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Combating Overgrazing To Fight Climate Change: Ranchers

Financial incentives might help other ranchers make changes, he adds.

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Ranch
Grasslands and the soils beneath them act as giant carbon sinks, the report notes. Flickr

Meredith Ellis gets a bit rapturous about the little patch of earth under her feet.

When she bought this northern Texas land several years ago, it was overgrazed and overrun with weeds. Now, she’s thrilled to find a dark green blob of fungus she rolls under her sparkly-nail-polished thumb. She picks a tiny patch of the green moss from between clumps of tall brown grass gone dormant with the fall chill.

“Look at all these little bits of biodiversity,” she said. “That’s like a little fantasy world going on in there.”

Bringing it back has been a labor of love — love of the G Bar C Ranch where she grew up, and for the 4-year-old son she’s raising here.

“Everything I do, I think about him now,” she said. “I think about his future, and what is this world going to look like when he’s my age?”

Ellis worries about the droughts, floods and other calamities he may face from climate change. She wonders if there even will be enough food to go around.

It’s a big reason why she raises her cattle a bit differently than most.

The differences not only help to combat climate change. They also provide more clean water. They can even save ranchers money. And if one project goes forward, farmers may get financial rewards for making the changes.

Meadows vs. lawns

Ellis’s fields look like meadows. Her cattle forage among an assortment of thigh-high native grasses.

Ranch
Many of the steps ranchers could take to earn ecosystem service credits would help their bottom lines on ranch anyway. VOA

Other ranches nearby look like giant lawns. Cows have grazed the grass monocultures nearly down to the ground.

The difference matters, says rangeland scientist Jeff Goodwin with the Noble Research Institute, because the native grass is “not only feeding this cow herd. It’s also feeding the underground herd: the microbes, the biology in the soil. That’s what really makes that soil an active, living, breathing system.”

It’s a system with the potential to remove tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

“The more forage production that we’re getting, the deeper the root systems, the more carbon we’re sequestering out of the atmosphere,” Goodwin added.

That’s increasingly important. Scientists warn that the world needs to do more than just stop producing greenhouse gases in order to avoid the worst of climate change. Carbon dioxide needs to be actively removed from the atmosphere in order to keep the planet from potentially catastrophic warming.

Ranch
Bufflo Ranch. Flickr

While engineers puzzle over high-tech solutions, a recent report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine says nature offers tools that are ready to go today.

Valuable ecosystem services

Grasslands and the soils beneath them act as giant carbon sinks, the report notes.

But not if they are overgrazed.

Around the world, one estimate says, about 200 million hectares are overgrazed, an area roughly the size of Mexico.

One study estimates that optimizing grazing could cut greenhouse gas emissionsby about 89 million metric tons, roughly the same as permanently parking 19 million cars.

Plus, overgrazed land erodes more easily. That’s a double whammy. Ranchers lose fertile soil, and it ends up muddying drinking water downstream, which increases the cost to make it tap-ready.

On the other hand, healthy grassland soils that store carbon also store and filter water.

Those benefits should be worth money, Goodwin said. They’re known as ecosystem services, and the Noble Research Institute is working to develop a marketplace for them. Ranchers would earn credits based on their soil’s carbon content and its water storage and filtration capacity.

Ranch
Horse Ranch. Flickr

Some major food and beverage companies are interested in the market. Many have set goals to improve sustainability up and down their supply chains.

“There’s not really a solid path forward” for many of them to meet those goals, Goodwin said. “We feel like we’re sitting in a very good position to be able to provide that opportunity.”

All profits from the soil

Many of the steps ranchers could take to earn ecosystem service credits would help their bottom lines anyway.

“A lot of people want to talk about soil health building as a thing to do for the environment. But really, it’s something we need to be doing for our profitability as well,” said Michael Vance, managing partner at Stark Ranch, a short drive from Ellis’ operation.

“All your profit comes from the soil,” he added.

He stood in a field where cattle had recently been grazing, but you’d never know it. The grass still stood tall. His neighbors don’t understand why he doesn’t let the cows graze it all the way down. They think he’s wasting it.

