen a couple of episodes of that. Good primer. I know someone who is far away from a library and buys their books used on Amazon, if and only if the price does not exceed his ceiling. One great ‘Big History’ book I loved was Bill Bryson’s “A Short History of Nearly Everything”.

    The documentaries and most big history books and the media and most every climate scientist avoids the extinctions from jacked up CO2 levels as best they can. They like hopey rock star scientists like Mike Mann who always end with the “if we just…” and “sumthin sumthin hope sumthin..change bla bla bla”.

    Here’s the first part of Bryson’s book in audio.

    A Short History of Nearly Everything Audiobook by Bill Bryson 1

    Listen to while doing the house work or put it on an MP3 player and go for a long walk.

  24. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 5:27 pm 

    Uberant, you’re correct. Like the humans main food source, grains, being unable to evolve to higher temperatures, which, in terms of evolution, is lighting speed, and going extinct. The interior of large continents will warm faster than anywhere else – AKA northern hemisphere AKA the N American bread basket. Currently the warming is at 1.2 C above the 1880 baseline. At 4C above that, which 2.8C from now the plant proteins start to denature. You don’t need to get to 4C for that. A few days in a row at 50C should be enough to ruin most grain crops.

  25. Antius on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 5:37 pm 

    Time to move out chaps. We are choking the very air we breath with waste products, every resource set is in a state of heavy depletion and population is still rising. Lets get out before mother nature slams the door on us.

  26. makati1 on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 6:24 pm 

    Ap, I have stopped buying books unless they are geared toward prepping. I can order books thru the major book stores here, or Amazon, but shipping is expensive. The 1 1/2 hour video I reffed above is good enough for me.

    Thanks for the references though.

  27. makati1 on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 6:26 pm 

    Uberant, You have no idea…

  28. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 7:17 pm 

    COOKED: The day Queensland was hotter than the Sahara

    “T WAS hotter than the Sahara Desert in parts of Queensland over the weekend as the record-breaking heatwave took its toll.

    Paramedics treated more than 90 people for heat-related incidents, including a four-year-old boy who was left locked in a hot car.”

  29. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 7:25 pm 

    NSW fire crews battle several fronts as heatwave drags on, as it happened

    “Firefighters battled about 80 blazes in New South Wales amid “catastrophic” fire conditions and soaring temperatures.”

    “We’re wrapping up our live coverage of the heatwave and fires across Australia for this evening. Here’s where we’re at:
    There are still four emergency warnings in place across NSW, which you can find on the NSW RFS website
    A person has been flown to hospital with burns after suffering burns at the Boggabri fire
    Temperatures records in Queensland tumbled, with nine records broken across the state by lunchtime
    As of 7:30pm AEDT, a southerly change was sweeping through and helping to ease the situation. At 7pm temperatures were high in Armidale/Narrabri (still 42 degrees) and in the mid-30s around Merriwa/Coonamble, but in Orange had dropped by to 19 degrees.

    Head over to our main story for further updates and don’t forgot to listen to your local radio station and follow ABC Emergency on Twitter for updates throughout the night.

    Thanks for joining us.”

  30. Apneaman on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 7:26 pm 

    Record heat across the Sooner State Saturday

    Instead of normal highs in the 50s Saturday, Oklahoma soared into the 80s and 90s Saturday and in one spot, almost to 100 degrees.

    The highest temperature in Oklahoma on Saturday was 99 degrees in Mangum, the highest temperature ever recorded this early in the year.

    Oklahoma City also broke a daily temperature record for Feb. 11. The old record was 82 degrees in 1962, but on Saturday, it hit 89 degrees, crushing the old records”

  31. Midnight Oil on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 7:43 pm 

    Isn’t Senator Inhoefo from Okkie?
    Let me tell you…these denialist folks will proclaim this is GOOD and the God of the Bible is behind the enhancement!
    I’ve dealt with the Willard Anthony Watt crowd for some time and the spin and twist act will continue until money has no purpose other than a fine wipe rag.

  32. Survivalist on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 9:24 pm 

    It seems that increased concentration of GHG in atmosphere is raising night time temps faster than average day time temps. Those who have a basic understanding about the sex life of corn wil find this concerning.

  33. Survivalist on Sun, 12th Feb 2017 9:25 pm

  34. Apneaman on Mon, 13th Feb 2017 9:27 am 

    Sea level: Dutch coast and worldwide, 1890-2014

    The sea level along the Dutch coast steadily rose by about 23 cm during the last 125 years, a change of 1.9 mm per year.

    1.9mm, double what old dutch boy was claiming yesterday.

    Ain’t nothing compared to what’s coming. Another lesson in nonlinearity, in this case known as meltwater pulses.

    Study of past warming signals major sea level rise ahead

    “The findings in the journal Science show that ocean surface temperatures during the Earth’s last warm period, some 125,000 years ago, were remarkably similar to today.
    But what concerns scientists is that sea level back then was 20-30 feet (six to nine meters) above what it is today.”

    Don’t need no 6-9 meters. Already seeing it cost in low lying areas with water in the streets at every high tide and minor storm. Just a little more to push many places, including much great delta growing areas, over the edge.

  35. Antius on Mon, 13th Feb 2017 6:15 pm 

    ‘1.9mm, double what old dutch boy was claiming yesterday.
    Ain’t nothing compared to what’s coming. Another lesson in nonlinearity, in this case known as meltwater pulses.’

    We need to leave the planet Ap. Global resource limits of every kind are converging upon us and will crush human civilisation like a fragile egg. There is no happy ending if stay in the gravitational prison that is the Earth. It amazes me how many people that seem to understand the state we are in, fail to embrace that simple piece of logic.

    It seems incredible to contemplate leaving. As incredible to us as the idea of being born must appear to a baby. It is a good analogy. A baby stuck in its mother’s uterus, cannot imagine that it will one day be a man, with its own house, its own life, full of new adventures and responsibilities. Humanity cannot imagine that it will colonize the solar system and that the world we have today will be a speck compared to what we are in 1000 years.

    But this will be the most difficult thing we have ever attempted to do. Living in the vacuum of space, building rotating, pressurised habitats and mining near earth asteroids for the minerals we need. This is where we need to be very soon. There are plenty of problems to solve here on Earth. But as long as we stay on Earth, problems is all we will ever have. They will grow, not shrink, because we are now stuck in a peak-everything pressure cooker.

    Lets move on to something better while we can.

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