“My Little Bit Won’t Hurt” – Carbon Emissions & Biomass Burning

The following graph of an Antarctic ice core sample covers Earth’s last 800,000 years. It was done by the British Antarctic Survey (Natural Environment Research Council) and reported on 14 November 2016. {Amos14Nov2016} {Mulvaney2016}. The double graph shows the correlation between atmospheric CO2 in the top graph and temperature in the bottom graph. The CO2 lows are around 190 ppm (parts per million); the highs around 270 ppm. It doesn’t sound like a lot, but obviously is when it comes to Earth’s climate. The graph shows a cycle of approximately 100,000 yrs.

There are lots of highs, lows, zigzags everywhere. As some people love to say, weather changes constantly – changes are normal. They are right, weather does and those zigzags would agree. Throughout those 800,000 years, Earth has had droughts, wildfires, and created large deserts. Earth has had vicious storms, enormous floods, and eroded. It has seen large freshwater lakes created and emptied, has seen incredible changes in sea levels, had islands created, and islands washed away. Earth has had multiple ice ages and had areas become parched. It has also had continental plates move, earthquakes, numerous volcanic eruptions, and has been hit by objects from space. All many times.

However, since most changes were localized or slow enough, most life had time to adapt or migrate. In all those times, there wasn’t such rapid melting of Earth’s Poles, such destruction of the oceans, and ruination of land ecosystems and food systems. Recent CO2 changes have already required plants, insects, animals, and humans to migrate and to die off. {UN} {WWF} {Audubon} {World Meteorological Organization (WMO)}

In those turbulent 800,000 yrs., species have evolved; and others have become extinct. Around 750,000 ya (years ago) Neanderthals came into existence, around 350,000 ya Homo sapiens, around 50,000 ya humans met and mated with Neanderthals affecting 1–3 % of our DNA, and, between 9000 and 7000 ya, humans began to domesticate animals and clear the forest for farming.

By 2000 ya, from the fallout of increasing deforestation, the bones of wild animals in Ireland from 90 archaeological sites were already showing a loss of nitrogen caused by exposed soils’ and consequently plants’ nitrogen sources. {Green13June2018} Since nitrogen is a key to plant’s chlorophyll and to plants’ and animals’ proteins, this was a significant happening. It is much like nitrogen losses in the Maritimes which is why forests have regressed to the plants which were first here, shortly after the ice age, and which required only thin soil: aspen, birch, and spruce. Soil scientists have declared clearcutting is not sustainable. {Keys2016} {Lahey2018}

Besides nitrogen, exposed and warmed soils have also lost calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus to leaching, and CARBON to the atmosphere. {Bandy1999} 2000 ya! “Scientists estimate that the Earth contained approximately 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass 2000 ya. Since that time, humans have reduced that amount by half.” {Schramski2015}

100 Year Ice Age Cycles

Before the years 800,000 before present, building Earth’s present-day atmospheric conditions had taken much of nature’s effort and time. When mosses evolved around 480 mya (million years ago), the Earth’s atmospheric levels of CO2 “are thought to have been 16 times higher than they are now, and average global temperatures are thought to have been 25C, around 10C higher than they are now [2012].” {Lenton2012} Between 330 mya and 140 mya, ferns and conifers could only bring the CO2 down to 3 times the current levels. {Bradshaw2016} Ferns and conifers had 200 million years, but conifers don’t store water and, though they photosynthesize in the winter, are relatively inefficient at photosynthesis compared to flowering plants. {Wohlleben107} {Simonin2018}

140 mya, flowering plants’ (hardwoods) began to evolve smaller genetic material/genome, and could build smaller cells. “In turn, this allows greater carbon dioxide uptake and carbon gain from photosynthesis.” {Briggs15January2018} {Simonin2018} Additionally, a study of 673,046 trees by the US Dept. of Interior found the oldest trees work best, not 40-year-old trees and, looking at them, why wouldn’t the oldest work best? {Stephenson2014} {Quinn16Jan2014} What chance would saplings have? “Research has documented that for many years after a clearcut, a resprouting forest emits more CO2 than it absorbs.” {CarterFEN} “Plantations can sequester only a quarter of the CO2 that functioning woodland can, and converting forests to plantations actually releases carbon trapped in the soil.” {GraberStiehl3March2016} “Scientists say halting deforestation [is] ‘just as urgent’ as reducing emissions.” {Milman4Oct2018} {IPCC4October2018. (UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change)}

The graph shows, over the last 800,000 yrs., Earth’s CO2 ppm “natural” range, has been 190 to 270 ppm. The thing is, the Earth’s atmosphere is now [2018] at 410 ppm. There is nothing like 410 ppm on this graph of the last 800,000 years. Additionally, the Earth has never had more CO2 put into its atmosphere per year than this year in 66 MILLION YEARS, two major extinctions ago. {Zeebe et al 2016} {Amos21March2016} What’s happening is not “natural”!

Many rationalize “their little bit won’t hurt”. They wait, wanting someone else to change first. Individuals and families wish to warm and amuse themselves with carbon-fueled energy and play with carbon-run toys and vehicles. People want to make money from creating energy and fuels. They want to call those fallen trees and remnants of harvests just “waste”. That so-called waste could have recycled hard-won forest nutrients and carbon-sequestered soils. They want to cut hardwood trees and shrubs, chip, and send them to England, France, throughout North America and locally for biomass energy or biofuels, and claim it causes no harm. They don’t know or are indifferent to the FACT that the older trees’ and hardwoods’ ability to sequester is far more efficient than the young replacement trees and those future forest nutrients are found in the decaying wood.

There are 7.6 billion people on Earth. It soon will be 10 billion. Even those, who pick up loose kindling to keep a small fire going or cook a picnic meal, are adding carbon to an atmosphere that can’t take much more.

Our Earth is in grave trouble. There is no reason for ignorance. The science is there. We have arrived at the “Final call to save the world from ‘climate catastrophe’” {McGrath8October2018} {UN’s IPCC 8 October2018}. People need to have new eyes. Eyes that appreciate what older trees do. Eyes to see the difference between aspen, poplar, birch, and spruce forests and the older mixed elm, hemlock, oak, beech, ash, and maple forests. Eyes to see what is lost when the sides of forests are opened. Eyes to see and understand what happens to exposed soils. Eyes to see the most important uses for so-called wastes. With new eyes, people can make appropriate changes and work within forest-covered areas. Each of Earth’s 7.6 billion people’s pieces doesn’t have to hurt.

 

Norris Whiston 4945 Highway 311, Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia B0K 1V0 902-657-3476 norrisw@ns.sympatico.ca

Can be shared freely.

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