Also Read: Climate Change To Get Worse in The Future: Study

“We get phone calls where people want to drive a bailer in here and bail up this grass, but they don’t realize the positives that come by leaving it standing,” he said.

The field grows more grass when cattle are moved off it sooner. That means Vance buys less feed.

Even if it’s more profitable, it’s not easy for people to change their ways, and ranchers are a conservative bunch.

“You realize things that you were raised doing, things that your dad and your granddad did, maybe weren’t the best things to do,” Vance said, “from an environmental perspective, maybe from even a profitability perspective.”

Financial incentives might help other ranchers make changes, he adds.

The Noble Research Institute plans to launch a pilot ecosystem services market in 2019 and is aiming for a full rollout in 2022. (VOA)

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What is More Dangerous? COVID-19 or Climate Change?

UN Weather Organization: Climate Change May Pose Bigger Danger Than COVID

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Climate crisis COVID-19
If we are unable to mitigate climate change, we will see persistent health problems, especially hunger and the ability to feed the growing population of the world. VOA

By Lisa Schlein

The World Meteorological Organization is warning that if the planet keeps warming at its current pace, the average global temperature could increase by 1.5 degrees C  in the next 10 years.  This rise would worsen extreme weather events, and many of the dangerous effects of climate change might become irreversible, it said.

WMO reported Wednesday that the national lockdowns of transportation, industry and energy production because of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in a 6 percent drop of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

However, WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas said this good news would be short-lived.  He said the startup of industry might even trigger a boost in emissions.  He said the pandemic also was making it more difficult to monitor and manage weather and other hazards.

Climate crisis COVID-19
Petteri Taalas, Secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) attends a news conference on the annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin on concentrations of CO2 in climate at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. VOA

“This current COVID crisis has led to the decrease in some measurements,” he said. For example, “airline companies have been carrying out measurements.  Since we have very few flights nowadays, we have less measurements from the aircraft, which is having a negative impact on the quality of the forecasts.”

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While the world is in the throes of tackling two big issues at the same time, Taalas said, the magnitude of problems associated with climate change is much greater than that of COVID.  He said health and economic problems resulting from the pandemic were devastating but noted they would last only a few years.

Also Read- Astrology, Zodiac Sign and COVID-19: What is the relation?

“If we are unable to mitigate climate change, we will see persistent health problems, especially hunger and the ability to feed the growing population of the world, and there will be also more massive impact on economies,” he said.

Taalas said the world needs to show the same determination and unity against climate change as against COVID-19.  He said people everywhere need to act together in the interests of the health and welfare of humanity, for the sake of this and future generations. (VOA)

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Ice Loss in Antarctica and Greenland Increasing at an Alarming Rate: Scientists

Greenland, Antarctica ice loss accelerating

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Ice loss
Earth's great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions. Pixabay

Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, were now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s due to warming conditions, the media reported on Thursday citing scientists as saying.

A comprehensive review of satellite data acquired at both poles was unequivocal in its assessment of accelerating trends, the BBC quoted the scientists as saying.

Between them, Greenland and Antarctica lost 6.4 trillion tonnes of ice in the period from 1992 to 2017.

Ice loss
The combined rate of ice loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s. Pixabay

This was sufficient to push up global sea-levels up by 17.8 mm, the scientists added. “That’s not a good news story,” said Professor Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds.

“Today, the ice sheets contribute about a third of all sea-level rise, whereas in the 1990s, their contribution was actually pretty small at about 5 per cent. This has important implications for the future, for coastal flooding and erosion,” he told BBC News.

The researcher co-leads a project called the Ice Sheet Mass Balance Intercomparison Exercise, or Imbie, which is a team of experts who have reviewed polar measurements acquired by observational spacecraft over nearly three decades.

The Imbie team’s studies have revealed that ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland were actually heading to much more pessimistic outcomes, and will likely add another 17 cm to those end-of-century forecasts.

“If that holds true it would put 400 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding by 2100,” Professor Shepherd told the BBC.

Also Read- People of All Generation Can Feel Lonely for Different Reasons: Research

The combined rate of loss for Greenland and Antarctica was running at about 81 billion tonnes per year in the 1990s.

By the 2010s, it had climbed to 475 billion tonnes per year. (IANS)

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Find out How Air Pollution Can Shorten Lives By 3 Years

Air pollution deadlier than wars, shortens lives by 3 years

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Air pollution
Air pollution "pandemic" is shortening people's lives worldwide by an average of nearly three years. Pixabay

Air pollution “pandemic” is shortening people’s lives worldwide by an average of nearly three years, says a study which suggests that the deadly impact of dirty air is far greater than wars and other forms of violence, parasitic and vector-borne diseases such as malaria, HIV/AIDS and smoking.

The research showed that pollution had a greater effect on shortening lives in older people, with the exception of deaths in children aged under five in low income countries, such as Africa and South Asia.

Globally, about 75 per cent of deaths attributed to air pollution occur in people aged over 60 years, according to the study published in the journal Cardiovascular Research.

“Since the impact of air pollution on public health overall is much larger than expected, and is a worldwide phenomenon, we believe our results show there is an ‘air pollution pandemic’,” said Thomas Munzel of University Medical Centre of the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Air pollution
The researchers estimate that if air pollution was reduced by removing fossil fuel emissions, the average life expectancy worldwide would increase by just over a year, and by nearly two years if all human-made emissions were removed. Pixabay

Using a new method of modelling the effects of various sources of air pollution on death rates, the researchers estimated that globally air pollution caused an extra 8.8 million premature deaths a year in 2015.

This represents an average shortening of life expectancy of nearly three years for all persons worldwide.

In comparison, tobacco smoking shortens life expectancy by an average of 2.2 years (7.2 million deaths), HIV/AIDS by 0.7 years (1 million deaths), diseases like malaria that are carried by parasites or insects such as mosquitoes, ticks and fleas by 0.6 years (600,000 deaths), and all forms of violence (including deaths in wars) by 0.3 years (530,000 deaths).

“It is remarkable that both the number of deaths and the loss in life expectancy from air pollution rival the effect of tobacco smoking and are much higher than other causes of death,” said Professor Jos Lelieveld from the Cyprus Institute Nicosia, Cyprus.

“Air toxicity exceeds malaria as a global cause of premature death by a factor of 19; it exceeds violence by a factor of 16, HIV/AIDS by a factor of 9, alcohol by a factor of 45, and drug abuse by a factor of 60,” Lelieveld said.

The researchers looked at the effect of air pollution on six categories of disease: lower respiratory tract infection, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease leading to stroke, and other, non-communicable diseases, which include conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

They found that cardiovascular diseases (heart disease and cerebrovascular disease combined) are responsible for the greatest proportion of shortened lives from air pollution: 43 per cent of the loss in life expectancy worldwide.

Air pollution
Air pollution causes damage to the blood vessels through increased oxidative stress, which then leads to increases in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure. Pixabay

The researchers estimate that if air pollution was reduced by removing fossil fuel emissions, the average life expectancy worldwide would increase by just over a year, and by nearly two years if all human-made emissions were removed.

However, there are large differences between regions due to the diversity in emissions.

In East Asia, which has the highest loss of life expectancy due to avoidable air pollution, three of the average of four years of lost life expectancy could be prevented by the removal of human-made emissions.

In Africa, where population growth is rapid and pollution from dust predominates, only 0.7 of 3.1 years lost could be prevented.

In Europe, there is an average of 2.2 years of lost life expectancy, 1.7 of which could be prevented, and in North America there is an average of 1.4 years of lost life expectancy, of which 1.1 could be prevented, mostly by phasing out fossil fuels, said the study.

Also Read- Consuming Full-Fat Dairy Products Does Not Lead to Obesity: Study

“When we looked at how pollution played a role in several diseases, its effect on cardiovascular disease was by far the largest — very similar to the effect of smoking. Air pollution causes damage to the blood vessels through increased oxidative stress, which then leads to increases in blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, heart attacks and heart failure,” Lelieveld added. (IANS)