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Can Land cause Climate Change? (new IPCC report)

Posted on 9 August 2019 by Guest Author

A brand new report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows just how much global warming affects our use of land, and how land use affects the planet. From farming to forests, we have to learn to protect our land from ourselves.  ClimateAdam explains:

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  1. "...we have to learn to protect our land from ourselves."

    Humanity has to figure out how to correct the developed harmful aspects of systems and cultures to protect its future from the harmful results that can be expected to be produced by pursuits of status in competitions for popularity and profit.

    It is cheaper and easier to act more harmfully and less sustainably for as long as it can be gotten away with.

    All of the Sustainable Development Goals have been identified for Good Reason. They all need to be achieved and improved on, not just the corrections of land use and climate impacts.

    And the 1987 UN report "Our Common Future" (a report that was the result of the continuation of global efforts to improve awareness and understanding of the requirements for the future of humanity that had produced the 1972 Stockholm Conference Report and continues with the IPCC and similar efforts to improve global understanding) accurately identified the reason Global Leadership (the winners of competitions for popularity and profit) fail to act in ways that would raise awareness of those goals and prioritize the achievement and improvement of those goals:

    "25. Many present efforts to guard and maintain human progress, to meet human needs, and to realize human ambitions are simply unsustainable - in both the rich and poor nations. They draw too heavily, too quickly, on already overdrawn environmental resource accounts to be affordable far into the future without bankrupting those accounts. They may show profit on the balance sheets of our generation, but our children will inherit the losses. We borrow environmental capital from future generations with no intention or prospect of repaying. They may damn us for our spendthrift ways, but they can never collect on our debt to them. We act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote; they have no political or financial power; they cannot challenge our decisions.
    26. But the results of the present profligacy are rapidly closing the options for future generations. Most of today's decision makers will be dead before the planet feels; the heavier effects of acid precipitation, global warming, ozone depletion, or widespread desertification and species loss. Most of the young voters of today will still be alive. In the Commission's hearings it was the young, those who have the most to lose, who were the harshest critics of the planet's present management."

    And the Propaganda Model presented by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in 1988 in the book "Manufacturing Consent" explains how harmful resistance to correction can be expected to fight to Defend undeserved Winning of Status.

    The real problem is the undeserving among the wealthy and powerful and the way that Good people among the wealthy and powerful have been struggling to get support to correct their harmful Peers. Those helpful ones among the Winners struggle to win popularity contests because of the mechanisms identified by the Propaganda Model. They also struggle because as Jonathan Haidt has identified in "The Righteous Mind", many people will allow Interests Other than the fundamental ethical/moral value of 'Helping Others / Not Harming Others' to compromise how they evaluate the merit or value of actions. Many people will say they like actions to reduce climate impact but will still allow Other Interests to lead them to choose to vote for leaders who have a history of resisting such corrective actions.

    The aspects of the story-telling systems that are influenced by, or harmfully governed by, interests that are contrary to achieving and improving on the SDGs are the reason so many people have inadequate and incorrect awareness and understanding of what is actually going on, and why many people who do understand what is going on become supporting players in the status quo systems contrary to the understood corrections required for the benefit of the future of humanity.

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  2. Our effect on the climate due to our use of the land is apparently not new.  If you read the book Plows, Plagues and Petroleum by Ruddiman he makes a very convincing case that we were delaying our slide into the next glacial period by our use of the land, including, significantly, the use of the plow as we vented sequestered carbon into the atmosphere.

    Come forward and read the three books by David R Montgomety, Dirt, Growing a revolution and The Hidden Half of Nature

    The first describes what happens when a civilization treats her soil like dirt and how many hundreds of years it takes the soil to rebuild from the underlying bed rock when that civilization disappears. 

    The second describes his globe trotting trip to see the very few farmers in widely different soils, climates, political regimes and widely diffent sizes from small holdings to huge ranches, that have come up with a better way of farming.  He describes how you can restore your soil in an amazing short three years by correct farming methods. 

