#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

#16 Conservation Agriculture

This article explores conservation agriculture 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 part 5 of my series which each week is looking at the most effective initiatives that made it into the top 20 of Project Drawdown.

It is an old saying that you are what you eat. But on a planetary scale it very much seems that we are what we eat. Stunningly 8 out of the top 20 initiatives to reverse global warming come from the food sector alone. This is clearly an area where massive amounts of carbon can be prevented from being emitted.

Incredibly, in conservation agriculture, ploughs are not used at all. The authors write that:

Though intended to prepare a field to be productive, tilling can actually make it nutrient poor and less life giving

The authors explain that:

Conservation agriculture adheres to three core principles: minimise soil disturbance, maintain soil cover, and manage crop rotation.

Let’s look at the numbers that allowed conservation agriculture to make it into the Project Drawdown top 20. Conservation agriculture could reduce CO2 emissions by 17.35 gigatons, for a net cost of $37.5 billion but produce $2.12 trillion in net savings.

In order to make the no till strategy work, most faemers who practice conservation agriculture plant cover crops. This is all done to maintain the health of the soil. In order to make this work, farmers seed directly into the soil.

I was amazed to learn that conservation agriculture is already practised on 10% of the world’s cropland.

Of the benefits, the authors write the following:

Water retention makes fields more drought resistant or reduces the need for irrigation. Nutrient retention leads to increased fertility and can lower fertilizer inputs.”

Of the carbon benefits, the authors had the following to say:

Conservation agriculture sequesters a relatively small amount of carbon – an average of half a ton per acre. But given the prevalence of annual cropping around the world, those tons could add up and shift a dominant segment of agricultural production from net greenhouse gas emitter to net carbon sink.”

This is no pie in the sky idea, the authors proclaim it as “a well-proven solution.

What you need to know

This article explored conservation agriculture as a climate change solution.

With 8 out of the top 20 climate change solutions in Project Drawdown coming from the food sector, this should be an area of focus for business and political leaders worldwide.

What shocked me though were the numbers and how compelling they were. Conservation agriculture presents the opportunity to reduce CO2 emissions by 17 gigatons, at a net cost of only $37 billion. That may sound like a lot of money to some, but in a global context this is a tiny sum of money for such an impactful solution.

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  conservation agriculture as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#17 Tree Intercropping

This is part 4 of my series looking into the top 20 climate change solutions drawn from Project Drawdown.

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The researchers behind Project Drawdown revealed tree intercropping to be the 17th most effective solution to reverse global warming. This is what I liked most about the Drawdown initiative. It exposes powerful ideas that are not getting attention to match their effectiveness.

The authors begin with the following explanation:

There are two ways to farm. Industrial agriculture sows a single crop over large areas. Regenerative practices such as tree intercropping use diversity to improve soil health and productivity and align with biological principles.

The authors point out that it is rarely undertaken as a climate change solution, but out of the economic self interest of the farmers as it is a technique that increases the productivity of the land. The carbon storage is merely a by-product.

Let’s look into the figures which have allowed tree intercropping to make it into the top 20. The research revealed that tree intercropping could reduce CO2 by 17.2 gigatons, for a net cost of $147 billion, but produce $22.1 billion in net savings. These are powerful numbers.

The authors make clear that: “to be successful at tree intercropping, a landholder has to carefully assess and know the land, soil type, and climate at hand.”

There are a number of varieties of tree intercropping. There is alley cropping, which involves trees or hedges being planted in closely spaced rows to fertilise the crops grown between.

There is a parkland system which involves a discontinuous cover of scattered trees, which provide fodder for livestock.

Both of these systems have been found to increase yields by a factor of 3, without any chemical or outside inputs.

The authors finish with a powerful statement that:

Displaced and plowed under the during the twentieth century to make room for industrialised methods of farming, tree intercropping is one of dozens of techniques that can create an agricultural renaissance, a transformation of food-growing practices that are better at bringing people, regeneration, and abundance back to the land.

What you need to know

This article looked into tree intercropping as a climate change solution.

It comes across as a solution that works with nature instead of against it. If successful it makes both business sense and environmental sense which is important for any solution that wants to scale and go global.

What is clear is that it is an opportunity with the potential to store massive amounts of carbon. This allowed it to make it into the Project Drawdown top 20.

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 tree intercropping as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#18 Geothermal

This article looks into geothermal energy as a climate change solution. It is a continuation of the series on Project Drawdown, where I am exploring the top 20 most effective solutions for reversing global warming.

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I had to admit I was surprised when I read Drawdown and saw that geothermal energy came in at number 18. I had no doubt of the potential for geothermal energy. But I doubted that its location matched up with large population centres to make it a scalable climate change solution.

The authors explain that: “geothermal energy is earth energy and depends on heat, an underground reservoir, and water or steam to carry that heat up to the earth’s surface.

The authors go on to explain that: “Although prime geothermal conditions are found on less than 10 percent of the planet, new technologies dramatically expand production potential in areas where useful resources were previously unknown.”

Let’s look at the headline numbers which allowed geothermal to make it into the top 20. Project Drawdown revealed that geothermal energy could reduce CO2 by 16.6 gigatons, for a -$155.5 billion net cost and create net savings of $1.02 trillion. These are certainly big numbers.

The authors point towards new techniques that could help expand geothermal energy: “one of these new approaches is enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), which typically targets deep underground cavities and creates hydrothermal pools where they do not currently exist.”

They explain that innovations like this: “could dramatically increase the geographic reach of geothermal energy and, in certain locales, help address a critical challenge for renewables: providing baseload or readily dispatchable power.”

The authors provide the interesting statistic that for geothermal energy: “its emissions per megawatt hour are just 5 to 10 percent of a coal plant.” This is certainly the kind of effective solution needed to address climate change.

The authors reveal that: “according to the Geothermal Energy Association, 39 countries could supply 100 per cent of their electricity needs from geothermal energy, yet only 6 to 7 per cent of the world’s potential geothermal power has been tapped.” Action needs to be taken to close this gap.

What you need to know

This article looked into geothermal energy as a climate change solution. The researchers behind Project Drawdown revealed this to be the 18th most effective solution to reverse climate change.

The current projects seem very interesting and with breakthrough technologies potentially just around the corner, this is an energy source that will only grow in importance.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think geothermal energy ranks as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

#19 Managed Grazing

This article looks into managed grazing and how this solution can help to address climate change.

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This is the second in a series of articles on Project Drawdown which analyses the top 20 most effective solutions to reverse global warming. You can find a link to my series here.

The authors begin the section on managed grazing with the bold statement that: “over the long term, grazing animals create extraordinary environments.

But that: “when that same land is plowed over and over or grazed by domestic animals, the land degrades over time and loses its soil carbon.”

In a nutshell they explain that: “managed grazing imitates what migratory herds of herbivores do on wetlands.”

Let’s get into the headline numbers that allow managed grazing to make it into the top 20 most effective solutions.

The numbers produced by Project Drawdown indicate that for a net cost of $50.5 billion, managed grazing would reduce CO2 by 16.34 gigatons and result in net savings of $735.3 billion. These are certainly big numbers.

The authors go on to say that: “when cattle and other ruminants are managed on grasslands in a holistic way, it can be the best thing for the land.”

The authors reveal that: “a meta-analysis of research shows that the impacts of grazing depend heavily on local climate, soil coarseness, and the grass species that dominate the landscape.

But that: “improved grazing can sequester from one-half to three tons of carbon per acre.”

The authors reveal more about the benefits of managed grazing with the statement below.

“Although rates of carbon sequestration are much discussed by climate activists, the farmers and ranchers who are leading the way are not doing this to sequester carbon or impact climate. They are increasing carbon to create healthy soils and livestock.”

What you need to know

This article looked into managed grazing, which was revealed by Project Drawdown to be the 19th most effective solution to reverse global warming.

I think it is an interesting solution with potential to address climate change at a global scale.

The only drawbacks are that it seems quite difficult to quantify and that if done incorrectly, it could lead to more greenhouse gas emissions from methane. It is an area which needs more research to get to the bottom of this.

It also seems like a solution that will bump into a lot of vested interests who do not want managed grazing to become mainstream. But this is to be expected with any far-reaching solution. It remains an interesting and potentially highly effective away to address climate change.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think managed grazing ranks as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

#20 Nuclear Power

This article is the first in a series of articles on Project Drawdown. This is an initiative that detailed the top 100 solutions to reverse global warming.

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I really liked this book when it first came out in 2017 and you can read my review of it below.

DRAWDOWN EDITED BY PAUL HAWKEN

I was thinking a lot about books last week after I published my end of year reading summary, which you can find via the link below.

2018 A YEAR IN LITERATURE

It made me think that despite 2018 being a very important year for sustainability and for action on climate change, it was not a vintage year for books on these topics.

After watching the video, which you can find via the link below, it became clear to me how powerful and important Project Drawdown was.

Drawdown: A Comprehensive Plan to Reverse Global Warming

I think Drawdown will go down as one of the most important books of its kind. I would like to play my small part in helping them to keep the momentum alive. So, I am going to write about each of the top 20 solutions that they identified each week.

Beginning today, the focus is on nuclear power, which was their 20th most impactful solution.

This was always going to be a controversial inclusion as this is a technology that divides opinion greatly.

As you can find out via my article below, this is a technology associated with some hidden costs.

THE HIDDEN COSTS OF NUCLEAR POWER

The headline numbers produced by Project Drawdown indicate that for a $0.88 billion net cost, nuclear power would reduce CO2 by 16.09 gigatons and bring in $1.71 trillion in net savings. These are big financial and environmental numbers, which allow for nuclear power to make it into the top 20.

In Drawdown, the authors make the benefits clear in the opening paragraph.

“Greenhouse gases emitted to generate electricity are calculated to be ten to a hundred times higher for coal than for nuclear.”

The authors admit that: “what makes the future of nuclear energy difficult to predict is cost.”

They reference the IEA who believe that nuclear can grow from its current 11% to 17% of electricity generated by 2050.

The authors point to the design of new generation 4 reactors that aim to address the main criticisms and concerns about nuclear energy. They end with the following message:

The world may soon have better choices when it comes to nuclear energy than it has had in the past, but it may be too late given the accelerating cost and construction advantages of renewable energy technologies.”

I thought it was noteworthy that the cost comparison to renewables is mentioned several times in the nuclear chapter. Even describing nuclear power as “regrets solution.”

It seems that the controversy surrounding nuclear power shows no sign of ending anytime soon.

What you need to know

This article was the first in a series of articles that will look into the top 20 climate change solutions identified in Project Drawdown.

Today the focus was on number 20 nuclear power. Even those who are highly critical of nuclear power would have to admit that it is preferable to coal powered generation for base load power.

The cost and safety implications will continue to haunt this technology well into the 21st century. As the costs and quality of other competing clean technologies rise, this will only become more pronounced.

Overall, as a large-scale climate change solution, nuclear is certainly an option that could save massive amounts of carbon from being emitted into the atmosphere. But does it raise more questions than it provides answers to? Only time will tell.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below or reach out to me on social media. How do you think nuclear power ranks as a climate change solution?

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby