Sunday, January 28, 2007

"If we stopped emitting Co2 now...."

The leaked report from the authoritative Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that appeared on 27th January, contains one chilling observation: “"Twenty-first century anthropogenic (human) carbon dioxide emissions will contribute to warming and sea level rise for more than a millennium, due to the timescales required for removal of this gas.”

In other words, even if we stopped emitting right now, it will take 1000 years for the CO2 levels to return to ‘normal’. The danger lies in the legacy load of CO2, the volumes we released over the past 200 years, that are likely to push the median world temperature past the critical 2°C mark and take us into climate chaos. And it is this CO2 that cannot be captured by “clean coal” technology and immobilized by geosequestration or buried in deep ocean trenches, the solutions favoured by President Bush and John Howard. Nor is it the CO2 that won’t be released when power is generated by solar or wind turbines. It is the CO2 that is out there and can’t be captured at source or substituted.

It has to be sequestered by the only means possible: by the natural processes that lock carbon up in trees and soils.

Many scientists have recognized the dilemma of the “legacy load”. “The carbon dioxide that’s in our atmosphere today – even if we were to stop emitting it tomorrow – would live for many decades, centuries and beyond,” said Dr Susan Solomon, senior scientist of the of the Global Monitoring Division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “A fraction of the carbon dioxide that we’ve put into the atmosphere today due to human activity would still be there in 1,000 years.”

Britain’s Chief Scientist Sir David King said that, “even if humanity were to stop emitting carbon dioxide today, temperatures will keep rising and the impacts keep changing for 25 years.”

Neither governments and scientists have plans to deal with the legacy load that will create the havoc. Instead, they focus entirely on future emissions. When they finally do focus on the problem, they will seek to back a winner. The obvious candidate is forest plantings. But these have inherent weaknesses.

"Most 'forests' sold as carbon sinks are plantations or tree farms which are less secure than natural forests. Tree farms start their life emitting tonnes of carbon because they tear up the vegetation that covers the soil, releasing CO2 into the atmosphere," says Carbon Coalition Against Global Warming convenor Michael Kiely. "Then herbicides are used to kill off other plant species that the birds and other wildlife rely on. The result is a biodiversity desert. Not an Australian forest."

Typically a tree farm will be a 'monoculture' - a one species environment - which lacks the 'resilience' to resist parasite and insect attack. This makes them susceptible to fire, which would release tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Tree farms are also a bad investment when it comes to storing carbon, when compared to the natural forest: A study reported in New Forests concluded that: "An area covered with a plantation managed for maximum volume yield will normally contain substantially less carbon than the same area of unmanaged forest". A similar study in Oregon found that a 450-year-old natural forest stored 2.2 to 2.3 times more carbon than a 60-year-old douglas fir plantation on a comparable site.

Tree farms are good for city-based investors and tree farming executives, but bad for rural communities. When a large industrial-sized operation buys up 10 neighbouring farms and puts them all under trees, the plantation pulls 10 families out of the local schools, 10 incomes out of the local economy. In most small districts this would mean the end of soclai infratructure like local medical and banking services as well as a deterioration of the community’s ability to support each other.

“A forest isn't the safest place to lock up your carbon if the climate scientists are right when they say Australia will have more bushfires of the type that have been ravaging forests all summer, " says Mr Kiely.

Trees cannot lock up CO2 for 100 years, as promised, because they start emitting CO2 as soon as they drop limbs and leaves which decay. Trees stop ‘sequestering’ carbon when they reach maturity.

Pro-forest green groups Greenpeace, WWF and Friends of the Earth have given tree farms the thumbs down.

Finally, trees aren’t going to save the world. We can’t plant enough of them in the time we have left, and not all soils are suitable. The UK Department of Energy estimates that to offset the UK’s total carbon dioxide emissions would require the planting of a new area of tropical forest about 1.5 times the size of the UK. "We don't have enough land to make up for all our emissions; you would need seven planets," say Tim Cadman, a PhD candidate at the University of Tasmania who has spent years researching the forestry industry and government forest policy.

The World Rainforest Movement claims that to compensate for the eight gigatonnes of carbon we currently release into the atmosphere every year would require planting four times the area of the United States with trees, never letting these trees die and decay thereafter. Millions of hectares of land would have to be taken over for carbon sequestration to have even a small impact on overall emissions.

But farmers can provide a solution. Given that 60% of the earth’s surface is grazing land, farmers have critical mass. They can sequester carbon at rates higher than tree farms using a combination of native perennial grasslands, foregone clearing of native forest, and regrowth of native vegetation as part of their farm plan. Australian farmers have done precisely this, enabling Prime Minister John Howard to boast that Australia has met its obligations under Kyoto 1, despite refusing to ratify the treaty. Not a cent was paid to the farmers who generated the ‘credits’.

So when you are buying carbon credits, insist on genuine, all-natural true forests and soil carbon credits – and vote 1 for ecology and the family farm.

Monday, January 22, 2007

VOTE [1] The Carbon Coalition On 24th March

The Carbon Coalition has been invited to provide a candidate to stand as part of the Climate Change Coalition (CCC) in the next election for the NSW Legislative Council. Convenor Michael Kiely says he agreed to stand in the coalition of independents solely to give soil carbon credits a platform for greater awareness in the community and in government circles. For instance, in its press release headed "10 things the NSW Government can do now", number 10 is "Promote the sequestering of carbon in soil and foster a start up industry for the rural sector"

The CCC is fielding a full ticket, headed by Patrice Newell, prominent Hunter Valley grazier and olive industry figure.

Members of the Carbon Coalition can help us by registering to hand out 'how to vote' forms at their local polling booth for part of the day on 24th March, the election day.

The following is an introduction to the CCC:

We've formed the Climate Change Coalition to accelerate action by politicians from all parties on the most urgent and important issue in human history.

While the Coalition is not itself a political party it supports many Independent candidates who are committed to its platform.

Climate change is no abstract scientific or environmental issue. It impacts on every part of our daily lives. It is personal, local, national and global.

The time for denial is over. The political posturing and games must end. We must unite to ensure urgent action so that our children and grandchildren can have a sustainable future.

While we might be divided by ideology, religion, geography, history, class or self interest, we must come together to ensure the survival of our planet.

It is vital that the Climate Change Coalition’s values be represented in the New South Wales Parliament. All legislation needs to be assessed and scrutinized to evaluate its impact on climate change.

Members of Parliament who support the Climate Change Coalition are committed to asking two key questions about each piece of legislation that comes into the New South Wales Parliament. Does the proposed law address climate change? How can it be amended to make it better?

We recognise that there are MP's on all sides of NSW's politics intent on doing the right thing. They are often prevented from speaking out by party policy or pressure groups. We will work with them to get a freer debate - to produce the dynamics of the "conscience vote" across the legislative spectrum.

Further, the Climate Change Coalition will work with any group, organization, or individual to form alliances and encourage political creativity. There is no guide book to what must be done. There is no precendent for this crisis. It requires entirely new scientific, communal and political approaches.

Whatever our differences on other issues, whether we're left wing or right wing or middle of the road, is irrelevent. We must work together. Now.

Patrice Newell

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Buy Soil Carbon Credits from Carbon•Farmers™

Buy Soil Carbon Credits from Carbon•Farmers™

We have dived right in the deep end and are offering soil carbon credits to the consumer market (see, targetting baby boomer grandparents concerned about climate change and the way the world will be when they aren't there to look after their grandchildren. We are using the trading name Carbon•Farmers™

Why did we do it?

To raise funds for the Carbon Coalition and enable our work to continue.
To raise awareness of the opportunity soils offer in the climate change crisis.
And to break the cycle of fiddling while Rome burns favoured by bureaucrats and scientists.

Politicians and scientists want to argue about the precise dimensions of the lifeboats on the Titanic - subjecting soil carbon to 4 years of trialling before giving it the go ahead, when Stern and others give us only 10 years to make a dent in the legacy load of CO2 in the atmosphere and soil is the only solution with the existing capacity to sequester legacy load in the time we have left. Forests will cost too much to plant on the scale required, take too long to plant, and too long to sequester. Every other solution is aimed at preventing new emissions, not dealing with legacy load. We have got to get cash flowing into the pockets of land managers who to encourage changes in soil management to sequester more carbon. If we managed to increase soil C by 1% in 10% of Australia's agricultural soils, we estimate we could sequester 10 years worth of our emissions. Can you sense the urgency? We are also - concurrently - seeking funding for trials of 'carbon farming techniques' and seeking to build bridges with scientists, trying to find one or two willing to operate in the real world and not this absurd Alice In Wonderland world where you can measure everything but you can't do anything. Given the extraordinary degree of estimation and averaging in calculating C sequestered in trees and C released by power stations, the death of a thousand core samples inflicted on soil carbon amounts - in context of climate change chaos - either to conspiracy to prevent farmers access to the carbon market, or criminal negligence on the part of those who would rather find reasons why it can't happen than look for ways of making it happen. We live by the words, "Lead, follow or get out of the way." We may fail, but it won't be for want of trying.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Only one MP 'gets it'

The Member for New England, Tony Windsor, is the only politician who 'gets' the carbon credits for soils issue. That's because he listens and he is not forced to toe the party line. His press release which reported his question in the House of Representatives in November, after he attended the National Carbon Forum in Canberra, is the most well-informed comment made by a public figure about soil carbon.

His release included the following: "Mr Windsor believes that the potential to use carbon credits to reward agricultural practices could not only improve Australia's soils, but also store carbon in the soil rather than the atmosphere and could be one of the solutions that the Federal Government is looking for.

