#09 Silvopasture

This article explores silvopasture as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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This is what I loved about Project Drawdown, it saw ideas that very few were talking about come out as being highly effective and other more mainstream solutions rank lower or miss out on the top 100 entirely.

I have to admit I knew very little about silvopasture before reading about it in Drawdown. It certainly challenged my perception about cows and their role in driving climate change.

The authors begin with the following explanation:

From the Latin for ‘forest’ and ‘grazing,’ silvopasture is just that: the integration of trees and pasture for forage into a single system for raising livestock, from cattle and sheep to deer and ducks. Rather than seeing trees as a weed to be remove, silvopasture integrates them into a sustainable and symbiotic system.

This practice covers 350 million acres worldwide, which was a figure that surprised me.

Let’s look into the numbers that allowed silvopasture to be ranked as the 9th most effective solution to reverse global warming. Silvopasture could reduce CO2 emissions by 31.19 gigatons, for a net cost of $41.6 billion but produce $699.4 billion in net savings. This is certainly a solution with incredible potential.

The authors explain that: “cattle and other ruminants require 30 to 45 percent of the world’s arable land and produce roughly one-fifth of greenhouse gas emissions.” This is obviously a significant problem.

The authors detail that: “silvopastural systems sequester carbon in both the biomass aboveground and the soil below. Pastures that are strewn or crisscrossed with trees sequester five to ten times as much carbon as those of the same size that are treeless.” This certainly sounds promising.

The authors also explain that: “because the livestock yield on a silvopasture plot is higher… it may curtail the need for additional pasture space and thus help avoid deforestation and subsequent carbon emissions.

The authors also point towards evidence which shows: “that ruminants can better digest silvopastural forage, emitting lower amounts of methane in the process.”

The authors also point to towards another benefit, which is that: “from a financial and risk perspective, silvopasture is useful for its diversification.”

Additionally: “silvopasture can cut farmers’ costs by reducing the need for feed, fertiliser, and herbicides.”

Despite all these benefits, for silvopasture: “its growth has been limited by both practical and cultural factors.” Which seems such a shame.

The authors close with the following hopeful message:

As the impacts of global warming progress, silvopasture’s appeal will likely grow, as it can help farmers and their livestock adapt to erratic weather and increased drought. Trees create cooler microclimates and more protective environments, and can moderate water availability.”

What you need to know

This article explored silvopasture as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of project drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

Coming in at number 9, silvopasture was therefore rated as being extremely effective. Its costs are reasonably low and it has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by massive amounts.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of silvopasture as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#10 Rooftop Solar

This article explores rooftop solar as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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This series in now getting towards the business end and solutions that people are more familiar with are starting to come to the forefront.

The authors begin with the statement that: “small-scale photovoltaic systems, typically sited on rooftops, are playing a significant role in harnessing that light, the most abundant resource on earth.

The authors also add that: “although photovoltaics (PV) provide less than 2 percent of the world’s electricity at present, PV has seen exponential growth over the past decade.”

Let’s look into the figures that have allowed rooftop solar to be ranked as the 10th most effective solution to reverse global warming. Rooftop solar could reduce CO2 emissions by 24.6 gigatons, for a net cost of $453.1 billion, but produce net savings of $3.46 trillion. This is certainly a powerful solution.

The authors explain that: “roof modules are spreading around the world because of their affordability.”

The authors explain solar power’s rise with the following statement:

“Solar PV has benefited from a virtuous cycle of falling costs, driven by incentives to accelerate its development and implementation, economies of scale in manufacturing, advances in panel technology, and innovative approaches for end user financing – such as the third-party ownership arrangements.”

The benefits of rooftop solar include the fact that it generates electricity without emitting greenhouse gases, it avoids losses of grid transition and it can feed unused electricity into the grid.

In terms of further benefits of rooftop solar, the authors had the following to say:

By having it as part of an energy-generation portfolio, utilities can avoid the capital costs of additional coal or gas plants, for which their customers would otherwise have to pay, and broader society is spared the environmental and public health impacts.”

