Wednesday, September 27, 2006


On 17 September, Co-convenors of the Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming Michael & Louisa Kiely left for a 3 week fact finding mission to the USA where soil sequestration is at the forefront of the agenda of many soil scientists and there is a 'can do' attitude.

The itinierary is as follows:

18/19 September: Washington DC - 2006 Global CO2 Cap-And-Trade Forum
21/22 September: Bozeman, Montana - Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership Phase 2 Project Management Plan Workshop
25 September: College Station, Texas - Professor Bruce McCarl, Department of Agricultural Economics, Texas A&M University
27 September: Albuquerque, New Mexico - Peter Holter, Holistic Management International
28 September: Albuquerque, New Mexico - Southwest Carbon Sequestration Partnership Phase 2 Project Management Plan Workshop
29 September: Swanton, Vermont - Address Farmers' gathering organised by Coalition member Abe Collins from Vermont.
1 October: Columbus, Ohio - Professor Rattan Lal (or colleague), Ohio State University
? October: Chicago Illinois - Chicago Climate Exchange

A full report will be posted here as soon as possible.

Susan Capalbo (right) is Director of Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership. Pamela Tomski is Associate Director responsible for outreach and education. Big Sky is closest to finding the answer the Coalition seeks to the question: how and when will we be able to measure the carbon sequestered in soils as a result of changes in land management sufficient to trade carbon credits? The Big Sky Carbon Sequestration Partnership was set up to "build a new energy future" for Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Wyoming, the Pacific Northwest and the nation. Led by Montana State University, the Big Sky Partnership is one of the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) seven regional partnerships.

Dave Brown is Technical Lead, Terrestrial Sequestration with Big Sky. He revealed to us that the secret is not to try and measure the finite amount of carbon in the soil, but the difference over time.

Michael Bowman is a charismatic speaker who launched 25:25, a movement that aims to have 25% of America's fuel needs supplied by farmers in 25 years.

Ted Dodge heads up the National Carbon Offsets Coalition which brokered the first carbon credits paid to US farmers In Montana and Kansas. He wants to work closely with us.

Professor Bruce McCarl of Texas A&M University is on the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change and he believes soils have a key role to play in the next 50 years. Biofuels are also his hot topic.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

"When Gore convinces America, Howard will agree" says Herald

The Sydney Morning Herald has accepted the "Carbon Credits Domino Theory" first formulated by the Carbon Coalition months ago on this blog. "Nothing will change here until Gore manages to convert enough Americans to change US policy. Then our Prime Minister may be converted, as he was for nuclear power after his last trip to the ranch," says Professor Barry J. Allenin today's Herald. The Professor contradicts many of the assertions made by PM Howard to fillibuster his way past global warming issues, such as the fact that the dispute about whether global warming is man-made exists only in the media, not among scientists. Only the US and Australia, of all the Western countries, did not sign the Kyoto Protocol. Arguments for this were that China and India would not do so and carbon credits were a tax that would destroy the economy. "Last week the true impact of carbon credits became evident," he reports. "European companies are gaining carbon credits by funding the reduction of emissions in China. How about that: Kyoto leading to a reduction of emissions from the future major contributor to global warming?"

Like arguing over the cost of life boats on the Titanic, the Prime Minister's arguments about the impact on the economy of a carbon trading regime are hard to justify. Corporate Australia is coming to grips with the likely economic damage that will follow extreme weather events, such as cities running out of water, deeper, longer droughts in productive rural areas, electrical storms, cyclones, and rising sea levels invading coastal business and residential precincts, including CBDs of cities like Sydney. The PM will be safely out of Kirribilli House by then.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Double-edged benefit in carbon campaign