"'With appropriate changes to land management, agricultural soils have the capacity to sequester and store large volumes of carbon, thus improving microbial contact, biological activity, fertility, soil structure, stability, resistance to erosion and ultimately biodiversity, productivity and profitability.

'Increasing soil carbon can significantly reduce the impact of dryland salinity, reduce sedimentation rates in rivers and streams, improve water quality, improve air quality, and decrease the impact of the Greenhouse Effect, global warming and climate change."

Tony was a farmer before his parliamentary career. He has defeated National Party candidates for the State seat of Tamworth and the Federal seat of New England. His hold on these seats is such that former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson approached him through business identity Greg Maguire with the offer of a diplomatic post if he would surrender his seat. The Honourable John Anderson denied the allegation.
Tony can be reached at with information and support.

Yes, Prime Minister? No, Prime Minister...

The Carbon Coalition was lucky enough to do a personal pesentation to Independent MP for the federal seat of New England, Tony Windsor during the lunch break at Christine Jones's National Carbon Forum in Novermber 2006. Tony was the only federal politician to attend. He was only there for half a day, but he's a fast learner. A week later he asked the Prime Minister a question in the House wwhich put soil carbon credits on the National agenda.

On the 27th November, 2006, Tony Windsor asked the following question:

"Prime Minister... given that the black soils in question have potential under appropriate land use management to be a natural carbon sink, could you include the farm sector in the carbon task force recently announced?"

The PM replied:

"... This joint task force is to look at the potential shape of a world emission rtrading system. Whilst the farm sector has an interest in that, I do not think the interest is as great sa, say, the resources sector. I will consider it."

The request has not been agreed to.

The PM's oblique reference to the resources sector masks the fact that he is referring to the coal industry, whose members dominate the task force. This has two implications: 1. The findings of the enquiry are already decided. 2. The coal industry's desires will be incorporated in the Government's carbon strategy. (The coal industry is still arguing that climate change is a myth.) The ability of the coal industry to actually write government policy was reveals in an ABCTV 4Corners program. The transcript of the program is available in our Library under "Carbon Conspiracies: Greenhouse Mafia".

Friday, January 05, 2007

Setback for our baselining trials

The Carbon Coalition made a Round 5 application to the Central West CMA for funding for soil carbon trials on 8 properties to prove that accelerated sequestration techniques such as time controlled grazing, pasture cropping, biological farming, biodynamics and compost teas can raise soil C scores rapidly. We were encouraged by the CMA to make it and were very confident - and worked on the assumption that the baselining trials would be starting soon. But we were unsuccessful. It was our second knockback on soil carbon, as we made a submission in Round 4 as well. We now understand why. The CMA's brief does not include fighting global warmingor figthing for carbon credit for agricultural soils. So they can't be criticised for sticking to a strict, narrow and conventional reading of their role. Instead we will seek the research funding we need from the private sector and fundraising.

What a difference when we presented to the NSW Premier's Expert Panel on CLimate Change 3 weeks ago and received a fantastic response. Adam Spencer (ABC Science and radio person) asked "What could you do with $650 million?" The DPI representative Annette Cowie gave us the thumbs up when asked "Does the science on this check out?" The presentation was arranged by Tony Lovell, a HM trainer from the Gold Coast who we met at the Carbon Forum at Kingaroy, and was attended by Bruce Ward, HM trainer from Sydney. Tony did a magnificent job presenting. Stunning.

We have since been contacted by the DPI team working on Greenhouse Response Options for landholders. We get to do another presentation.

We are moving ahead with our 25 000 acres pilot trade with Chicago Climate Exchange on no-till farming land. WE are at the stage of finding the 'peer reviewed' data that they need. We are looking for a soil scientist to help us pull the data together.

We're interested in forming alliance with scientists. We have a group of scientists willing to help us FIND WAYS to show that
our soils can sequester C. We are up against the establishment view that Australian soils can't sequester much carbon. We are planning to have a one day forum between scientists who want to help, and practitioners - narrow the gap between the two and forge alliances to move forward. This could happen in February.

You should also know that Patrice Newell (a HM and BD practitioner) has asked Michael to stand on her ticket (Climate Change Coalition) for the NSW Legislative Council elections in March. The CCC is a coalition of independents and it gives us a platform to promote the Carbon Coalition and SOil Carbon Credits because we are helping develop their policy on carbon trading and renewables. Patrice is a high profile beef and olive grower in the Hunter. We'll see how this goes, then consider the Senate Elections in November 07. Hopefully by then we wont need to. We need volunteers to person the booth. Please email me if you can help.

Don't forget - we need anecdotal data/evidence for soil carbon. And I give you this tip. If there's a farmed-out and buggered property nearby, keep yoru eye on it. The day we announce soil carbon credits there will be a land rush that will make the squatters land grab in the late 18th/early19th century look like an egg and spoon race. People who know about soil carbon and how to grow it and can identify low hanging fruit will prosper.