For the benefits to developing countries, the authors had this to say: “rooftop PV is accelerating access to affordable, clean electricity and thereby becoming a powerful tool for eliminating poverty.” This is something that everyone would agree is a good thing.

What you need to know

This article looked into rooftop solar as a climate change solution. It was based on the 2017 analysis of Project Drawdown.

Rooftop solar comes out as a solution with a number of benefits for developed and developing economies. These benefits extend far beyond just being a powerful solution to reverse global warming.

In terms of its climate change impact this is significant. With or without government support and subsidies, this technology will continue to eat into the energy generation capacity of large established companies and democratise energy production.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about rooftop solar as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#11 Regenerative Agriculture

This article explores regenerative agriculture as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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Reflecting at the half way stage, I have been really pleased with the way this series has gone and the way it has been received. Out of numbers 11-20, two solutions are from the energy sector, three relate to land use and five relate to food. In terms of climate change, it appears that we very much are what we eat.

The authors begin the section on regenerative agriculture with the following comprehensive explanation:

Regenerative agricultural practices restore degraded land. They include no tillage, diverse cover crops, on farm fertility (no external nutrient sources required), no or minimal pesticides or synthetic fertilisers, and multiple crop rotations, all of which can be augmented with managed grazing. The purpose of regenerative agriculture is to continually improve and regenerate the health of the soil by restoring its carbon content, which in turn improves plant health, nutrition, and productivity.”

The authors follow this up with the statement that: “no other mechanism known to humankind is as effective in addressing global warming as capturing carbon dioxide from the air through photosynthesis.

Let’s turn to the numbers that allowed regenerative agriculture to be ranked as the 11th most effective climate change solution. Regenerative agriculture could reduce CO2 emissions by 23.15 gigatons, for a net cost of $57.2 billion, but produce $1.93 trillion in net savings. These are very large numbers.

Referring to current practices, the authors point out that: “conventional agriculture treats the soil as a medium to which mineral fertilizers are added… Plowing and tilling release carbon from the soil, and little or none of the carbon from the plants is sequestered.

Of the cascading benefits of soil carbon, the authors had the following to say:

Increasing carbon means increasing the life of the soil. When carbon is stored in soil organic matter, microbial life proliferates, soil texture improves, roots go deeper, worms drag organic matter down their holes and make rich castings of nitrogen, nutrient uptake is enhanced, water retention increases several fold (creating drought tolerance or flood insurance), nourished plants are more pest resistant, and fertility compounds to the point where little or no fertilisers are necessary.”

The authors have also calculated that: “each additional percent of carbon in the soil is considered equivalent to $300 – $600 of fertilizer stored beneath.

On the benefits of cover crops, the authors explain that: “cover crops sown into harvested plant residues crowd out weeds and provide fertility and tilth to the subsoil.

The authors do highlight that: “the impact of regenerative agriculture is hard to measure and model.

In closing, that authors point towards a new orthodoxy which is sweeping across the food sector:

The world cannot be fed unless the soil is fed. Feeding the soil reduces carbon in the atmosphere. Soil erosion and water depletion cost $37 billion in the United States and $400 billion globally.  Ninety-six percent of that comes from food production.”

What you need to know

This article explored regenerative agriculture as a climate change solution. It was based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

I thought it was interesting that at the half way stage, out of solutions 11-20 in Project Drawdown, 8 were related to either land use or food. Clearly these are areas where significant climate opportunities can be found.

With respect to regenerative agriculture, this comes across as an interesting solution and an area where massive amounts of carbon can be stored as well as being prevented from being released.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about regenerative agriculture as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#12 Temperate Forests

This article explores temperate forests as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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Again, inside the top 20 is another climate change solution that is based around land use. How we use land and resources will in large part decide how effective we will be in addressing climate change.

As we saw with peatlands, temperate forests are an ecosystem that is associated with massive amounts of carbon emissions.

The authors begin by explaining that: “a quarter of the world’s forests lie in the temperate zone, between 30 and 50 to 55 degrees latitude” and that these can be both deciduous and evergreen.

The authors also explain that “over the course of history, 99 percent of temperate forests have been altered in some way.

They do however point towards a positive future with the following statement:

Today forests are on the rise across large swaths of the temperate world, due to reliance on timber imports, improved agricultural productivity resulting in the abandonment of once cleared land, improved forest management practices, and deliberate conservation efforts.”

Let’s turn to the figures that allowed temperate forests to be ranked as the 12th most effective solution to reverse global warming. The drawdown analysis revealed that temperate forests could reduce CO2 emissions by 22.61 gigatons. Unfortunately, global cost and savings data was too variable to be determined for this solution. Regardless of the lack of financial data, the amount of carbon emissions that temperate forests are associated with is massive.

The authors point out that: “the world’s 1.9 billion acres of temperate forests are now a net carbon sink.”

The authors point towards a bright future with the statement that:

Rising biomass density and overall increase in area mean these ecosystems absorb roughly 0.8 gigatons of carbon each year. There is an opportunity for more sequestration through restoration.”

According to the World Resources Institute more than 1.4 billion additional acres are suitable for restoration. This is certainly a large area for potential.

The authors do point to some of the threats with their statement that:

While temperate forests are not threatened by the same large-scale deforestation that afflicts the tropics, they continue to be fragmented by development.”

The authors close with the important message that: “restoration is no replacement for protection.

What you need to know

This article looked into temperate forests as a climate change solution. It was based on the analysis of Project Drawdown, which ranked this as the 12th most effective solution to reverse global warming.

It is clear that massive amounts of carbon can be prevented from being released by better protection of temperate forests and that more widespread restoration of temperate forests could store even more carbon in this complex ecosystem.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think about temperate forests as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

#13 Peatlands

This article explores peatlands as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative which mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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This was a solution that I knew a bit about and I that I was aware could be instrumental in addressing climate change. I know quite a few major businesses are investigating this area for potential carbon offsets and interest in peatlands continues to rise.

Let’s turn to the numbers that have allowed peatlands to be recognised as the 13th most effective solution to address climate change. Peatlands could reduce CO2 emissions by 21.57 gigatons, but protect up to 1,230.38 gigatons of CO2 from being released. The cost and savings data were too variable to be determined so the authors have not put a figure on that for this solution. When we are talking about peatlands, we are talking about massive amounts of carbon emissions that can be prevented from being released.

The authors write about peatlands that: “they are neither solid ground nor water, but something in between. Peat is a thick, mucky, waterlogged substance made up of dead and decomposing plant matter.” This certainly is a fascinating ecosystem.

It is not quick to establish itself, rather: “it develops over hundreds, even thousands of years.

The authors make clear why peatlands made it into the Drawdown top 20, because: “peat contains enormous amounts of carbon. Their typical carbon content is over 50 percent.

The authors explain just how important peatlands are in combatting climate change:

these unique ecosystems cover just 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store – twice that held by the world’s forests, at an estimated five hundred to six hundred gigatons

The authors also make it clear that: “society is waking up to the invaluable role of peatlands as a carbon storehouse… so long as they stay wet.

They explain that: “safeguarding them, through land preservation and fire prevention, is a prime opportunity to manage global greenhouse gases, and a cost-effective one by comparison.”

The problems occur: “when peat is exposed to the air, the carbon it contains gets oxidised into carbon dioxide.

Despite its importance, the authors reveal that: “protection of peatlands is still in its infancy.

Amazingly they go on to disclose that: “scientists… discovered a bog the size of England in a remote part of Congo-Brazzaville in 2014.”

The authors close with the following powerful statement:

For millennia, peatlands have been sacred, ritual spaces – sometimes viewed as a gateway to the gods. A similar reverence today could ensure that peat’s layers of death and decomposition can continue to be a life-giving force.”

What you need to know

This article looked into peatlands as a climate change solution. It was based on the 2017 analysis of Project Drawdown which ranked peatland restoration and protection as the 13th most effective solution to reverse global warming.

I for one was blown away by the massive amounts of carbon that can be stored and prevented from being released by better management of peatlands.

