May 21, 2019
The recent flooding of the Midwest has triggered a multi-dimensional understanding of what climate change will mean to the nation’s primary farming region. States are realizing the risks they face, and more are taking action than ever before.
But first the news.

New York Rejects Keystone-Like Pipeline in Fierce Battle
Over the State’€™s Energy Future

New York Rejects Keystone-Like Pipeline in Fierce Battle Over the State’s Energy Future

Regulators denied an application for a $1 billion natural gas pipeline that environmentalists said would set back the fight against climate change.

In a major victory for environmental activists, New York regulators on Wednesday rejected the construction of a heavily disputed, nearly $1 billion natural gas pipeline, even as business leaders and energy companies warned that the decision could devastate the state’s economy and bring a gas moratorium to New York City and Long Island.

The pipeline was planned to run 37 miles, connecting natural gas fields in Pennsylvania to New Jersey and New York. Its operator, the Oklahoma-based Williams Companies, pitched it as a crucial addition to the region’s energy infrastructure, one that would deliver enough fuel to satisfy New York’s booming energy needs and stave off a looming shortage.

But environmental groups said Williams was manufacturing a crisis to justify a project that would rip apart fragile ecosystems, handcuff New York to fossil fuels and hobble the state’s march toward renewable resources.

The result was an arcane but fevered battle over what was potentially New York’s most fraught environmental decision since it banned fracking in 2014. The fight also took on political overtones, as progressive activists pressed Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to urge his Department of Environmental Conservation to reject the application, casting it as a threat to his environmental legacy.

In a statement announcing the denial, the conservation department did not refer to the firestorm that had preceded its decision, aside from noting that it had received comments from more than 45,000 people about the project — 90 percent of whom opposed it. The department laid out its decision in technical terms, noting that construction would contaminate New York’s waters with mercury and copper.

“Construction of the NESE pipeline project is projected to result in water quality violations and fails to meet New York State’s rigorous water quality standards,” the department said, referring to what is formally called the Northeast Supply Enhancement pipeline.…—Vivian Wang, Michael Adno, “New York Rejects Keystone-Like Pipeline in Fierce Battle Over the State’s Energy Future,” The New York Times, 5/15/19


Students rally against controversial Meadowlands power plant project

Students rally against controversial Meadowlands power plant project

The march featured a strong contingent of local high school students from across the county, who rallied against plans for the gas-fired power plant.

A marching protest to “Save Our Lungs” by blocking a controversial power plant proposal in the Meadowlands drew hundreds of protesters to Ridgefield High School on Saturday, who sought to press Gov. Phil Murphy’s administration into rescinding permits granted to the project.

The march featured a strong contingent of local high school students from across the county, who partnered with environmental organizations such as the Sierra club and Food and Water Watch to rally against the gas-fired power plant in an area already graded an ‘F’ for clean air by the America Lung Association.

Federal data shows that the plant, slated for North Bergen, would likely pump millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, enough to become the highest emitter of carbon dioxide in the state, tied with the Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery in Linden.

“Today we live in a world where we have to fight for the privilege to breathe clean air,” Yoon Yung Kim, a high school student, said Saturday. “No amount of money is worth risking our lungs and our health.”…—Tom Nobile, “Students rally against controversial Meadowlands power plant project,” North Jersey, 5/19/19


Pass the Off Fossil Fuels Act, New York’s Strongest Climate Change Bill

Pass the Off Fossil Fuels Act, New York’s Strongest Climate Change Bill

Grassroots climate activists hope that before state lawmakers adjourn for the summer they will strike a deal with Governor Cuomo to adopt the strongest climate legislation possible.

And let’s be clear: the strongest climate bill is the NYS OFF Act (A3565/S5526), not the more publicized Climate and Community Protection Act (CCPA).

The Off Fossil Fuels Act, for 100% renewable energy by 2030, grew out of the successful grassroots campaign to ban fracking in New York. It seeks to implement the study done by Stanford and Cornell professors showing how the state could by 2030 obtain 100% of its energy from solar, wind, geothermal, and conservation. It includes the critical component of calling for a halt to all new fossil projects, a measure not included in either the CCPA or by the governor in his agenda. Forty state lawmakers are sponsoring the OFF Act.

The CCPA deserves praise for making environmental justice and a “just transition” central objectives of any climate action. But its climate policies are centered around enacting into law a ten-year-old Executive Order from the Paterson administration. The bill that the State Assembly passed every year since 2009 to do that was changed three years ago to the CCPA, adding environmental justice and labor provisions.

Our understanding of climate change has itself changed a lot in the last decade, especially so in the last three years. The climate goals in the CCPA were rejected by developing countries at the Paris climate talks. They rebelled against the industrial polluter nations which want a goal of keeping global warming below 2 degrees Celsius, insisting the target be lowered to 1.5 degrees.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently warned the world that it had to significantly step up its climate actions as we have less than 12 years left to save life on the planet. The IPCC is a conservative body, due to the nature of “scientific consensus” and because its pronouncements need to be approved by the fossil-fuel centered countries like Saudi Arabia, the United States, Russia, and Brazil. Every study by the IPPC has understated the speed and severity of climate change. As one of its authors has said, for an accurate read, take our worst case scenario and double it.

Even Governor Cuomo upgraded his climate goals following the IPCC report, now calling for 70% of state electricity to be renewable by 2030.

I spent more than three decades organizing for a variety of low-income community groups to end poverty and promote economic justice. We cannot solve the climate crisis without ensuring that the poor and workers benefit from the transition. While dedicating jobs and climate funding to lift up disadvantaged communities, we need to advocate for policies that ensure such communities are not blown, washed, or burnt away by extreme weather.

We need to remember that it is the developing world that is home to the principal victims of climate change. Half of the residents of Puerto Rico were without electricity and drinking water for six months – and they are part of the United States (despite how the Trump administration may approach them)!

Scientists now openly discuss the possibility of human extinction and/or the end of civilization as we know it. The Extinction Rebellion has risen to demand an end to greenhouse gas emissions by 2025. A majority of Congressional Democrats from New York sponsor the federal Green New Deal with its 2030 timeline and the federal OFF Act with a goal of 2035. How can New York pursue a timeline decades slower?

We have to enact bold, even radical, climate measures that increase the chances of humans surviving climate chaos. We have to reject the approach of embracing incremental measures that politicians, paid for by fossil fuel campaign contributions, find “reasonable.”

New York lawmakers need to take the best ideas from the OFF Act, CCPA, Cuomo’s agenda, and the half-dozen other climate bills. Climate activists need to weigh in on the details of the dozens of issues being negotiated by legislative leaders.…—Mark Dunlea, “Pass the Off Fossil Fuels Act, New York’s Strongest Climate Change Bill,” Gotham Gazette, 5/17/19


Local environmentalist to battle National Grid pipeline

NORTH GREENBUSH, N.Y. (NEWS10) – National Grid is aiming to construct a new pipeline through several Rennsselaer County communities to help with the needs of its customers. Community Advocates for a Sustainable Environment is with lawmakers in an attempt to stop the construction.

“The state, the country, the world, have all acknowledged that we need to cut down on fossil fuels. We can’t move toward that and continue to build fossil fuel infrastructure,” said member Becky Meier.

The public comment period for this proposal ends on May 24.
Call Cuomo Monday: Stop the East Greenbush Fracked Gas Pipeline

Here are some talking points about the risks of the pipeline you can use in your comment.
Submit your comment here>.

The group said they’ve taken on a large energy company before and won. Now they’re preparing to take on National Grid to stop the seven-mile gas line that is slated to run through Delmar, North Greenbush and East Greenbush.…—Louis Finley, “Local environmentalist to battle National Grid pipeline,ABC|Albany, 4/3/19


Cayuga Power Plant Wants to Shut Down,
Convert to Power-Hungry Data Center

Cayuga Power Plant Wants to Shut Down, Convert to Power-Hungry Data Center

LANSING, May 17, 2019 — The Cayuga Generating Co. power plant, one of the state’s two remaining coal-fired facilities, announced plans this week to shut down and convert into an energy-gobbling data center with a solar farm.

The 15-megawatt solar array would cover only about one-seventh of the energy needed to power and cool the center’s banks of computers, which would store and manage “cloud” data.

The proposal hinges on its owners’ success in obtaining favorable energy concessions and other financial aid from the state.

In recent months those owners had been seeking approval to convert one of its two coal units to burn natural gas, delivered by truck from fracked gas wells in Pennsylvania.

Their decision to abort that proposed coal-to-gas conversion and simply shut down drew applause from several local environmental groups.

“How fitting to replace this relic of the last century’s dirty fossil-fuel era with today’s modern technology, powered by clean renewable energy,” said Irene Weiser, co-founder for No Fracked Gas Cayuga.

The plant, located 15 miles north of Ithaca on the east side of Cayuga Lake, is owned by Riesling Power LLC of Easton, Md., which also owns Somerset Operating Co., operator of the state’s only other coal plant (on Lake Ontario, north of Buffalo).

Somerset, which has recently fallen behind on its local tax obligations, also plans to shut down and convert to a giant data center.

Both coal plants have struggled financially in recent years in spite of big tax breaks and heavy ratepayer subsidies.

Their prospects have been further clouded by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s public pledge to close all of the state’s coal-fired plants by the year 2020.…—Peter Mantius, “Cayuga Power Plant Wants to Shut Down, Convert to Power-Hungry Data Center,” Water Front, 5/17/19


Just Add Earth
Can Dirt Save the Earth?

Can Dirt Save the Earth?

Agriculture could pull carbon out of the air and into the soil — but it would mean a whole new way of thinking about how to tend the land.

When John Wick and his wife, Peggy Rathmann, bought their ranch in Marin County, Calif., in 1998, it was mostly because they needed more space. Rathmann is an acclaimed children’s book author — “Officer Buckle and Gloria” won a Caldecott Medal in 1996 — and their apartment in San Francisco had become cluttered with her illustrations. They picked out the 540-acre ranch in Nicasio mostly for its large barn, which they planned to remake into a spacious studio. Wick, a former construction foreman — they met when he oversaw a renovation of her bathroom — was eager to tackle the project. He knew the area well, having grown up one town away, in Woodacre, where he had what he describes as a “free-range” childhood: little supervision and lots of biking, rope-swinging and playing in the area’s fields and glens.

The couple quickly settled into their bucolic new surroundings. Wick began fixing leaks in the barn. Rathmann loved watching the many animals, including ravens, deer and the occasional gopher, from the large porch. She even trained the resident towhees, small brown birds, to eat seed from her hand. So smitten were they with the wildlife, in fact, that they decided to return their ranch to a wilder state. For nearly a century, this had been dairy country, and the rounded, coastal hills were terraced from decades of grazing. Wick and Rathmann would often come home and find, to their annoyance, cows standing on their porch. The first step they took toward what they imagined would be a more pristine state was to revoke the access enjoyed by the rancher whose cows wandered their property.

Within months of the herd’s departure, the landscape began to change. Brush encroached on meadow. Dried-out, uneaten grass hindered new growth. A mysterious disease struck their oak trees. The land seemed to be losing its vitality. “Our vision of wilderness was failing,” Wick told me recently. “Our naïve idea was not working out so well.”

Wick was especially bothered by the advance of a prickly, yellow-flowered invasive weed called the woolly distaff thistle. He pulled it, mowed it, doused it with herbicides. But the distaff kept moving into what had been pasture. He thought about renting goats to eat the weeds and brush, but they were too expensive. He even considered introducing wild elk, but the bureaucratic hurdles seemed too onerous.

Then Wick and Rathmann met a range land ecologist named Jeff Creque. Instead of fighting against what you dislike, Creque suggested, focus on cultivating what you want. Squeeze out weeds by fostering conditions that favor grasses. Creque, who spent 25 years as an organic-pear-and-apple farmer in Northern California before earning a Ph.D. in range land ecology, also recommended that they bring back the cows. Grasslands and grazing animals, he pointed out, had evolved together. Unlike trees, grasses don’t shed their leaves at the end of the growing season; they depend on animals for defoliation and the recycling of nutrients. The manure and urine from grazing animals fuels healthy growth. If done right, Creque said, grazing could be restorative.

Further reading: Just add compost: How to turn your grassland ranch into a carbon sink

This view ran counter to a lot of conservationist thought, as well as a great deal of evidence. Grazing has been blamed for turning vast swaths of the world into deserts. But from Creque’s perspective, how you graze makes all the difference. If the ruminants move like wild buffalo, in dense herds, never staying in one place for too long, the land benefits from the momentary disturbance. If you simply let them loose and then round them up a few months later — often called the “Columbus method” — your land is more likely to end up hard-packed and barren.…—Moises Velasquez-Manoff, “Can Dirt Save the Earth?,” The New York Times, 4/18/18


The Midwest’s “bomb cyclone” was more of a catastrophe
than anyone could have ever imagined

The Midwest’s “bomb cyclone” was more of a catastrophe than anyone could have ever imagined

It’s threatening the region’s most valuable resource.

After “bomb cyclone” storms hit the Midwest last week, large swaths of Nebraska, Iowa, and Missouri farmland are stricken with floods. “Baby calves were swept into freezing floodwaters, washing up dead along the banks of swollen rivers,” the New York Times reported from the ground in Nebraska on Tuesday. “Farm fields were now lakes.” Three people have died, and in many places, “rail lines and roads that carry farmers’ crops to market were washed away by the rain-gorged rivers that drowned small towns,” the Times added.

 The disaster slammed Midwestern farmers at a vulnerable time. Besieged by rising competition from growers in Brazil, they’re locked in a five-year slump of low prices for their main crops, corn and soybeans, which intensified when President Donald Trump launched a multi-front trade war last year. Farm debt has reached levels last seen in 1980, which marked the dawn of a devastating farm crisis, the Wall Street Journal reported in February. Farm bankruptcies in the region jumped 19 percent in 2018, reaching their highest level in a decade and nearly twice the 2008 rate. The floods will likely exact at least $1 billion in livestock losses and equipment damage to farms.

And severe winter and spring floods take another toll that’s much more difficult to quantify: Soil loss, on a grand scale, right in the region that provides a huge amount of our food supply. The Midwest boasts one of the globe’s greatest stores of topsoil, more than half of which has been lost in the past 50 years. Topsoil is the fragile, slow-to-regenerate resource that drives agriculture. As University of Washington ecologist David Montgomery explained in his terrific 2007 book Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations: “With just a couple feet of soil standing between prosperity and desolation, civilizations that plow through their soil vanish.”…—Tom Philpott, “The Hidden Catastrophe of the Midwest’s Floods,” Mother Jones, 3/20/19


NASA studies an unusual Arctic warming event

NASA studies an unusual Arctic warming event – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet

Winter temperatures are soaring in the Arctic for the fourth winter in a row. The heat, accompanied by moist air, is entering the Arctic not only through the sector of the North Atlantic Ocean that lies between Greenland and Europe, as it has done in previous years, but is also coming from the North Pacific through the Bering Strait.

“We have seen winter warming events before, but they’re becoming more frequent and more intense,” said Alek Petty, a sea ice researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

Scientists are waiting to see how much this heat wave will impact the wintertime sea ice maximum extent, which has been shrinking in the past decades and has hit record lows each of the past three years. The sea ice levels are already at record lows or near-record lows in several areas of the Arctic. Another exceptional event this winter is the opening up of the sea ice cover north of Greenland, releasing heat from the ocean to the atmosphere and making the sea ice more vulnerable to further melting.

“This is a region where we have the thickest multi-year sea ice and expect it to not be mobile, to be resilient,” Petty said. “But now this ice is moving pretty quickly, pushed by strong southerly winds and probably affected by the warm temperatures, too.”—”NASA studies an unusual Arctic warming event – Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet,” NASA, 2/28/18


Midwest Flooding Exposes Another Oil Pipeline Risk
— on Keystone XL’s Route

Midwest Flooding Exposes Another Oil Pipeline Risk — on Keystone XL’s Route

Rushing rivers have exposed once-buried pipelines before, leading to oil spills. With climate change exacerbating flood risks, Keystone XL critics see dangers ahead.

NAPER, Nebraska — Standing on the banks of the Keya Paha River where it cuts through his farm, Bob Allpress points across a flat expanse of sand to where a critical shut-off valve is supposed to rise from the Keystone XL pipeline once it’s buried in his land. The Keya Paha flooded several weeks ago, and when it did, the rush of newly melted water drove debris, sand and huge chunks of ice deep inland, mowing down trees and depositing a long wall of ice 6 feet high and 30 feet wide across Allpress’s property.

“It would’ve taken out their shut-off valve,” Allpress said of the river flooding. “Right where they propose to put it at. And it wouldn’t have been a good thing.”

If the Trump administration and the state of Nebraska have their way, the Keystone XL oil pipeline will be built, and about a mile of it will slice through Allpress’s 900-acre farm, where he and his brothers raise corn, alfalfa and cattle.

Further reading: Spring Outlook: Historic, widespread flooding to continue through May

A former oil-field worker and avowed Republican, Allpress, like many local landowners, has long opposed the pipeline, which would pass through floodplains and erosion-prone land. Now, the catastrophic spring flooding that devastated parts of Nebraska has swept that threat into the spotlight, as the Trump administration works to fast-track construction by overriding environmental reviews.

Click for full size

Opponents of Keystone XL have successfully stymied the project’s completion for years with legal challenges over threats to regional drinking-water aquifers, streams, wildlife habitat and the global climate. The pipeline would carry tar sands crude 1,200 miles from Hardisty, Canada, to Steele City, Nebraska, where it would connect to other pipelines to Gulf Coast refineries.…—Neela Banerjee, “Midwest Flooding Exposes Another Oil Pipeline Risk — on Keystone XL’s Route,” InsideClimate News, 5/16/19


Why The U.S. Just Had Its Wettest 12-Month Stretch On Record

Why The U.S. Just Had Its Wettest 12-Month Stretch On Record

Here’s why the U.S. just experienced its wettest 12-month stretch on record, and yes, climate change is a part of the discussion.

I am always careful when writing this type of piece because there is usually some contrarian hanging out on Twitter waiting to pounce on statements like “It’s the ______est year ever.” To avoid cliche trolling, it is important to use the word “on record.” With that out of the way, let’s discuss the U.S. experiencing its wettest 12-month stretch on record (in this case 1895 to 2019). Deke Arndt, a climatologist at NOAA’s National Center for Environmental Information (NCEI), tweeted:

In case you missed it, the last 12 months (May ’18 through Apr ’19) is the wettest 12-month stretch on record for the US. A warmer world turns up the hydrology dial. When we are sent the bill for climate change, it comes in the context of our water.

Here are the meteorological and climatological reasons why this likely happened as well as further explanation of the last sentence of Arndt’s Tweet.

The graphic above shows how abnormally wet it was in the U.S. from May 2018 to April 2019, particularly in the upper Midwest and the eastern U.S. By the way, if you live in the region shaded orange-brown, resist the urge to say “but it was drier where I live” so climate change is a hoax. Your local experience doesn’t define the global experience.

A way to think about the relationship between changing climate and Big Weather” Consider parent/child, teacher/student, coach/athlete, mentor/apprentice relationships. The parent (climate) rarely dictates day to day actions, but is hugely influential in long-term outcomes….Change the climate, and the things that dictate “extreme behavior” are largely the same, but those ingredients are coming together in different ways. In other words, the drivers of his day-to-day behaviors are largely the same, but the trajectory of his life have changed. —Deke Arndt

Before I discuss climate connections, it is important to discuss meteorological connections first. The inevitable “it has always rained” or “climate changes naturally” is lurking in someone’s head right now. My placeholder response is that grass on your lawn grows naturally too, but it you put fertilizer on the soil, it grows differently. I will provide a more robust discussion later in the article.

Several places, including Washington, D.C, broke records for wettest 12-month stretch. Jason Samenow wrote an outstanding article in the Washington Post Capital Weather Gang explaining the meteorological context for the period. I summarize Samenow’s key points:

  • A persistently high-pressure pattern east of the U.S. transported Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico moisture into the eastern half of the country.
  • Another persistently high-pressure pattern near Alaska allowed storm-tracks to be directed into the upper Midwest and East by the jet stream
  • Possible jet stream modifications due to the emerging El Nino (warm central Pacific sea surface temperatures).

Experts like NOAA’s Greg Carbin argued that El Nino had not really established itself. NOAA only announced the arrival of El Nino on February 14th, 2019. However, SUNY-Albany’s Paul Roundy, an expert on tropical weather-climate connections, argues that global impacts are possible even in the incipient phases El Nino. The reality is that all of these factors likely played a role and reflects weather-climate variability inherent to the atmosphere.

Now let’s circle back to Deke Arndt’s Tweet and my “fertilizer” analogy. For decades now, climate experts have warned that climate warming would cause an acceleration to the Earth’s water cycle. I suspect you know what an accelerating car looks like, but you might be asking, “what does an accelerated water cycle mean?” NASA’s Earth Observatory provides a good answer:

as the lower atmosphere becomes warmer, evaporation rates will increase, resulting in an increase in the amount of moisture circulating throughout the troposphere (lower atmosphere). An observed consequence of higher water vapor concentrations is the increased frequency of intense precipitation events, mainly over land areas.

Is there evidence that this is happening? Yes, there is quite a bit actually. The 2018 U.S. National Climate Assessment, which is required by law in the U.S., summarized numerous independent studies. The graphic above shows that extreme rainfall events have increased in intensity over the past 50 to 60 years, and climate model projections expect that trend to increase. Another connection to changing climate is Arctic Amplification.…—Marshall Shepherd, “Why The U.S. Just Had Its Wettest 12-Month Stretch On Record,” Forbes, 5/19/19


Middle America’s Low-Hanging Carbon:
The Search for Greenhouse Gas Cuts
from the Grid, Agriculture and Transportation

Middle America’s Low-Hanging Carbon: The Search for Greenhouse Gas Cuts from the Grid, Agriculture and Transportation

The American Midwest is at a turning point as it confronts the global climate crisis. It’s a landscape of opportunity, where investment is starting to pour into renewable energy, farmers are turning to climate-friendly practices, and automakers are introducing new electric vehicles. But its path forward is still cluttered with obstacles.

The region is already feeling the environmental and economic tremors of climate change. It’s still a rare day when Chicago’s thermometers hit 100—hot enough to be deadly. But the latest science predicts that by mid-century heat waves will routinely strike the region with temperatures much hotter than was common just a few decades ago. Summers will warm faster in the Midwest than in any other American region, according to the National Climate Assessment.

​And these states form the hinge of the nation’s intensifying political debate over climate change. Donald Trump‘s 2016 presidential campaign, devoted to saving coal and hostile to the Paris climate accord, succeeded in swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Iowa—all won by Barack Obama in 2012. Two years after Trump’s victory, in the 2018 midterms, lots of upper Midwest congressional districts and governorships flipped the other way, putting in place new leaders with high climate ambitions.

All this change reverberates not just in laboratories and legislatures, but in the lives of 68 million Midwesterners.

Further reading Louisiana’s New Climate Plan Prepares for Resilience and Retreat as Sea Level Rises
Climate Policy Foes Seize on New White House Rule to Challenge Endangerment Finding
The Impossibly Cute Pika’s Survival May Say Something About Our Own Future

Today, in a collaboration of newsrooms from nine states, 14 reporters are publishing articles on three climate-related themes: agriculture, transportation and the electric grid. The reporters brainstormed together at a two-day workshop in March in Nashville at the First Amendment Center of Vanderbilt University. It was led by InsideClimate News as part of its National Environment Reporting Network. We challenged ourselves to create a project that would offer readers in the Midwest local perspectives on climate change, at a time when climate policy is becoming a defining issue in national elections.…—John H. Cushman Jr., “Middle America’s Low-Hanging Carbon: The Search for Greenhouse Gas Cuts from the Grid, Agriculture and Transportation,” InsideClimate News, 5/20/19


Harnessing pig power

Harnessing pig power

BEDFORD (Reuters) – John Ibbett and pigs go back a long way. “The pig manager pushed me round in a pram,” recalls Ibbett, whose family have been farming on the same site since 1939.

Now he’s proud his family farm can turn muck into electricity, using new technology paid for by a multi-million pound windfall. His Bedfordia Group is one of only a handful of companies with farm-based biogas plants in Britain.

Scientists complain that the world has so far failed to support agriculture in the fight against climate change, focusing instead on more visible emissions from factories and power plants.

Ibbett raised part of the cash for his multi-million, three-year-old venture from a property sale far beyond the reach of most family-owned farms. Although his is a rarity in Britain, more biogas plants are being established in Denmark, Germany and developing countries.

That momentum could be a precursor for much bigger climate benefits, from changing farming methods to use the soil’s capacity to store vast amounts of carbon. Experts say this is an area so far almost entirely ignored by policymakers.

Soils as well as trees can suck carbon out of the air, boosting what experts call terrestrial carbon. Farmers can nurture carbon underground as well as crops above by using longer rotations, not over-grazing pasture and plowing less.

Low-carbon pigs may not easily fly, but directly curbing greenhouse gas emissions from farming is important. Farming contributes as much to global warming as all the world’s planes, cars and trucks, and that will increase as the world tries to feed an extra 3 billion people by 2050.

Scientists also want more focus especially on the soil at U.N. climate talks which resume in two weeks’ time in Bonn and are meant to thrash out by December a new climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

In addition, academics have revived interest in a millennium-old technology to plow into the soil a carbon-rich type of charcoal made from heating plant, food or animal waste, called biochar.

“I think we’re already beyond the safe level of greenhouse gas concentrations and the difference could be met through this terrestrial carbon approach,” said Thomas Lovejoy, biodiversity chair at the Heinz Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.…—Gerard Wynn, “Harnessing pig power,” Reuters, 3/23/09


And That’s A Wrap! Thanks to everyone who sent in news, action announcements and comments this week. Send kudos, rotten tomatoes and your story ideas, your group’s action events, and news of interest to intrepid climate change and environmental justice warriors! Send to