Bitcoin Could Churn Out 130 Million Tons Of Carbon, Undermining Climate Action. Here’s One Way To Tackle That emission

The power demands and carbon emissions of bitcoin mining could undermine global efforts to combat climate change if stringent regulations are not placed upon the industry, a Chinese study has found. By 2024, mining of the cryptocurrency in China alone could use as much power as the entire nation of Italy uses in a year, with greenhouse gas emissions equalling those of the Czech Republic.

But rather than recommending increased taxation on bitcoin mining to curb emissions, or simply an outright ban on the practice, the paper, published today in the journal Nature, suggests that miners should be encouraged to shift their operations to regions that provide abundant low-carbon electricity.

The research is significant because China carries out at least 65% of the world’s bitcoin operations. Shouyang Wang, one of the report’s authors and chair professor at the Academy of Mathematics and Systems Science at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, told Forbes.com:

“While everyone has focused on bitcoin’s great profitability, we want people to become more aware of its potential issues and start thinking about these questions: is this industry actually worth the associated environmental impact, and how can we make profitable bitcoin mining operation more sustainable in the future?”

Using simulation-based models, the researchers found that, short of any policy interventions, bitcoin mining in China will peak in 2024 consuming 296.59 terawatt hours of electricity—as much as a medium sized country—and generate 130.50 million metric tons of carbon emissions. The authors further note that this consumption and the resulting emissions could derail China’s efforts to decarbonize its own energy system.

“It is important to note that the adoption of this disruptive and promising technique without [taking into account] environmental concerns may pose a barrier to the worldwide effort on GHG emissions management in the near future,” Wang said, adding that the research team was “surprised by the energy consumption and carbon emission assessment results of bitcoin blockchain operation in China.”

But the solution to the challenge, the authors argue, is “moving away from the current punitive carbon tax policy to a site regulation policy”—in essence, ensuring that mining operations move to areas that guarantee high rates of renewable electricity. Under such a policy, they found, only 20% of bitcoin miners remained in coal-intensive energy regions, resulting in lower carbon emissions per dollar earned, compared to a higher taxation scenario.

Under the site regulation model, the researchers found bitcoin operations generated 100.61 million metric tons at peak, as opposed to 105.19 million tons under an additional taxation scenario. Wang said government regulation of the industry was needed, but that bitcoin miners would likely be amenable to his team’s proposed solution.

“Site regulation should be carried out by the government, placing limitations on bitcoin mining in certain regions that use coal-based heavy energy,” Wang explained. “That being said, we think that there are enough benefits to this policy which will incentivize the miners to move their operation willingly. For example, since energy prices in clean-energy regions of China are lower than that in heavy-energy regions, the miners can effectively lower their individual energy consumption cost, which would increase their profitability.”

That isn’t to say, however, that regulation is the only method by which China should be reducing the emissions impact from bitcoin mining. “The government should also focus on upgrading the power generation facilities in clean-energy regions to ensure a consistent energy generation,” Wang said. “That way, the miners would definitely have more incentives to move voluntarily.”

Crunching The Numbers

Bitcoin operates by using blockchain technology—publicly recorded peer-to-peer transfers on encrypted computer networks—which eliminates the need for centralized authorities or banks. Bitcoin miners use arrays of processors to determine results to algorithmic puzzles that verify transactions that are added to the blockchain, for which they are in turn rewarded in bitcoins.

With the value of a single bitcoin having risen from $1 in April 2011 to around $60,000 in April 2021, and with yesterday’s news that the value of the cryptocurrency market has exceeded $2 trillion for the first time, the financial incentives to mine bitcoin are obvious.

But there is a finite supply of bitcoins: they are limited to 21 million in total. To control the currency’s circulation, the supply of new bitcoins is halved every four years, which also halves the miners’ rewards. This has helped ignite fierce competition, attracting an increasing number of bitcoin miners to get into the race, utilizing ever more powerful processing arrays requiring more electricity.

So, in at least one sense, bitcoin is self-regulating. Or as Wang puts it, “this is the industry’s natural built-in way of phasing itself out.”

Silver Linings?

It has until recently proved difficult to determine the total emissions impact of bitcoin mining. Industry advocates have long claimed that miners tend to rely on low-carbon energy due to its relatively low cost, but those claims have been disputed.

Now, using more advanced modeling techniques, Chinese researchers have been able to more accurately estimate the energy uses of specific industry operations. According to the China Emissions Accounts and Datasets platform (CEAD), for example, bitcoin mining accounts for more than 5.4% of emissions from electricity generation in China.

In response, various policy solutions have been suggested, including heavier taxation of bitcoin mining operations. The new research suggests site regulation could be the preferable option. But did Wang think this could result in too many miners moving into areas with abundant renewables, gobbling up energy supply?

“There would be an influx of bitcoin miners into clean-energy regions,” he said. “However, we don’t think that this increase in bitcoin mining operations would place burdens on the local energy grid. The energy-generation infrastructures in the clean-energy regions of China are still being improved and developed … we think that increases in energy generation capacity would outpace the increase in bitcoin mining operations in these regions, which would reduce the potential burdens.”

Even so, with a forecast of 100 million tons of carbon emissions at the industry’s peak, would it not simply be better, in environmental terms, to ban the practice outright?

“We think that simply banning bitcoin mining altogether is not ideal,” Wang said. “Even if bitcoin mining is completely banned, its increasing profitability would drive miners to continue their activities through other measures, such as stealing electricity. That is why we are suggesting a push for moving the miners to clean renewable energy regions would be more ideal.”