It is up to businesses, governments and individuals worldwide to coalesce around an agenda to protect and restore this carbon intensive ecosystem.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of  peatlands as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#14 Tropical Staple Trees

This article explores tropical staple trees as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative which mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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This is what I liked best about the Project Drawdown initiative. I liked the way it exposed you to really powerful climate change solutions that you had either not heard of before or doubted how potent they were.

Let’s look at the numbers that allowed tropical staple trees to make it into the top 20. Tropical staple trees could reduce CO2 emissions by 20.19 gigatons, for a net cost of $210.1 billion, but produce $627 billion in net savings. This is certainly a powerful solution.

The authors begin by explaining the problem with crops that are harvested on an annual basis:

Due to the nature of farming practices, annuals cause a net release of carbon from the atmosphere

The authors point out that:

Today, 89 percent of cultivated land, about 3 billion acres, is devoted to annuals. Of the remaining land in perennial crops, 116 million acres are used for perennial staple crops.”

But that incredibly:

Lands converted from annuals to perennial staples sequester, on average, 1.9 tons of carbon per acre every year for decades.”

The authors explain what is holding them back is the fact that: “most of the crops do not lend themselves to being mechanically picked or combined.”

But that: “they can be grown on slopes too steep for mechanised annual crop production and are suited to a wider range of soils.”

What you need to know

This article looked into tropical staple trees as a climate change solution. The 2017 Project Drawdown initiative ranked this as the 14th most effective solution to reverse global warming.

It certainly comes across as a solution that could store massive amounts of carbon. I will keep an eye out for it in the future.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of tropical staple trees as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#15 Afforestation

This article explores afforestation as a climate change solution. It is based on Project Drawdown, which was a 2017 initiative which mapped the top 100 most effective solutions to reverse global warming.

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Anyone who knows me knows that I love trees. Aesthetically I think they look amazing and I am passionate about their many environmental benefits. I was therefore thrilled when I found the UN FAO posting the following infographic on their social media this morning.

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For one ecosystem to contribute so much is simply incredible. The benefits go far beyond the carbon storage capabilities and their use for recreation which are often   thought of as their primary benefits.

The authors behind Drawdown begin with the important message that:

The capacity of trees to synthesise and sequester carbon through photosynthesis as they grow has made afforestation an important practice in the age of warming

Let’s look at the numbers that allowed afforestation to come in as the 15th most effective solution to reverse global warming. Afforestation could reduce CO2 emissions by 18.06 gigatons, for a net cost of $29.4 billion, but produce $392.3 billion in net savings. These numbers are certainly very impressive.

A lot of people get confused between reforestation and afforestation and it is an easy mistake to make because they sound similar. The authors provide the following explanation.

Creating new forests where there were none before in areas that have been treeless for at least fifty years is the aim of afforestation.”

The authors make the bold claim that: “almost any space that is unattended or forgotten can help draw down atmospheric carbon.”

The authors do add a cautionary note that: “while afforestation projects have significant carbon sequestration potential, forests, new or old, are vulnerable to fire, drought, pests, and the ax or saw.” This must always be kept in mind.

The most common form of afforestation is through plantation projects. Though controversial, afforestation plantations have been proven to have a “plantation conservation benefit” whereby plantations reduce logging pressures on pristine natural forests.

The authors go to explain that: “creating new forest can sink carbon and support biodiversity, address human needs for firewood, food and medicine, and provide ecosystem services such as flood and drought protection.” This is certainly a great deal of benefits.

What you need to know

This article looked at afforestation as a climate change solution. It was based on Project Drawdown which was a 2017 initiative that mapped the top 100 most effective climate change solutions.

In their study afforestation was ranked at number 15 and you can see why, with the massive amounts of carbon that could be stored in forests as a result of this activity.

What is also clear is that forests provide far greater benefits than their ability to store carbon. They are life giving entities which can change their local environment and economy and provide ecological services that are of a global significance. We should protect them where they exist and pant them where they do not.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. What do you think of afforestation as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby