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Thread: Organic farming is worse for climate change

  1. #31
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    Finding optimal methods has everything to do with mathematical analysis..

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    Quote Originally Posted by Squink View Post
    Finding optimal methods has everything to do with mathematical analysis..
    And experience. Without actual tests of methods in the real world, all the equations in the world won't matter. Which will enable us to learn what factors are amenable to analysis, and to adapt our actions to suit. Nothing unsolvable about it at all.
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  3. #33
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    The main area of organic farming that can benefit the climate is biochar, adding pyrolised carbon to the soil, estimated to have potential to remove 0.8 gigatonnes of CO2 annually by 2050. Industrial agriculture in Australia has cut the soil carbon level from 4% to 1% over the last two centuries. Soil is a highly productive place to store carbon.

    Other aspects of organic farming are marginal at climate relevant scales. We now add about 53 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent to the air every year, so even biochar would need a paradigm shift to get above 2% of this worsening problem. Removing this excess carbon is the only way to stabilise the climate.

    The real negatives of organic farming are that it propagates the myths that individual carbon footprints make a difference to climate stability, and that a romantic return to a simpler past is a feasible way to stop global warming. In fact the only thing that will work to reduce radiative forcing is coordinated industrial investment in carbon removal technology research and development, but many devotees of organics tend to reject such investment on rather dubious grounds.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    In fact the only thing that will work
    Aaaaand that's where you lost me.

    Yes, this type of research is a vital contribution. But there's no one weird trick that will solve the problem. A lot of different methods and industries are needed. As you said above, a total paradigm change.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Aaaaand that's where you lost me.

    Yes, this type of research is a vital contribution. But there's no one weird trick that will solve the problem. A lot of different methods and industries are needed. As you said above, a total paradigm change.
    Removing more carbon than we add at global level is not "one weird trick". It is simple physics that the planet will heat up unless the excess carbon is removed. The scale, removing something like 100 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, obviously needs a lot of different methods and industries, but they share the feature that operation on that scale needs "coordinated industrial investment in carbon removal technology research and development".

    Okay, maybe growing organic garlic in your backyard will help cool the planet.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    Removing more carbon than we add at global level is not "one weird trick". It is simple physics that the planet will heat up unless the excess carbon is removed. The scale, removing something like 100 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, obviously needs a lot of different methods and industries, but they share the feature that operation on that scale needs "coordinated industrial investment in carbon removal technology research and development".

    Okay, maybe growing organic garlic in your backyard will help cool the planet.
    Snarky comments aside, you appear to believe in a future where we continue to pump waste into the environment, but justify it by "removing the excess".
    As far as I'm aware, there is nothing we can do to avoid a significant warming at this stage, it is already "baked in". Our best efforts should be towards not making things worse, which kind of precludes business as usual but with added technology to try and back pedal. At least organic farming would reduce reliance on industrial oil based chemical production, which quite apart from its raw material use is a significant energy user and polluter.
    All options should be on the table except business as usual

    I see a number of discussions recently regarding decentralisation, of the power grid especially. Organic farming would help to decentralise agriculture because crops would not need to be transported great distances nor would there be a need to transport fertilisers from centralised refineries. Less fuel used and agriculture more resistant to cross infection. There are more arguments than just " how much co2 does this remove from the atmosphere? " Talking about organic methods as some kind of return to the past is disingenuous when we have 21st century tools to improve methods and results.

    To be quite honest, I think nothing will fail to work better than each person having their own idea at the expense of others, meaning nothing coherent ever gets done.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    Removing more carbon than we add at global level is not "one weird trick". It is simple physics that the planet will heat up unless the excess carbon is removed. The scale, removing something like 100 gigatonnes of CO2 equivalent per year, obviously needs a lot of different methods and industries, but they share the feature that operation on that scale needs "coordinated industrial investment in carbon removal technology research and development".
    No. The entire system needs to change, from the ground up... and below. The common lifestyle, practices, and attitudes of both individuals and corporations. New technology alone cannot solve the social and economic problems that lead to and continue this situation.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    I see a number of discussions recently regarding decentralisation, of the power grid especially. Organic farming would help to decentralise agriculture because crops would not need to be transported great distances nor would there be a need to transport fertilisers from centralised refineries. Less fuel used and agriculture more resistant to cross infection. There are more arguments than just " how much co2 does this remove from the atmosphere? " Talking about organic methods as some kind of return to the past is disingenuous when we have 21st century tools to improve methods and results.
    I'm not intending to argue that organic farming isn't a good thing, because in general I do think it is (with the caveat that, as this paper details, it may require more land, and the depletion of soil is another factor that should be taken into account when doing the accounting, which is why I wrote "may" instead of "does."). But I'm not sure why there isn't a need to transport crops. If it requires more land, it might actually require longer transportation. I think that whether or not you use chemical fertilizers, you can still decentralize or centralize the agriculture. In Japan, even without organic farming, there are small farmland areas inside Tokyo.
    As above, so below

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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    you appear to believe in a future where we continue to pump waste into the environment, but justify it by "removing the excess".
    Yes, exactly. That is the only practical path. The world has to work out how to remove more carbon from the air than total emissions, to create a path to climate stability, repair and restoration. Fossil fuel use is expected to keep growing for decades to meet demand for energy. Wishing it weren’t so is a rather futile gesture.
    A good summary of the expected numbers out to 2100 is at Climate Action Tracker. It shows that the most optimistic path on current projections will involve warming well above two degrees Celsius. The only way to overcome that scenario is to invest in massive research and development of carbon mining technology, such as making concrete, growing seaweed and restoring atmospheric and ocean chemistry. Unfortunately, such practical R&D for carbon removal has nowhere near the required funding, partly because the dominant policy framework has seen it as only a second best option if decarbonisation doesn’t work.
    Three images we can use for climate policy are a bath, a ship and a sewer.
    Cutting emissions is like turning the tap in a plugged bath down to a trickle. It can only delay the overflow. If you can’t turn off the tap, the only solution is to pull the plug. In the climate analogy, that means removing more carbon from the air than total emissions, using new technology.
    Totally stopping all emissions today is like turning the engine off on a ship. The ship keeps moving because of its past momentum. The committed warming from past emissions, estimated at 635 gigatons of carbon at trillionthtonne.org, is widely argued to already be above the two-degree target.
    With sewerage, we fix the sanitation problem by industrial coordination at utility scale, not by issuing constipation pills and diet advice to make people defecate less. This analogy illustrates how the entire model of emission reduction is defective, as it addresses the problem at the wrong link of the chain, before the carbon is emitted. The explanation of the failure of organic farming to help with climate policy relies on similar systems logic, together with the rebuttal of the popular fallacy that cutting your personal carbon footprint can make a difference to climate outcomes.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    As far as I'm aware, there is nothing we can do to avoid a significant warming at this stage, it is already "baked in".
    That dismal prognosis relies on the false belief that we cannot mine carbon from the air at scale. Currently the world adds ten gigatons of carbon to the air every year. For scale comparison, a gigaton of water is a cubic kilometre. This carbon can be converted into useful products such as concrete, or what I call the 7F strategy – fuel, food, feed, fertilizer, forests, fibre and fish. The ARPA-E Mariner program is doing some excellent work on seaweed potential.
    When people’s ideas of scale are framed by ideas like organic farming, they find it hard to imagine the paradigm shift we will need to avoid tipping points to a hothouse earth.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Our best efforts should be towards not making things worse, which kind of precludes business as usual but with added technology to try and back pedal. At least organic farming would reduce reliance on industrial oil based chemical production, which quite apart from its raw material use is a significant energy user and polluter.
    That argument may have the virtue of being popular, but it falls down on logic. Business as usual is perfectly fine if we can work out how to remove more carbon from the air than we emit. What is not fine is imagining that ratcheting up the decarbonisation of the economy will solve climate change. Shifting to renewable energy has immense commercial and environmental benefits, but is marginal to climate change.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    All options should be on the table except business as usual.
    Unfortunately that makes no sense. If big business can provide the resources, skills, personnel and political contacts to establish a carbon mining industry on the scale needed to stabilise the climate, then accepting the ongoing use of fossil fuels is a sensible trade-off, in view of the massive disruption, conflict and cost involved in decarbonising.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    I see a number of discussions recently regarding decentralisation, of the power grid especially. Organic farming would help to decentralise agriculture because crops would not need to be transported great distances nor would there be a need to transport fertilisers from centralised refineries. Less fuel used and agriculture more resistant to cross infection. There are more arguments than just " how much co2 does this remove from the atmosphere? " Talking about organic methods as some kind of return to the past is disingenuous when we have 21st century tools to improve methods and results.
    Sure there are a million other concerns other than the future of the planet. But when it comes to climate change, the net emission of carbon is the relevant measure, along with albedo modification to cut radiative forcing.
    Maybe at best organic farming could remove one gigaton of carbon from the air per year. Problem is, that would come at high opportunity cost, when to stabilise the climate we have to remove something like 20 GTC/y, orders of magnitude above what organic farming can deliver.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    To be quite honest, I think nothing will fail to work better than each person having their own idea at the expense of others, meaning nothing coherent ever gets done.
    Yes, exactly, which is why evidence-based debate is so important to address the massive existential emergency posed by climate change. Scientific method is all about engaging with ideas on the basis of reason rather than emotion. Popular opinions about climate change have jumped from the correct observation that climate science is settled to the completely wrong idea that the policies to respond to this crisis are equally settled.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I'm not intending to argue that organic farming isn't a good thing, because in general I do think it is (with the caveat that, as this paper details, it may require more land, and the depletion of soil is another factor that should be taken into account when doing the accounting, which is why I wrote "may" instead of "does."). But I'm not sure why there isn't a need to transport crops. If it requires more land, it might actually require longer transportation. I think that whether or not you use chemical fertilizers, you can still decentralize or centralize the agriculture. In Japan, even without organic farming, there are small farmland areas inside Tokyo.
    With regard to less transportation of crops, I think that by not relying on huge monoculture farming techniques, more food grown could be used closer to the production point. This reduces transportation of grains from continent to continent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    Yes, exactly. That is the only practical path. The world has to work out how to remove more carbon from the air than total emissions, to create a path to climate stability, repair and restoration. Fossil fuel use is expected to keep growing for decades to meet demand for energy. Wishing it weren’t so is a rather futile gesture.
    ......
    Business as usual is perfectly fine if we can work out how to remove more carbon from the air than we emit.
    Every day that passes makes the problem larger. Should we continue down the same old path just hoping a miracle technology will suddenly be invented to reverse/limit the process? Judging by past experience, the first couple of "solutions" will be received with great fanfare and hailed as the saviours of the human race but will turn out to be either (a) scams, or (b) oversold and ineffective at the scales required.
    This is why I think a fundamental part of the solution is the reduction of the rate of emission. If a perfect solution is found, we can always scale back up. Otherwise, if we don't reduce emissions and that solution isn't found in time we have just delayed our response and further increased the enormity of the task.

    I also believe that even though individual actions do not have enough of an effect on the problem, they do add to the culture of awareness that will be necessary to get the political change that is needed to force larger scale action through in time to be useful.

    A possibly poor analogy is, imagine your car breaks down on an isolated road 20 miles from civilisation. Do you start walking or stay put hoping that someone else will happen along? I would start walking because I would actually be starting to get where I needed while still having the chance of getting a ride from a passing motorist.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    Popular opinions about climate change have jumped from the correct observation that climate science is settled to the completely wrong idea that the policies to respond to this crisis are equally settled.
    Maybe where you live the science is settled. I'm in the Midwest. We're still fighting the "is it even happening" battle.


    Yes, exactly, which is why evidence-based debate is so important to address the massive existential emergency posed by climate change.
    Then present the evidence that your proposed method is best.
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Every day that passes makes the problem larger. Should we continue down the same old path just hoping a miracle technology will suddenly be invented to reverse/limit the process?
    The situation today is far from “hoping a miracle technology will suddenly be invented”. The climate activist movement has largely put its eggs in the basket of decarbonising the economy as the only solution, with the IPCC deferring consideration of carbon removal to later this century, and flatly rejecting albedo modification. So for you to say consideration of such methods is to “continue down the same old path” mischaracterises the debate. These proposed new planetary cooling methods are entirely marginal to current climate investment, even though they are essential to any cogent vision of a pullback from the hothouse precipice.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Judging by past experience, the first couple of "solutions" will be received with great fanfare and hailed as the saviours of the human race but will turn out to be either (a) scams, or (b) oversold and ineffective at the scales required.
    That is why transparent scientific assessment of candidate technologies is essential and urgent. A good reference on desirable process is the recent GESAMP Study on Marine Geoengineering published by IMO.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    This is why I think a fundamental part of the solution is the reduction of the rate of emission.
    Unfortunately, your argument is flawed. Proper process to consider climate repair methods requires consideration of all options in terms of least cost abatement of radiative forcing. It is entirely possible that such scientific analysis will show that emission reduction is marginal to climate repair, despite all its other benefits.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    If a perfect solution is found, we can always scale back up.
    That is a complacent attitude that ignores the existential peril of sudden tipping points, and the time required to mobilise new technology. We should be investing now at the largest possible scale in working out the most effective ways to stabilise the climate, not putting too much hope in manifestly inadequate solutions (emission reduction) while allowing potentially adequate solutions to languish.
    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Otherwise, if we don't reduce emissions and that solution isn't found in time we have just delayed our response and further increased the enormity of the task.
    Again, that makes no sense. Even if we do reduce emissions at the fastest possible rate, we are on track for dangerous warming without large scale geoengineering.

    Stabilising the climate requires a return to the long-term CO2 level of 280 ppm. This is only possible with a massive shift of policy and investment focus to Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR). The widespread belief that the faster we decarbonize, the less we will have to remove later, and the cheaper it will be, might appear at first glance to be true, but my analysis suggests that actually this is false. I explain my reasons for this below, and would of course be highly interested in any evidence-based debate. With apologies for the length, these are issues that I have been thinking about a lot.

    There are many counter-intuitive elements of this central world problem. Economists and scientists really should study and debate the merits and constraints of the alternative climate policies in more depth, without prejudging the answer as so often seems to happen. Decarbonisation might even prove to be a classic example of the Mencken paradox, a well-known solution that is neat, plausible, and wrong.

    Firstly, consider the scale and cost. The Paris Accord aims to remove about four gigatons of CO2 per year by 2030, about 7% of the low estimate of annual emissions of 60 GT under business as usual, according to my reading of Climate Action Tracker. For comparison, that weight in water (4 GT) takes up one cubic mile, while the size in carbon will vary by chemistry. The cost cannot be easily estimated, since analysis of this problem is affected by motivated reasoning, uncertain assumptions and lack of knowledge about new technology. A result of 7% is marginal when slowing warming requires a result above 100%. The remaining <93% can only come from CDR, given the major barriers in the way of scaling up emission reduction.

    One estimate for the total cost of developing country NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) under the Paris Accord is $4 trillion over a decade. Developed country costs would be higher. If we say the cost of Paris by 2030 is $1 trillion per year, for arguments sake, that is $250 per tonne of CO2 removed, and that may prove too optimistic. If Direct Air Capture technology can remove CO2 for $100 per tonne, it looks to be much less expensive than subsidising renewables or organic farming, just considered in terms of its objective of slowing climate change. Other CDR methods (eg seaweed, concrete, iron salt aerosol, biochar) could cost much less than this DAC estimate.

    Secondly, decarbonisation has high opportunity cost, crowding out investment in carbon removal. This is due to the practical reality that government investment in cutting emissions through renewable subsidies, such as infrastructure for new wind and solar electricity distribution, is a direct alternative to investment in carbon removal research and development, and government policy is a key signal for private investment. The worry is that by subsidising energy transition, governments fail to promote technology that actually has real prospect of solving the climate problem, and are picking a loser.

    An investment with low return is obviously worse value than one with high return, but making the investment calculation in terms of climate stability rather than financial profit is difficult. Emission reduction and carbon removal are rival goods, alternative ways to cut radiative forcing. If governments deliberately choose the more expensive and ineffective way to achieve their stated goal, that can only be described as a failure of process, although of course the decarbonisation path is ostensibly justified by the purported moral hazard of carbon removal.

    This opportunity cost problem of emission reduction has an even worse dimension, namely that it runs immense risk of failure, given the scientific concern about hothouse tipping points such as ice melt and methane release potentially coming up much faster than previously predicted, causing accelerated warming feedback. The whole climate strategy therefore needs to shift to a direct global assault on atmospheric carbon, recognising that decarbonisation is far too small, slow, divisive and costly to slow warming.

    The high stakes gamble of decarbonising as fast as possible, with all its embedded and contested social and economic change, runs the very likely risk of failing to prevent dangerous climate change, and thereby generating immense collateral damage and cost. The terms of the discussion should shift to seeing carbon removal as essential for planetary security, requiring coordinated military-style response as a practical strategy for world peace.

    Thirdly, decarbonisation has high marginal cost. The rough numbers above project a 4GT Paris decarbonisation result by 2030. Increasing that to 5, 8 or 12 GT as envisaged under various ‘ratchet’ and ‘doubling down’ arguments, would produce a marginal cost curve whereby each extra GT would be more costly and more politically difficult and slow. Each gigaton should be assessed in terms of least cost abatement, updating the McKinsey climate cost curve (explained here) to better represent potentials of large scale CDR. On this criterion I strongly suspect carbon removal is likely to prove more efficient than decarbonisation under full cost accounting, techno-economic assessment and life cycle analysis.

    Fourth, and in what I think is the worst scenario, consider if by 2030 the world is cutting four gigatons of CO2 per year, and still emitting 56 GT, as expected under Paris. That is a nightmare, howling toward a six-degree warmer world, with catastrophic social, economic, security and ecological implications. The real nightmare is that the rejection of CDR implicit in the Paris focus on decarbonising as fast as possible means we will have wasted the opportunity we now have to research and develop safe and effective ways to remove more carbon from the air than we add.

    If we put all our eggs in the basket of economic decarbonisation, as now widely advocated, then at the end of the next decade the whole planet could end up in a situation akin to Easter Island when its indigenous society allegedly collapsed. After they had chopped down all their trees, Jared Diamond suggested in Collapse they were unable to build boats to leave the island to fish, so turned instead eventually to cannibalism, and in their last act of desperation they pushed over all the statues, in a futile rejection of their failed cultural values.

    If the world now sets a ‘moon shot’ goal of net zero by 2030, mainly delivered by CDR, and also allows fossil fuels to continue with business as usual, then we can envisage a much better prognosis. The trade off for business as usual should be the expectation that the fossil fuel industry will massively invest in CDR in order to deliver a realistic transition path over the next century. By 2030 we will be strongly on the path to massive carbon removal, converting the trillion tons of industrial carbon into useful and stable forms, to repair and regulate the climate and restore Holocene norms.

    My view is that large scale ocean-based algae production could safely store twenty gigatons of carbon at the bottom of the sea every year, or as biochar and other carbon products. Ocean algae carbon storage is an example of potential economic transformation that has not been adequately studied, although it is usefully flagged in the recent GESAMP study. This could well be at a tiny fraction of the unit cost of current Paris Accord plans, measured in terms of radiative forcing, and could be highly protective of biodiversity.