There is nothing but upside for farmers in the Carbon Coalition's campaign to have agricultural soils recognised as carbon sinks for the purposes of trading on the global greenhouse emissions offset market. While carbon credits must be bought by companies who cannot meet their greenhouse targets, famers could find themselves on the wrong side of the ledger. It is estimated that agriculture contributes between 19% and 25% of greenhouse emissions (more than the transport sector). Practices such as clearing native vegetation, overgrazing, ploughing and burning stubble release CO2 into the atmosphere. AS farmers manage more than two thirds of the earth's surface, the combined effect of their activities is massive. Soils were left out of the first round of Kyoto Protocols while carbon accounting issues were resolved. But they are expected to be included in the second round, starting in 2012. If the experts decide that there is no way to accurately estimate the amount of carbon present in a defined area of soils, and therefore soil carbon cannot be included in emissions trading, they cannot then turn around and charge farmers for CO2 they emit. How could they measure it? While computer models are used to estimate the amount of carbon sequestered in forests, higher levels of accuracy are demanded of soils. If a soil carbon credit system is introduced, farmers will be able to retain flexibility to use land management techniques that release CO2 by sequestering carbon in soils on other parts of their holding to offset their emissions. Either way, the Carbon Coalition's campaign to force the experts to take a position on soil carbon will protect the interests of landholders.

Grassland soils save the world from CO2

"A grassland ecosystem can, despite appearances, contain more carbon than a forest ecosystem," writes Fred Pearce in Managing Wholes ( Research by Greg Retallack, a soil scientist at the University of Oregon in Eugene, suggests that soils under grassland played a key role in balancing CO2 in the biosphere. "The emergence of the first grasses was the breakthrough. Grass doesn't hold much CO2 itself, but it can create mollisols, soils that are very rich in organic matter and hence carbon," writes Pearce. He quotes the scientist Retallack: "Typically they are 10 per cent organic matter down to a depth of a metre, whereas forest soils are only that rich down to about 10 centimetres". In the past 40 million years, tall grasslands spread across the globe, invading forest zones. These ecosystems, according to Retallack, took control of the planetary thermostat, lowering CO2 levels. New grazing animals evolved to live on and coexist with the grasses. "The co-evolution of grasses and grazer created a carbon-hungry ecosystem of a kind never before seen," says Retallack. "I think mollisols are saving our skins right now. Without them the world would be a lot hotter."

Friday, September 01, 2006

Pressure on Bush hits boiling point

The opposition of President Bush to carbon trading is what bolsters John Howard's staunch opposition and denies Australian farmers access to revenue streams from trading carbon stored in agricultural soils. Cracks are appearing in the President's defences. Companies, consumers, even the Religious Right that has the President's ear, are calling for action. The head of the American Public Power Association says federal regulation of greenhouse gases is inevitable. Alan Richardson, president and CEO of the group, whose members supply 15% of America's power says there is "an emerging public consensus and a building political directive that inaction is not a viable strategy." US industry groups have fought any effort to limit gases linked to global warming, warning of dire consequences for the U.S. economy, but growing public anxiety and major corporations lobbying for Congress to regulate emissions are changing the story, reports the Los Angeles Chronicle.
The Bush administration is holding out against new limits on carbon dioxide. Legislation is gaining ground in Congress with members of both parties. States are moving forward with climate-change regulations. Two leading presidential candidates for 2008 -- Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York -- support regulation.
Six leading energy companies went on record supporting mandatory limits on emissions in April, when the Senate called America's top energy companies to testify about new legislation to regulate emissions.The world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, voiced its support for new limits on greenhouse gases.
Conservative Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson said recently temperatures across the United States had converted him into a believer in global warming which put him at odds with President Bush, who has benefited politically from Robertson's backing. "We really need to address the burning of fossil fuels," Robertson said. "It is getting hotter, and the icecaps are melting and there is a buildup of carbon dioxide in the air," Reuters reports. It is a dramatic shift for Robertson who last year accused the National Association of Evangelicals of getting into bed with "far left environmentalists" for saying global warming was caused by humans and needed to be mitigated. He also said natural disasters might be signs that the biblical apocalypse was nearing.
Bush, also an evangelical Christian, pulled out of the international Kyoto Protocol in 2001 saying it would hurt the economy.