Asked whether future cryptocurrency operations could potentially result in the same or similar energy demands as bitcoin, Wang offered a note of optimism.

“Cryptocurrency communities have become increasingly aware of the carbon emissions generated through mining activities,” he said. “As a result … we think the development of these new consensus algorithms would improve the energy efficiency of cryptocurrency mining activities, which would be beneficial for China’s sustainability efforts.”

 

My key interests are in decarbonization and the development of circular economies.

Source: Bitcoin Could Churn Out 130 Million Tons Of Carbon, Undermining Climate Action. Here’s One Way To Tackle That

.

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Green and Sustainable Bonds in Emerging Markets

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Investors with allocations to emerging market debt now need to understand the true impact on developing economies of long run factors like climate change and human capital development.

Governments everywhere are racing to lock in historically low borrowing costs by issuing ever longer dated debt – in recent years Mexico and Argentina even managed to sell century bonds. That presents several new challenges for fixed income investors. Particularly those who own emerging market bonds.

Not only do bondholders have to weigh the usual near-term factors like political, economic and commodity cycles but, in lending money to sovereigns over such extended periods, they now also have to consider the impact of longer term trends such as climate change and social development. Both can affect creditworthiness in profound ways.

This has called for new approaches to investment thinking. Economic and financial forecasts are having to be recast with climate dynamics in mind. Meanwhile, modelled pathways of climatic change are themselves subject to expectations about future technological change as well as the evolution of political thinking in these countries. The number of moving parts only grows as investors realise they also have a role to play in shaping how governments approach making their economies sustainable and low-carbon.

It’s a complex problem. But not an insurmountable one.

The greening of EM debt

In 2015, some 17 per cent of emerging market hard currency debt had a maturity of 20 years or more. By the start of 2021, that proportion had grown to 27 per cent. Even local currency denominated emerging market debt, which tends to be shorter-dated, has moved along the maturity curve. Over the same time period, the proportion of local currency debt with a maturity of five years or longer had risen 11 percentage points to 58 per cent (1).

That shift reflects growing demand for yield from investors starved of income. But at the same time, bondholders have recognised the importance of taking a long-term view on environmental issues. This is apparent in both the appetite for green bonds – capital earmarked for environmental- or climate-related projects – and, more generally, bonds that fall under the environmental, social and governance (ESG) umbrella.

Governments are happy to meet that demand. Increasingly, they recognise the need to make efforts to mitigate climate change, and given that emerging market economies make up half the world’s output, they have a significant role to play in meeting global greenhouse gas emissions goals.

In the five years to the end of 2020, annual issuance of green, social and sustainability bonds by emerging market governments grew nearly four-fold to USD16.2 billion (2). And demand is only increasing. For instance, in the first few weeks of January, Chile met 70 per cent of its expected USD6 billion debt issuance for 2021, all in green and social bonds and it plans only to issue sustainable and green bonds during the remainder of the year (3). In September 2020, Egypt became the first Middle Eastern government to issue a green bond. It raised USD750 million to finance or refinance green projects. Investors were enthusiastic – the bond was five times oversubscribed (4).

And generally, these bonds have longer maturities than conventional fixed income securities. Some 46 per cent of USD36.8 billion of outstanding emerging market ESG bonds priced in local currency terms have a maturity of more than 10 years, while for emerging markets hard currency ESG bonds, it’s 41 per cent of USD12.9 billion of outstanding bonds (5).

These bonds allow investors to track performance, while green agendas can also help governments to improve their credit ratings, which then lifts the value of their debt, thus rewarding bond holders.

Overall, green bonds generate positive feedback effects. The rising volumes of green and sustainable bond issuance highlights investors’ willingness to take more of a long-term approach to EM investing. But at the same time, governments are being made more accountable – in order to issue these bonds, governments are having to publish their sustainability frameworks in greater detail. This additional accountability helps to mitigate political risks that are a key consideration in EM investing. Investors, however, will need to analyse and monitor developments closely to ensure proceeds are used as intended.

Indeed, green bonds are the most exciting development in emerging market financing for decades and, we think, will have an equivalent impact to the Brady bonds of the 1980s (6) – albeit this is dependent on improved disclosure and monitoring and industry standardisation of green labels.

Climate change matters (especially in EM)

For all the sovereign issuance of green bonds so far, a great deal more funding will need to be raised to limit climate change. Globally it will cost between USD1 trillion and USD2 trillion a year in additional spending to limit global warming, some 1 per cent to 1.5 per cent of worldwide GDP, according to the Energy Transitions Commission (7). And a significant part of those costs will need to be borne by emerging economies, not least because they are likely to suffer most.

By the end of this century, unmitigated climate change – entailing warming of 4.3° centigrade above pre-industrial levels – would cut per capita economic output in major countries like Brazil and India by more than 60 per cent compared to a world without climate change, according to a report by Oxford University’s Smith School sponsored by Pictet (8). Globally, the shortfall would be 45 per cent.

Limiting warming to 1.6° C would sharply reduce that hit to roughly 27 per cent of potential output per capita for the world as a whole, albeit with considerable variation among countries. While those in the tropics countries would be hit hard by the effects of drought and altered rainfall patterns, those in high latitudes, like Russia, would be relative winners as ports become less ice-locked and more territory is opened up to extractive industries and agriculture. And though China would suffer smaller overall losses than average, its large coastal conurbations would be subject to depredations caused by rising sea levels.

Integrating risks

As these effects are felt, investors will grow increasingly wary of lending to vulnerable countries. And climate change is already having an impact on developing countries’ credit ratings. In 2018, rating agency Standard & Poor’s cited hurricane risk when it cut its ratings outlook on the sovereign debt issued by the Turks and Caicos (9).

Investors could expect climate-related events, like droughts, severe storms and shifts in precipitation patterns, to push up output and inflation volatility in emerging economies during the next ten to 20 years, according to Professor Cameron Hepburn, lead author of the Oxford report.

That would represent a significant reversal for emerging market sovereign borrowers. Since the turn of the century the relative rate of growth and inflation volatilities between emerging and developed markets has halved (10), which, in turn, has reduced the risk faced by investors. Rising economic volatility would feed into sovereign risk assessments, eroding their credit profiles.

Other research from the Oxford team highlights the choices countries will need to take to remain on the path towards building a greener economy (11).

At Pictet Asset Management, we already use a wealth of ESG data – from both external and internal sources –as part of how we score countries. The environmental factors we monitor include air quality, climate change exposure, deforestation and water stress.

Social dimensions include education, healthcare, life expectancy and scientific research. And governance covers elements like corruption, electoral process, government stability, judicial independence and right to privacy. Together these factors are aggregated to become one of six pillars in the country risk index (CRI) ranking produced by our economics team.

Level playing fields

We believe that ESG considerations are inefficiently reflected in emerging market asset prices. This is a consequence of the market still being at an early stage in its understanding and application of ESG factors and analysis. There is also a lack of consistent and transparent ESG data for many emerging countries. We believe that using an ESG score alone is simply not enough. Having a sustainable lens through which to examine emerging market fundamentals helps us to mitigate risk and unearth investment opportunities. We use our own ESG data and analysis and engage with sovereign bond issuers to help bring about long-term change.

Emerging market economies vary hugely in their degree of development. This complicates how investors should weigh their ESG performance – after all, richer countries are more able to make the ESG-positive policy decisions that often have high front end costs for a long tail of benefits, such as shutting down coal mines in favour of solar power.

Applying the most simplistic approach to ESG – investing on the basis of countries’ ESG rankings – would squeeze fixed income investors out of the poorest developing countries, even if they are implementing the right policies to improve their ESG standing. Instead, it’s important for investors to recognise what is possible and achievable by poorer countries and allocate funding within those constraints – understanding countries’ direction of travel in terms of ESG is critical to analysing their prospects.

One solution we are implementing at Pictet AM is to weigh ESG criteria against a country’s GDP per capita. So, for example, under our new scoring system, Angola does well on this adjusted basis despite having a low overall ranking. And the reverse is true for Gulf Cooperation Council member states.

Dynamic approaches

How governments react to long-term issues like climate change or to the challenge of developing their human capital will influence their economies’ trajectories and, ultimately, play a role in their credit ratings. Those long-term decisions are only growing in importance, not least given the scale of fiscal policies implemented in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tracking these spending programmes – through, say, the likes of the Oxford Economic Stimulus Observatory (12) – then becomes an important step towards understanding the ESG pathways governments are likely to follow.

Countries with good, well-structured policies are likely to see their credit ratings improve, which attracts investors, drawing funding into their green investment programmes and ultimately driving a virtuous investment cycle.

Engaged investors

All this implies that investors have an active role to play – they can’t just passively allocate funding based on index weightings or be purely reactive to policymakers’ decisions. The most successful investors will help steer governments towards the path that boosts their credit ratings, gives them most access to the market and improves the fortunes and potential of citizens.

Like, for instance, explaining how electricity generated by wind turbines or solar can prove to be more cost-effective over the long term if financed by green bonds than ostensibly cheaper coal extracted from a mine paid for with higher yielding conventional debt. Or how fossil fuel investments could prove to be major white elephants as these sorts of polluting assets become stranded by shifts towards cleaner energy production.

Or that failing to invest enough in education is a false economy that over the long run will fail to make the most of human capital and thus depress national output – something we raised with the South African government after our meetings with our on-the-ground charitable partners in the country. To that end, The World Bank produced in 2020 a timely guide on how sovereign issuers can improve their engagement with investors on ESG issues (13). 

This sort of intensive analysis – using everything from long run macro models down to meetings with leaders of youth clubs in impoverished districts – can also help to paint a rounded picture of what’s happening in a country. For instance, it helped to ensure that we weren’t caught off guard by the shift to populism in Argentina ahead of their last elections and allowed us to trim our positions in the country.

For emerging market investors, ensuring all of these cogs mesh correctly is a difficult proposition, especially given that the parts are moving all the time, many driven by forces that will develop over many decades. But by using the full breadth of analytical tools, independent research and shoe leather fact-finding, it’s possible to gain a deeper and more profitable insight into these markets than a simple reading of credit ratings or index weightings offers.

And, at the same time, influence policy makers to champion their country’s sustainable initiatives. Taking a sustainable approach to growth and issuing related bonds, emerging economies can fundamentally change their prospects for the better. It has the potential to be revolutionary for emerging markets and exhilarating for those of us who invest in them.

By Mary-Therese Barton

Mary-Therese Barton joined Pictet Asset Management in 2004 and is the Head of Emerging Market Debt. Before taking up her current position in 2018, she was a Senior Investment Manager in the team. Mary-Therese joined as an Emerging Market Debt Analyst. Prior to joining Pictet she worked at Dun & Bradstreet, where she was an economist responsible for analysing European countries.

Source: Green and Sustainable Bonds in Emerging Markets | Funds Society

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Memories of The End of The Last Ice Age, From Those Who Were There

Aerial view of a dark islanf in a rectangular shape with a sunset on the water

Twenty-two kilometers of salt water separates the island of Jersey from France. But it didn’t used to. Photo by Mauritius images GmbH/Alamy Stock Photo

It wasn’t long after Henry David Inglis arrived on the island of Jersey, just northwest of France, that he heard the old story. Locals eagerly told the 19th-century Scottish travel writer how, in a bygone age, their island was much more substantial, and that folks used to walk to the French coast. The only hurdle to their journey was a river—one easily crossed using a short bridge.

“Pah!” Inglis presumably scoffed as he looked out across 22 kilometers of shimmering blue sea—because he went on to write in his 1832 book about the region that this was “an assertion too ridiculous to merit examination.” Another writer, Jean Poingdestre, around 150 years earlier, had been similarly unmoved by the tale. No one could have trod from Jersey to Normandy, he withered, “vnlesse it were before the Flood,” referring to the Old Testament cataclysm.

Yet, there had been a flood. A big one. Between roughly 15,000 and 5,000 years ago, massive flooding caused by melting glaciers raised sea levels around Europe. That flooding is what eventually turned Jersey into an island. Rather than being a ridiculous claim not worthy of examination, perhaps the old story was true—a whisper from ancestors who really did walk through now-vanished lands. A whisper that has echoed across millennia.

That’s exactly what geologist Patrick Nunn and historian Margaret Cook at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Australia have proposed in a recent paper. In their work, the pair describe colorful legends from northern Europe and Australia that depict rising waters, peninsulas becoming islands, and receding coastlines during that period of deglaciation thousands of years ago. Some of these stories, the researchers say, capture historical sea level rise that actually happened—often several thousand years ago.

For scholars of oral history, that makes them geomyths. “The first time I read an Aboriginal story from Australia that seemed to recall the rise of sea levels after the last ice age, I thought, No, I don’t think this is correct,” says Nunn. “But then I read another story that recalled the same thing.”

Nunn has since gathered 32 groups of stories from Indigenous communities around the coast of Australia—a continent nearly as large as Europe—that seem to refer to geological changes along shorelines. Take the legend of Garnguur, told by the Lardil people, also known as Kunhanaamendaa, in the Wellesley Islands, off northern Australia. It describes a seagull woman, Garnguur, who cut the islands off from the mainland by dragging a giant raft, or walpa, back and forth across a peninsula.

In some versions of the story, this is punishment for her brother, Crane, who failed to look after her child when asked. Nunn and Cook argue that the narrative can be taken as a memory of how, no more than 10,000 years ago, melting glaciers caused the Wellesley Islands to be cut off from the mainland. Interestingly, there is a large underwater trench between two of the Wellesley Islands—perhaps a feature of the seabed that prompted the image of Garnguur plowing her raft into the earth, the researchers suggest in their paper.

Separately, other Indigenous groups in South Australia, such as the Ngarrindjeri and Ramindjeri, tell of a period when Kangaroo Island was once connected to the mainland. Some say it got cut off by a big storm, while others describe a line of partially submerged boulders that once allowed people to cross to the island.

For Jo Brendryen, a paleoclimatologist at the University of Bergen in Norway who has studied the effects of deglaciation in Europe following the end of the last ice age, the idea that traditional oral histories preserve real accounts of sea level rise is perfectly plausible.

During the last ice age, he says, the sudden melting of ice sheets induced catastrophic events known as meltwater pulses, which caused sudden and extreme sea level rise. Along some coastlines in Europe, the ocean may have risen as much as 10 meters in just 200 years. At such a pace, it would have been noticeable to people across just a few human generations.

“These stories are anecdotes, but enough anecdotes makes for data,” Brendryen explains. “By systematically collecting these kinds of memories or stories, I think you can learn something.” Beyond capturing historical events, geomyths offer a glimpse into the inner lives of those who were there, says Tim Burbery, an expert on geomyths at Marshall University in West Virginia, who was not involved in the research: “These are stories based in trauma, based in catastrophe.”

That, he suggests, is why it may have made sense for successive generations to pass on tales of geological upheaval. Ancient societies may have sought to broadcast their warning: beware, these things can happen! “They would mythologize it,” Burbery adds. “They would use the language of legend, and within that there could be some real data.”

Today, many people report a sense of eco-anxiety because of climate change and its effects, including sea level rise. Nunn points out that our contemporary situation differs in some ways from ancient predicaments—there are many more humans on the planet and huge, densely populated coastal cities, for example. And unlike historical periods of deglaciation, we are today both the agents and victims of rapid environmental change.

But vulnerability to climatic shifts allows us to feel an affinity toward our forebears. And the old stories still have things to teach us. As Nunn says, “the fact that our ancestors have survived those periods gives us hope that we can survive this.”

By Chris Baraniuk

Chris Baraniuk is a freelance science and technology journalist based in the United Kingdom. His work has been published by the BBC, New Scientist, Scientific American, and The Atlantic. Originally from the coast of Northern Ireland, he has been known to yearn for the sight of the sea.

Source: Memories of the End of the Last Ice Age, from Those Who Were There | Hakai Magazine

Critics by Zeke Hausfather

The Earth’s climate has been quite stable over the past 11,000 years, playing an important role in the development of human civilisation. Prior to that, the Earth experienced an ice age lasting for tens of thousands of years. The past million years of the Earth’s history has been characterised by a series of ice ages broken up by relatively short periods of warmer temperatures.

These ice ages are triggered and ended by slow changes in the Earth’s orbit. But changing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 also plays a key role in driving both cooling during the onset of ice ages and warming at their end. The global average temperature was around 4C cooler during the last ice age than it is today. There is a real risk that, if emissions continue to rise, the world warms more this century than it did between the middle of the last ice age 20,000 years ago and today. 

In this explainer, Carbon Brief explores how the last ice age provides strong evidence of the role CO2 plays as a “control knob” for the Earth’s climate. It also acts as a cautionary tale of how the climate can experience large changes from relatively small outside “forcings”.

Milankovitch cycles

The Earth has experienced a number of periods over the past million years in which large continental ice sheets have covered much of the northern hemisphere. These ice ages are associated with a large drop in global temperatures – 4C or more below today’s levels – with much larger changes over land and in the high latitudes. 

These ice ages are punctuated by “interglacial” periods where temperatures rise to around current levels. The most recent ice age occurred between 120,000 and 11,500 years ago, while the current interglacial period – the Holocene – is expected to last for additional tens of thousands of years (and human activity may inadvertently delay the start of the next ice age even further).

Ice-age cycles are primarily driven by periodic changes in the Earth’s orbit. Three distinct orbital cycles – called Milankovitch cycles after their discoverer, Serbian scientist Dr Milutin Milankovitch – interact to change the distribution of incoming solar energy in ways that can dramatically affect the Earth’s climate.

These include:

  • Precession – a 26,000-year shift in the orientation of Earth’s axis of rotation that affects how much summer sun is received at high latitudes (and shifting how much reaches the north vs south).
  • Obliquity – a 41,000-year change in the tilt of the Earth’s axis relative to the sun that changes how much sun is received during a year at the poles versus the equator.
  • Eccentricity – a 100,000-400,000 change in the shape of the Earth’s orbit around the sun that alters the length of the seasons and affects the importance of precession.

These three cycles overlap in different ways over time given their different periods, which means that ice ages do not always have the same duration. None of these cycles substantially changes the total amount of energy reaching the Earth from the sun; rather, they mostly act to change the distribution of the sun’s energy across the surface of the Earth. 

When these cycles cause the northern latitudes to get less sun in the summer, it allows ice sheets to begin to expand. These ice sheets in turn reflect more incoming sunlight back to space, resulting in a “positive feedback” that drives additional regional cooling.

The northern latitudes matter much more than the southern latitudes – at least over the past few million years – as it contains more land area (which can more easily become ice-covered than the oceans) and because the Antarctic has remained covered in ice…..To be continued

.

Related contents:

John Wheeler: The last 2.6 million years on Earth is known as the Ice Age INFORUMJohn Wheeler: During the last Ice Age glacial advance, more land was exposed INFORUM

15:18 Wed, 12 Oct
06:56 Sun, 09 Oct
11:49 Wed, 05 Oct
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What does forest restoration in the U.S. Southwest look like in the age of climate change? Ensia

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PrairieFood: The Solution To Climate Change Is In The Soil

A comparison of a test area treated with PrairieFood's micro-carbon additive on the left with ... [+]PrairieFood.com

This March, I introduced the term “Nature-Enhancing Solution” to describe technologies based on natural processes that have been capturing and productively using atmospheric carbon for hundreds of millions of years in one of the three interlocking “gears” – the terrestrial, marine, and geological cycles – that make up the full carbon cycle.

My Pi Day article was all about the smallest gear, the terrestrial cycle. One entrepreneur whose work I have featured in this column before – Robert Herrington, co-founder of Kansas-based PrairieFood – believes he and his team have discovered a Nature-Enhancing Solution to draw down excess atmospheric carbon dioxide while simultaneously restoring health to our planet and improving the quality of our food.

Let me underscore that last sentence because its impact is profound: Herrington believes he has found a way to solve the climate crisis while making our land richer and our food healthier. PrairieFood’s reactors pull in biological waste – manure, the slag left over after beer is brewed, and even treated sewage. This waste contains carbons in long, complex chains, which are difficult for soil-based organisms to consume.

The reactors shred those long carbon strands in a matter of seconds to create short carbon strands that are easily digestible by soil organisms. Those short strands, suspended in water, can then be sprayed onto fields using conventional equipment. The reason we put old coffee grounds and banana peels and fallen leaves into a compost pile is to take the long chains of carbon from biological sources and let nature (fungi, insects, worms, etc.) break them down into the black soil that we shovel into our gardens.

This natural process takes many seasons and yields a relatively small volume of short-carbon strands. PrairieFood’s Nature-Enhancing Solution makes the composting process much more efficient in time and volume. In other words, Herrington and his team have invented a device that acts like a composting time machine.When PrairieFood “slurry” is applied to agricultural fields, the organisms within the soil think they have stumbled upon an all-you-can-eat buffet.

They consume the carbon and provide “services” to the crops (e.g., “fixing” nitrogen – taking nitrogen out of the air and providing it to the plants). As the organisms give the plants more of what they need, the plants flourish. In return, the plants photosynthesize more actively – pulling in more carbon dioxide and changing it to sugars, some of which they give back to the soil organisms through their root systems.

This has the same sort of effect agriculturally as someone bringing more food and drink to a party. The soil-borne organisms love the extra food, and their populations swell to eat it all up. This starts a virtuous cycle by which the organisms help the plants, and the plants help the organisms, on and on.

The virtuous cycle creates a truly profound “multiplier effect” by which a little PrairieFood can have enormous impacts on the concentration of what is known as “Soil Organic Matter” (SOM) of which “Soil Organic Carbon” (SOC) forms a large part.

PrairieFood’s Amazing Results

Herrington and his co-founder, Dr. Griffin Roberts, have three years’ worth of field trials and commercial application of PrairieFood onto agricultural acreage. After some trial and error, they have found that applying 40 gallons of PrairieFood on an acre of cropland is sufficient to raise the amount of SOM by one percentage point over a single season.

That is about ten times the rate at which SOM is usually increased using organic fertilizers and other regenerative farming techniques. (Using conventional farming techniques actually decreases SOM concentrations – essentially desertifying croplands… more about that in an upcoming article.)

I started doing some back-of-the-envelope calculations about this multiplier effect and literally had to double and triple check my work. Dr. Roberts and I talked through the calculations and indeed, PrairieFood’s multiplier effect is off the charts – the addition of a very small amount of carbon (in the form of PrairieFood slurry) ends up generating a multiplier effect in the hundreds of thousands!

A comparison of seedling alfalfa plants. The plant on the left was grown with 40 gallons per acre of … [+] PrairieFood slurry; the plant on the right was grown with conventional fertilizer. Note the different in size of not only the above-ground part of the plants, but also the root system.

The reason I was so surprised is that I’m used to thinking about multiplier effects in the world of economics and finance that are in the single digits at most. But when dealing with microscopic organisms, there can be trillions of microbes in a scoopful of soil. As such, the number of microbes in an acre-foot of agricultural land (an acre-foot is the volume of soil in an acre to a depth of 1 foot) is phenomenally high. It is this astronomical number of organisms in the soil – all of which increase population exponentially given enough food – that creates the astounding multiplier effect.

Not all fields respond [with] such dramatic effect, [and] we have seen a range of responses. At times we have witnessed biological community shifts. This happens when nutrient food sources change in microbial populations. The shifts we see typically include [a] balancing of bacterial and [fungal] populations (most [agricultural] fields are bacterial dominated), and/or a rise in [the populations of small organisms] such as nematodes and Protozoa, etc. These higher [small organism population] levels…consume bacterial and [fungal] populations [and] play another significant role in nutrient cycling, both carbon and nitrogen…

“We have found where [farmers] that have applied manure and/or reduced [the practice of tilling, or turning up the soil] in the past, typically see the highest increase right away. We believe [that in these cases] the soil is primed for biological activity but is still stagnant/dormant, so when PrairieFood is applied, the nutrient cycling gets turned on right away, specifically in building SOM. Other fields which may have been…heavily reliant on [synthetic] mineral fertilizer, have a bit of adjusting at first.”

A Solution to the Climate Crisis

Herrington and Roberts have pulled together a thought experiment to illustrate the amazing potential of increasing SOM by a relatively small amount. “What if,” they ask “20% of agricultural land in our home state of Kansas could increase its SOM by one percentage point each year for 10 years?”

The answer to this question is amazing and offers great hope to the human civilization home team. An increase of SOM means a decrease in atmospheric CO2 levels – PrairieFood is enhancing the normal terrestrial carbon cycle. The increases posited would result in the draw-down of nearly 4 Gigatons of carbon!Widening the scope to a global level, the same increase in SOM in the 12.5 billion acres of land now used for agriculture would result in the draw-down of over 180 Gigatons of carbon.

For the average net addition to atmospheric carbon stores and the sources of change between 2009 and … [+] 2018, look at the graphic on the right. The red bar at the far right of the graph is the amount of carbon that was forced into the atmosphere in excess of what nature could absorb. 0.4 Gigatons on average.

To put this figure in context, according to a study done by the Earth System Science Data team at German-based Copernicus Publications, the average net increase in atmospheric carbon levels from 2009-2018 was 0.4 Gigatons per year. 180 Gigatons of atmospheric carbon drawdown would, in other words, remove 450 years’ worth of excess atmospheric carbon dioxide – enough to bring us back to the pre-Industrial Revolution average of 250 parts per million (and then some).

Other Benefits

If saving civilization from burning up in a furnace of its own making was not enough, applications of PrairieFood slurry to fields creates a lot of other benefits as well.

The PrairieFood-driven SOM increase is important in part because carbon-rich soil stores so much more water than carbon-poor soil does. This will make agricultural regions less dependent on irrigation and much more resilient to flood-producing downpours; it will also give someplace for water absorbed from increasing sea levels to go beside someone’s condo. This is such an important topic that I will take it up in a separate article.

Turning to the benefits to human health, over the last 70 years, there has been a marked trend for vegetables to become less nutritious. The only way that vegetables can become more nutritious is to have healthier soil, so increasing soil health may tie directly to better human health for anyone who eats vegetables or who eats animals that eat vegetables.

I have a lot more to say about the work PrairieFood is doing, so will continue in an upcoming article. For those who want to learn more about this homespun start-up with a mission to do nothing less than save the planet, PrairieFood is sponsoring a conference on November 14-15 in beautiful Pratt, Kansas. I attended last year and credit a quantum shift in my thinking about multiple issues facing humanity—climate change, biodiversity collapse, water management, agricultural productivity, and human health—to my conversation with farmers and ranchers at that event.

Herrington and Roberts know, as I know, that the Goldilocks environmental conditions that have allowed humans to build complex societies teeter on a knife’s edge. Our carbon emissions are pushing us over that edge and threatening the stability of our civilization, which is literally built on agricultural advances. PrairieFood offers a way to right that balance and pull us back from the edge.

Source: PrairieFood: The Solution To Climate Change Is In The Soil

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Related contents:

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Climate Change is Making Rain Difficult To Predict – We Trained An AI To Help Tropical Countries Adapt

Muhammad Qadri Anwar/Shutterstock

While rivers and reservoirs run dangerously low in Europe, there is catastrophic flooding in Pakistan and the US. Whether it’s a drought or a deluge, being able to accurately forecast rain is important to protect lives and manage water safely.

That has become more difficult in recent decades. Climate change and deforestation have warped Earth’s freshwater cycle, shifting rainfall patterns towards extreme events like severe droughts and downpours. Catastrophic floods have been on the rise globally in the last 50 years and incidences of flash flooding, when torrential rain falls in a very short period, have increased, particularly in tropical countries where high temperatures have made thunderstorms more common.

Developed countries like the UK have invested in satellites and radars for more accurate weather forecasting. These high-tech systems are particularly effective in temperate climates where rainfall typically occurs over several kilometres and moves in wide bands known as weather fronts. Measurements of rainfall over distances of 5 km or greater, which satellites and radars are capable of, are often sufficient for forecasting rain at this scale.

In tropical countries, where climate change is expected to have a far greater impact, systems that can forecast rain at distances of less than a kilometre are needed. This is because of something called convectional rainfall, which is common in the tropics. Convectional rainfall occurs when heated air rises upwards along with water vapour, which condenses to form clouds at a high altitude. These clouds are not carried away by the wind, and so rain falls in the same place it originated.

Systems capable of forecasting convectional rainfall would help authorities give advance warning, preventing deaths and flood damage. They could also help people manage this rainwater to benefit farms, with efficient drainage and irrigation measures.

Most tropical countries fall within low or middle income bands. Forecasting rain over distances smaller than a kilometre is expensive – weather satellites are often not feasible. Dense vegetation and hilly terrain, also common in tropical regions, can profoundly shape local weather by causing humid air to rise and condense, making conventional weather forecasting even trickier. To solve these problems, we set out to develop a cheap way of providing street-by-street forecasting.

AI-based tropical rainfall forecasting

Rainfall is the result of complex interactions between different components of the atmosphere such as temperature, humidity, pressure and wind speed which can be easily measured by sensors. We investigated whether artificial intelligence could use this information to compile a rainfall forecast in northern Malaysia.The forecasting system we developed is essentially an intelligent computer programme that can predict whether it will rain, how intense that rain will be and how long it will last at any location with greater than 90% accuracy at least 96 hours in advance.

We tested its forecasting accuracy against past weather conditions which preceded rain falling. If this algorithm included data from sensors measuring the depth and flow rate of rivers, it could predict whether rain might cause flooding, and if so, when and for how long.The devices used to measure weather conditions can be connected to the internet to form a network that offers regional forecasting. Adding more devices to the network will improve the accuracy of the forecast, which is updated hourly.

Working with University of Malaysia Perlis, we have already created an online network of existing weather sensors that collects data for our algorithm to use. Most of these weather stations are separated by tens of kilometres – too far apart to provide detailed rain forecasting in most areas.But, as more sensors are added, the forecasting system will hopefully one day ensure that vulnerable communities can better prepare for extreme weather events, and build resilience to the rapidly changing climate.

By: &

Global climate change is not a future problem. Changes to Earth’s climate driven by increased human emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases are already having widespread effects on the environment: glaciers and ice sheets are shrinking, river and lake ice is breaking up earlier, plant and animal geographic ranges are shifting, and plants and trees are blooming sooner.

Effects that scientists had long predicted would result from global climate change are now occurring, such as sea ice loss, accelerated sea level rise, and longer, more intense heat waves.Some changes (such as droughts, wildfires, and extreme rainfall) are happening faster than scientists previously assessed. In fact, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — the United Nations body established to assess the science related to climate change — modern humans have never before seen the observed changes in our global climate, and some of these changes are irreversible over the next hundreds to thousands of years.

Scientists have high confidence that global temperatures will continue to rise for many decades, mainly due to greenhouse gases produced by human activities. The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment report, published in 2021, found that human emissions of heat-trapping gases have already warmed the climate by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit (1.1 degrees Celsius) since pre-Industrial times (starting in 1750). The global average temperature is expected to reach or exceed 1.5 degrees C (about 3 degrees F) within the next few decades. These changes will affect all regions of Earth.

What’s the difference between climate change and global warming?

The severity of effects caused by climate change will depend on the path of future human activities. More greenhouse gas emissions will lead to more climate extremes and widespread damaging effects across our planet. However, those future effects depend on the total amount of carbon dioxide we emit. So, if we can reduce emissions, we may avoid some of the worst effects.

Climate change is bringing different types of challenges to each region of the country. Some of the current and future impacts are summarized below. These findings are from the Third and Fourth National Climate Assessment Reports, released by the U.S. Global Change Research Program.

  • Northeast. Heat waves, heavy downpours, and sea level rise pose increasing challenges to many aspects of life in the Northeast. Infrastructure, agriculture, fisheries, and ecosystems will be increasingly compromised. Farmers can explore new crop options, but these adaptations are not cost- or risk-free. Moreover, adaptive capacity, which varies throughout the region, could be overwhelmed by a changing climate. Many states and cities are beginning to incorporate climate change into their planning.
  • Northwest. Changes in the timing of peak flows in rivers and streams are reducing water supplies and worsening competing demands for water. Sea level rise, erosion, flooding, risks to infrastructure, and increasing ocean acidity pose major threats. Increasing wildfire incidence and severity, heat waves, insect outbreaks, and tree diseases are causing widespread forest die-off.
  • Southeast. Sea level rise poses widespread and continuing threats to the region’s economy and environment. Extreme heat will affect health, energy, agriculture, and more. Decreased water availability will have economic and environmental impacts.
  • Midwest. Extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding will affect infrastructure, health, agriculture, forestry, transportation, air and water quality, and more. Climate change will also worsen a range of risks to the Great Lakes.
  • Southwest. Climate change has caused increased heat, drought, and insect outbreaks. In turn, these changes have made wildfires more numerous and severe. The warming climate has also caused a decline in water supplies, reduced agricultural yields, and triggered heat-related health impacts in cities. In coastal areas, flooding and erosion are additional concerns.

Related contents:

How Do I Talk to a Climate Change Denier? Boston University

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Podcast Masterclass               https://jvz3.com/c/202927/379998/
PodKastr                 https://jvz1.com/c/202927/369500/
Postradamus                              https://jvz6.com/c/202927/108695
Power Reviews                     https://jvz8.com/c/202927/384625/
Powrsuite                       https://jvz1.com/c/202927/376361
PR Rage                        https://jvz4.com/c/202927/343405
prime stocks                              https://jvz8.com/c/202927/369164  prime stocks
Profile mate                           https://jvz4.com/c/202927/358049
Promovidz                      https://jvz8.com/c/202927/375692/
Push Button Traffic         https://jvz2.com/c/202927/301402
QR Verse                      https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383865/
Quintex Capital                         https://quintexcapital.com/?ref=arminham
Quit Smoking                           https://jvz3.com/c/202927/359081/
Reputor                 https://jvz8.com/c/202927/380159/
ReVideo                     https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/381761
ReviewReel                        https://jvz6.com/c/202927/382663/
Rewriter                      https://jvz4.com/c/202927/353373/
RSI SEO                              https://jvz6.com/c/202927/384381/
Scriptdio                       https://jvz4.com/c/202927/385387/
Seniors Income                        https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383888/
Senuke                                  https://jvz6.com/c/202927/279944
ShopABot                           https://jvz2.com/c/202927/291955
ShopFunnels                        https://jvz3.com/c/202927/384069/
SocialAgency360                 https://jvz1.com/c/202927/385357/
SociCake                       https://jvz2.com/c/202927/321987
Socifeed                          https://jvz6.com/c/202927/375706
SociJam                    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/309649
Soronity                                 https://jvz6.com/c/202927/368736
SqribbleEbook                 https://jvz6.com/c/202927/283867
Stackable Picture                        https://jvz1.com/c/202927/385046/
Steven Alvey’s                      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/351754
Stoodaio                                    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/372094
Storymate                         https://jvz3.com/c/202927/320972
StreamPilot                        https://jvz2.com/c/202927/385431/
Studioninja                       https://jvz1.com/c/202927/374965
Sunday Freebie                             https://jvz1.com/c/202927/267113/
Super backdrop                https://jvz8.com/c/202927/376524
Superbackdrop                 https://jvz8.com/c/202927/376524
Survai                      https://jvz8.com/c/202927/380933/
Syndranker                          https://jvz3.com/c/202927/378143/
Talkingfaces                      https://jvz2.com/c/202927/375358
Talkingfaces                    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/375550
The Internet Marketing                https://jvz2.com/c/202927/289944
Tonai Voice Content           https://jvz8.com/c/202927/383119/
Toon Video Maker                   https://jvz2.com/c/202927/357201
TrafficFor                https://jvz8.com/c/202927/381950/
TrafficForU                   https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381950/
Trendio                       https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381003/
TubePal                        https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379863/
Tubeserp                        https://jvz3.com/c/202927/370472
TubeTargeter                   https://jvz6.com/c/202927/377211
TV Boss Fire                https://jvz6.com/c/202927/379480/
Ultrafunnels A.I                 https://jvz2.com/c/202927/381129/
VIADZ Ad Template                    https://jvz4.com/c/202927/379307/
Vidcentric                             https://jvz4.com/c/202927/376095
Viddeyo                                https://jvz6.com/c/202927/382326/
Videevolve                       https://jvz4.com/c/202927/381011/
Video Campaignor      https://jvz4.com/c/202927/387058/
Video Games                            https://jvz3.com/c/202927/184902/
VideoEnginePro                https://jvz2.com/c/202927/372916
VideoGameSuite                     https://jvz3.com/c/202927/366537/
VideoRobot Enterprise                https://jvz8.com/c/202927/291061
VidKreate                        https://jvz6.com/c/202927/386029/
VidMingo                           https://jvz6.com/c/202927/378359/
VidSnatcher                           https://jvz3.com/c/202927/342585
VidVoicer                      https://jvz1.com/c/202927/379983/
Vidzura                       https://jvz4.com/c/202927/385754/
Viral dash                            https://jvz6.com/c/202927/375959
Viral Quotes            https://jvz2.com/c/202927/386984/
VirtualReel                       https://jvz8.com/c/202927/376849
Vocalic                    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/383848/
VoiceBuddy                      https://jvz1.com/c/202927/342854
WebCop                         https://jvz4.com/c/202927/378683/
Webinarkit                       https://jvz3.com/c/202927/383937/
Webprimo                   https://jvz1.com/c/202927/379455/   Website Builder
WordPress Mastery                       https://jvz1.com/c/202927/386249/
WOW Backgrounds                      https://jvz3.com/c/202927/381615/
WowBackgraounds                       https://jvz2.com/c/202927/381556/
WP GDPR                                https://jvz8.com/c/202927/299907
WP Simulator                    https://jvz3.com/c/202927/46987/
Writer Arc           https://jvz1.com/c/202927/386602/
writing job                                  https://jvz8.com/c/202927/213027
XBrain Forex                           https://jvz3.com/c/202927/372305/
XFUNNELS                         https://jvz2.com/c/202927/310335
Xinemax                    https://jvz1.com/c/202927/381749/
YoDrive                    https://jvz2.com/c/202927/384700/
Your 3DPal                https://jvz2.com/c/202927/381685/
YTSuite                       https://jvzoo.com/c/202927/381179
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