    That scenario of a massive shift of public resources to CDR would remove the pressure to implement an energy transition at a faster rate than is justified by the economic and ecological fundamentals. A goal of net zero by 2030 using CDR would create the trajectory for net minus 20 GT by 2050, a path to return in this century to Holocene norms to repair and restore and regulate the global climate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    The situation today is far from “hoping a miracle technology will suddenly be invented”. The climate activist movement has largely put its eggs in the basket of decarbonising the economy as the only solution, with the IPCC deferring consideration of carbon removal to later this century, and flatly rejecting albedo modification. So for you to say consideration of such methods is to “continue down the same old path” mischaracterises the debate. These proposed new planetary cooling methods are entirely marginal to current climate investment, even though they are essential to any cogent vision of a pullback from the hothouse precipice. That is why transparent scientific assessment of candidate technologies is essential and urgent.
    <snip>
    Apologies for the huge snip. You have obviously put a great deal of effort and thought into this subject. I probably haven't made it clear enough that I support your view and see this approach as probably the best way to address the problem, scientifically.

    But,

    By your timescale, we need to reach political concensus, develop adequate, tested technology, deploy it and reduce CO2 emissions to net zero in approximately 10 years. This is extremely unlikely to happen. It would take a globally agreed effort, which as you probably have noticed is getting less likely due to nations being more concerned about energy security and influence than they are about the future of our current civilisation.

    Surely you don't expect us to do nothing in the meantime? However meaningless and ineffective you may find it. It's not like we could start a global grassroots campaign to demand the equivalent of "ubiquitous flying cars, now".

    By all means, you can advance this agenda at every possible moment, but at least there is some momentum behind the other tactics which serves to seed the ground for deeper research and technology.

    Something, something about not letting the perfect become the enemy of the good

    Also, you have mentioned concrete a number of times as part of a possible use for this captured CO2. I was under the impression that concrete was a horrendous emitter of CO2 due to its use of lime in the cement. Has this changed?

    I think this discussion is getting well away from the posted topic by the way.

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    The term organic has interpretations, including a legal labelling system, at least here in the UK, but gets mixed up with “chemicals” in a generally uneducated or unscientific way. We are unlikely to get by without farmers, so we should probably look to other areas for climate change, including having to modify farming to acclimatise . There is talk about changing from meat to greens, but that debate has to geographically based, as well as balanced vis a vis methane from many other sources than cows and sheep.
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    Surely you don't expect us to do nothing in the meantime? However meaningless and ineffective you may find it.
    What??
    By my reading he encouraged the exact OPPOSITE of doing nothing. Strawman alert!
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    What??
    By my reading he encouraged the exact OPPOSITE of doing nothing. Strawman alert!
    There was no strawman. He encourages positive action but only that action that meets some extremely difficult to realise criteria. Which is why I said "in the meantime".

    Also, what is your interpretation of this statement?
    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    If the world now sets a ‘moon shot’ goal of net zero by 2030, mainly delivered by CDR, and also allows fossil fuels to continue with business as usual, then we can envisage a much better prognosis.
    My understanding of his viewpoint is that he considers carbon reduction by less effective means as worse than futile, i.e. not worth pursuing.

    My point is that we should be doing everything possible right now, not relying on the possibility of an unlikely global initiative.
    Last edited by headrush; 2019-Nov-01 at 10:50 AM. Reason: Added an extra point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    There was no strawman. He encourages positive action but only that action that meets some extremely difficult to realise criteria. Which is why I said "in the meantime".
    Only? Find the word Only in his post. I couldn't.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Only? Find the word Only in his post. I couldn't.
    Can you find any text in his post that advocates carbon reduction, or only text that advocates carbon removal?

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    Maybe I'm just given to hyperbole in my efforts to make a point, but here goes anyway.

    Imagine you are the captain of a ship accelerating towards some rocks, the exact location of which is uncertain.

    In the first instance do you:

    a) Establish a working party to determine the feasibility of a new form of super steel than can withstand the upcoming impact, given that this new substance will have to be able to withstand the final unknown impact speed, plus there are several warring factions on board who are arguing about who should be held responsible for the original course, who will gain/ suffer the most from the new invention and various other trivia.


    Or

    b) Slow down.

    Option (b) does not preclude option (a).

    In fact it positively helps by giving more time in which to act definitively and achieve the desired result.

    Maybe Robert and myself are arguing at cross purposes to some extent, but I would still attempt to reduce emissions as the simplest and most readily available first reaction.
    If you find yourself in a hole, you stop digging, you don't carry on and hope you can invent a long enough ladder.

    An additional point that doesn't seem to be mentioned is: where is the energy to power this carbon removal effort coming from? Will the whole effort be carbon neutral?

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    I would just like to clarify that my definition of slowing down means using all available methods of reducing our CO2 impact. This includes not only developing renewable energy harvesting techniques, because that just makes sense, but also more ecologically sound farming methods, of which organic is at least a decent starting point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    I would just like to clarify that my definition of slowing down means using all available methods of reducing our CO2 impact. This includes not only developing renewable energy harvesting techniques, because that just makes sense, but also more ecologically sound farming methods, of which organic is at least a decent starting point.
    OK, agreed.
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    Note: I found Robert Tulip's reference to "only". In post # 33. I even commented on it.
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  23. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Maybe where you live the science is settled. I'm in the Midwest. We're still fighting the "is it even happening" battle.
    Sure, fair enough. I meant climate science is seen as settled among those who base their views on evidence.

    My point was that people too easily jump from recognition that climate change is a problem to the wrong assumption that the solutions are obvious, as in this example of the dubious belief that organic farming is good for the climate.

    Part of the problem here is that climate deniers often jump on any illogicality among climate advocates - such as the point that emission reduction is often expensive and ineffective in cutting heat growth - to cast doubt on the entirety of climate science.

    This broader discussion of incorrect beliefs among those who support climate action is relevant to the opening post on organic farming, because it follows up the theme that common perceptions of climate impacts are often wrong, and that counter-intuitive solutions may often be better. The MIT article says “Looking at the farm scale doesn’t really tell you what a large-scale transition to organic would look like. Only a study like this, that takes a system-wide perspective, really does.”

    So it seems reasonable to ask if the assumption that organic farming is good for the climate is an example of a wider syndrome, a failure to take a system-wide perspective in assessing life cycle impact of decisions. With organic farming, I imagine that if you polled the question “Is organic farming good for the climate?”, most people would answer yes. However, the article shows that the hidden corollary, the need for more land, overwhelms any emission reduction benefits of an individual farm switching to organic methods.

    This same problem of counter-intuitive hidden problems appears across the board in climate analysis, in my view. So it is interesting to consider organic farming as reflecting that Mencken paradox, as I mentioned, of solutions that are neat, simple and wrong. I have nothing at all against organic farming, or renewable energy, or reforestation. I would just prefer that they did not allow their vested or sectoral interests to make climate claims that don’t stack up, when the reality of the climate problem is an urgent security emergency that requires the best possible science.

    A similar debate is happening in relation to forestry. A prominent recent paper called for mass reforestation as a solution to climate change. Its arguments have been torn apart on the basis of evidentiary analysis, but lots of people still love the meme. Let me know if you want the references.

  24. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by Robert Tulip View Post
    Let me know if you want the references.
    I want more than one study. I asked, in post #41, for the evidence that your arguments are correct. I'm asking again. Show me that your way is THE way.
    "I'm planning to live forever. So far, that's working perfectly." Steven Wright

  25. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Noclevername View Post
    Aaaaand that's where you lost me.

    Yes, this type of research is a vital contribution. But there's no one weird trick that will solve the problem. A lot of different methods and industries are needed. As you said above, a total paradigm change.
    My interpretation is that he is not advocating a single method or industry, but coordinated investments into various methods for carbon sequestration. Organic farming may be one way to slow how fast it gets worse, but it seems that carbon sequestration will be necessary to repair it.


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  26. #56
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    My issue with the OP is that the study assumes a like for like basis for required crop and animal production. Because organic methods produce less per unit of land, the study has expanded the amount of land required until the figures match.

    My point is, and I realise that this may not make up the shortfall, 10.2 million tonnes of food is wasted each year in the UK, of which 100,000 tonnes is readily available and perfectly edible.(1)

    How much land and time does it take to produce that much simply to throw it away? Surely the studys findings would have to be reevaluated?

    Another point of relevance: the UK imported 50% of its food in 2017 (2). If reduction in waste was offset against import requirements, how would that affect net CO2 production?

    It's a tangled web of data to make sense of. But I think that the organic solution has benefits in other areas than just climate change and not considering those benefits is misleading. For example wildlife diversity, insect populations, runoff of chemicals into water courses, etc. All those things have costs, in both CO2 emission, finance, labour, lost opportunity etc. How does one calculate all that?

    Quite simply, the nature.com report doesn't try to. It is a ( not so) simple comparison of land use which omits other possibly mitigating factors.
    Some comments are interesting on the report site too.

    (1) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/a...aste-announced

    (2) https://www.gov.uk/government/public...-and-uk-supply

  27. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by headrush View Post
    My issue with the OP is that the study assumes a like for like basis for required crop and animal production. Because organic methods produce less per unit of land, the study has expanded the amount of land required until the figures match.

    My point is, and I realise that this may not make up the shortfall, 10.2 million tonnes of food is wasted each year in the UK, of which 100,000 tonnes is readily available and perfectly edible.(1)

    How much land and time does it take to produce that much simply to throw it away? Surely the studys findings would have to be reevaluated?
    I completely agree that the issue of food waste is an important issue. But the problem is, if food wastage is used to re-evaluate the calculations for organic food, they must also be used to reevaluate the calculations for non-organic agriculture, because the wastage is not dependent on the type of agriculture. Or is it?
    As above, so below

  28. #58
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I completely agree that the issue of food waste is an important issue. But the problem is, if food wastage is used to re-evaluate the calculations for organic food, they must also be used to reevaluate the calculations for non-organic agriculture, because the wastage is not dependent on the type of agriculture. Or is it?
    And in fact, I realize things are complex so I’m not arguing is true, but there is an argument that organic culture could lead to more wastage if the expiration date is not as long.
    As above, so below

  29. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    I completely agree that the issue of food waste is an important issue. But the problem is, if food wastage is used to re-evaluate the calculations for organic food, they must also be used to reevaluate the calculations for non-organic agriculture, because the wastage is not dependent on the type of agriculture. Or is it?
    Good point. But the report is saying we need 40% more land for organic over conventional which the authors suggest can only be sourced from overseas, which specifically leads to the worsened climate effects.
    They do not evaluate conventional agriculture for its climate effects other than land usage. It may be possible to reduce land use by wasting less, meaning no extra land needed abroad. This could mean organic methods while less efficient could still fit within the existing carbon footprint and be less toxic to the environment. I guess it depends on what you define as an overall win.

    If we just reduced waste from conventional methods we might also reduce the overseas component thereby reducing the carbon footprint by a similar or greater amount. However, that would not reduce the deleterious effects of conventional agriculture as much as going 100% organic.

    A thorny problem.

  30. #60
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jens View Post
    And in fact, I realize things are complex so I’m not arguing is true, but there is an argument that organic culture could lead to more wastage if the expiration date is not as long.
    Possibly, but the production method is less important than post production processing in that case. Depends how you define organic.

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