Category Archives: Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Carbon Balance and Forest Disturbance in the West Cascades

By CIRCulator Editorial Staff

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

Late afternoon sunlight. (Photo: Oregon Department of Forestry, Jennifer Erdman, some rights reserved.)

Late afternoon sunlight. (Photo: Oregon Department of Forestry, Jennifer Erdman, some rights reserved.)

FORESTS’ ABILITY to “breathe in” carbon dioxide (CO2) is widely understood to act as a kind of offset or buffer to human-caused climate change. Put simply, forests are essentially picking up the slack—at least some of it—for our heavy carbon-emitting lifestyles. However, forests’ capacity to act as carbon sinks isn’t an absolute given.

Forests are vulnerable to all kinds of disturbances, from wildfires to the regular harvesting of trees for timber, and this can affect their ability to store carbon. What’s more, researchers are only now beginning to grasp what disturbances mean for carbon cycling at the regional level. (Broadly speaking, the carbon cycle constitutes the uptake, emission, and exchange of carbon between the biosphere—plants, animals, and microbes—and the atmosphere.) Recently, researchers tackled this brainteaser for one Northwest ecoregion. Continue reading

Scenario Planning Series, Part 2: Bring on the Acronyms! A Brief Overview of IPCC Scenarios

By: Liz Allen

No one can definitively predict how human behavior and decision-making will affect greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. Considering human actions, however, is key to understanding what future climate change impacts may occur. This is why developing scenarios based on a range of different storylines about how society might change in the future is important. Effective scenario modeling efforts need to consider a wide range of political, economic, technological and social possibilities that bracket the range of what is “possible”. Of course, defining what is possible is subjective, and in this sense scenario planning is an art as much as it is a science. Continue reading

Does an anaerobic digester cost too much?

By Chad Kruger

Reprinted from: WSU CSANR Perspectives on Sustainability

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Photo: D. Story

Anaerobic digestion (AD) with methane capture and conversion is the most straight-forward, bankable strategy for reducing agricultural greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, it is the only agricultural carbon mitigation strategy that has achieved wide-spread acceptance in a variety of voluntary and mandatory carbon mitigation policies. In a sense, it is the closest thing to a “silver bullet” carbon mitigation solution that exists in agriculture. However, AD still has limited overall market penetration in US livestock production systems, in large part because of the perception that it is really expensive technology.

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Are “Dust Bowls” More Likely under Climate Change?

By CIRCulator Editorial Staff

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

Klamath National Wildlife Refuge during the 2001 drought (Photo: USGS)

Klamath National Wildlife Refuge during the 2001 drought (Photo: USGS)

A NEW PAPER published in the Journal of Climate suggests that the risk of decade-long droughts, like the Dust Bowl in the 20th century, may be greater than previously estimated.

The greatest risk is in the Southwest United States, where the likelihood of these droughts occurring once every 50 years is possibly greater than 80 percent with increasing greenhouse gases. The risk of “megadroughts” — those that last for multiple decades — also increase in the Southwest from nearly zero up to 50 percent by the late 21st century.

In this study, records of past drought from instrumental observations and paleoclimate records, such as tree rings that may go back thousands of years, are combined with projections of future precipitation from 27 global climate models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project (phase 5). Continue reading

Livestock’s Role in Climate Change

By David Schmidt

Reprinted from: Animal Ag

Happy New Year to all of you! Now back to the work at hand.

Livestock – Climate Change’s Forgotten Sector: Global Public Opinion on Meat and Dairy Consumption is a report that you all should read. The premise is that although animal agriculture is among the major contributors of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (and hence human induced climate change), it is essentially exempted from regulations and public scrutiny.

The press release for the report tells the story. Human consumption of meat and dairy products is a major driver of climate change, but this new paper finds that there is a major lack of public awareness and understanding of the link between eating meat and dairy and climate change. ” (Press Release for the report) Continue reading

Connecting Causes and Impacts of Climate Change

By CIRCulator Editorial Staff

Reprinted from: The Climate CIRCulator

The figure above from the Synthesis Report links cumulative emissions, temperature change, impacts and near-term emissions changes. In sum: The more we emit, the more challenges emerge.

The figure above from the Synthesis Report links cumulative emissions, temperature change, impacts and near-term emissions changes. In sum: The more we emit, the more challenges emerge.

HERE’S WHAT WE know about climate change in a nutshell:

  • Human influence on the climate system is clear
  • Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems
  • Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems.
  • These are the conclusions of the latest assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, summarized in the Synthesis Report released a few weeks ago. The Synthesis Report ties together themes from three earlier Working Group reports. The report is organized into four topics, summarized as follows:

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The earth hasn’t warmed since 1998

By David Schmidt

Reprinted from: Animal Ag

Likely true, but what does this mean?

This first graph shows temperature over time with a general lack of increase in warming since 1998.

Thumbnail for 85913This past week I had the rare opportunity to meet someone who “wrote the book.” This has never happened to me before. Unfortunately, I did not know he “wrote the book” until after our chance encounter. My meeting was with Dr. Benjamin Santer. His job at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs is to validate climate models. His name was vaguely familiar to me but it was not until after our meeting that I found out he was lead author on chapter 8 of the 1995 IPCC Assessment report titled “Detection of climate change and attribution of causes”. (OK, so he did not “write the book” but at least a chapter in a pretty impressive report. He is also well published and in the media quite often as a climate model expert. )

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On why I might be wrong

By Chad Kruger

Reprinted from: WSU CSANR Perspectives on Sustainability

In two prior posts (threats and variability), based on our research, I have argued that climate change is not likely to be a major cause for concern for agricultural production in the Pacific Northwest until at least mid-century. A little bit of warming and a little bit of CO2 elevation is actually positive for most crops in the PNW. In this post, I’m going to tell you why I might be wrong. Continue reading

Carnivore’s Dilemma

By David Schmidt

Reprinted from: Animal Agriculture in a Changing Climate

Thumbnail for 70932My thoughts today are triggered by a series called “Future of Food” in the National Geographic Magazine.

This series explores the critical topic of feeding 2 billion more people in the next 35 years (2050).

The November issue arrived yesterday and the feature FOOD story was titled “Carnivore’s Dilemma” with tagline “Unhealthy. Nutritious. Cruel. Delicious. Unsustainable. All-American. In the beef debate there are so many sides”. (Other stories in the series include topics like the history of human diets, food waste, food miles, the next green revolution, and world hunger.) Continue reading

Precision nitrogen can benefit both farmers and the climate

By Georgine Yorgey

Reprinted from: WSU CSANR Perspectives on Sustainability

In a previous post, I explained that available evidence currently indicates nitrous oxide emissions may be fairly low in the inland Pacific Northwest, compared to other cropland agricultural systems in the U.S. and world. If ongoing research confirms these early results, then I suggested that efforts to reduce nitrous oxide emissions need to focus on strategies that offered strong co-benefits. Continue reading