    The third describes the inner working of a rich organic soil including the knowlege from recent research.

    I have heard he is working on a fouth book in the series describing the food value of crops grown in rich organic soils vs sterile soils using chemical nutrients.

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  3. ps.  When correct farming is practiced, carbon is sequestered in the soil and would you believe, the bottom line of the farmer improves.

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  4. The following 'Buisiness-Minded' way of thinking is a general problem that relates to the 'farming practices point' that william raises.

    Return On Investment is desired. But discounting the future and having the ability to easily move wealth to other investment opportunities around the world leads to thinking that a good business opportunity is one where:

    • the initial investment will be paid back within 3 years
    • and the business will continue for about 10 years.
    • Anything beyond 10 years is a bonus.
    • And the business collapsing at 10 years is OK as long as there are ot end costs that cannot be minimized by things like bankrupcy protection that limit the loses. The money made can be invested in a new 'Best Investment Opportunity'.

    The quest for those opportunities leads to the challenges that result in the industrial take-over of farmland that has no real future, but looks great on the balance sheet of today.

    DIscounting the future combined with desires for maximum quickest personal gain is unsustainable and disaster creating.

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  5. Along the line of other commentors, there are many issues that don't seem to be addressed in the IPCC report.

    My main concern is that agricultural practices and impacts can vary massively for the same commodity (beef) or even production system (e.g. grazing). Scientists published about "grazing impacts"  or even about "impacts from extensive grazing with low stocking density". As a trained Earth Scientist and farmer, I see that farm management is far more complex than "these academics" can imagine. I know very good grazing managers who likely have a net negative emissions from beef production, and many lazy grazers who degrade pasture and soil. Management is all that matters.

    So any parts of this study which generically talk about specific land use practices (e.g. "grazing", "cropping", "forestry") can only be over simplistic. Remember: On average, every human has one female breast and one male ball. This statement is both true and nonsense - and is here as a reminder of aggregation errors. One must look at what actually happens microbiologically in the soil, not at what type of product is sold.

    As for farming, there is no good or bad product - just good or bad production management. Cows can be good for the climate (though few are), or destructive (as most production is). Same as soybeans. This makes it darn hard to define a "regenerative diet"... unless we start measuring soil carbon impacts, as the Savory Institute is spear-heading.

    For me, the IPCC report fails to highlight this management dimension in agricultural land management. This only reflects academic difficulties to quantify soil management efficiency (its easier to look at yields!), especially in the short duration of most projects.

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  6. You can start by actually reporting what they said, instead of what you wished they might say.
    They did NOT say eating a lot less meat will save the planet. That’s a ridiculous statement in your video. But at least you immediately followed it up with a pretty smug disclaimer of your personal biases. 

    While they occasionally make bloopers, they didn’t this time. What the report states with high confidence that balanced diets featuring plant-based and sustainably produced animal-sourced food

    “present major opportunities for adaptation and mitigation while generating significant co-benefits in terms of human health”.

    The key here is sustainably produced balanced diets. In some cases that might mean less meat, in many cases around the world it actually means we need more meat to make properly balanced sustainable diets.

    Do I agree with the actual report when not misrepresented…..somewhat. The report also makes the claim we need to grow biofuels as a way to help mitigate AGW. Couldn’t be further from the truth.
    It’s Time to Rethink America’s Corn System
    That’s the real reason behind the big push to reduce meat consumption…Industry wants more corn and soy for biofuels like gasohol and the land will continue to degrade. Biofuels like corn are the absolute least efficient way to mitigate AGW. In fact most people think the net effect is actually causing more AGW.
    Actually the way to mitigate AGW is to increase worldwide meat production by eliminating excess corn and soy for biofuels, and factory farms too. We need more animals on the land not fewer.

    Running out of time

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  7. The use of corn and other crops for biofuels is completely senseless. There is not enough land to scale it up significantly; it just displaces other vital crops. There may be future in things like using kelp, or biofuel crops grown on wasteland where nothing edible can be usefully grown.

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