JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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If world warmed — crops could grow another 1,200 km further North

Climate change might bring more food as it expands into the arctic. In a big surprise, scientists found that agriculture works best in places without much snow and ice.

Burn oil and feed the world

Only a third of the giant northern boreal forest is able to be cropped at the moment. With any luck, serious global warming will set in, allowing us to raise the edge of the zone of arable land and feed millions more hungry people.

Obviously , we need to spend billions to stop this.

Though Canadians and Russians may disagree (especially if they thought CO2 actually mattered, but who does?).

Given CO2′s mixed performance in the last hundred years, I predict disappointment…

[...]

Eucalyptus trees cope fine with extreme heatwaves, defy climate models, survive 50C temps

What happens to a poor tree when you withhold rain for a whole month, then hit it with four days in a row of 43C temperatures? It was so hot, some of the leaves on these trees got close to 49-50 °C.

In at least one gum species in Australia, the answer is “not much”. They suck up lots of water from their deep roots and sweat it out til the heatwave passes. The trees become evaporative coolers “siphoning up” water. They cope so well, that not only did the trees not die, but their trunk and height growth were unaffected. Indeed, only about 1% of the leaf area even exhibited browning.

Whole tree chambers in Richmond, New South Wales, Australia. Twelve 9-m-tall chambers in a field setting (a) enclose the canopies of individual Eucalyptus parramattensis trees rooted in soil (b). Two heatwave chambers can be seen on the left of the infrared image, along with several control chambers (c; temperature in °C).

But with global warming running at a heady 0.13C per decade, you might wonder how many years will it take for the trees to adapt?

From the paper — “one day”:

The gums rapidly [...]

Burn more oil and feed the world

Climate change causes … more crops.

Climate change threatens our food supply, our grain harvests. It causes wars, droughts, sometimes floods, shorter growing seasons. And we all know Climate change is here. We can see it out the window. Plus 2017 is one of the three hottest years ever.

Somehow all these bad events happened at once and added up to the world’s largest cereal crop ever.

It’s doom gloom and fume all the way down:

How a warming world is threatening supplies — The Guardian

Climate Change May Reduce Some U.S. Grain Harvests by Half — Bloomberg

Wheat, one of the world’s most important crops, is being threatened by climate change –Washington Post Record cereal production leading to record end-season inventories in 2017/18

“World wheat inventories are currently pegged at an all-time high despite a downward revision since October. Global stocks of rice and coarse grains are also set to reach record levels. The increase in wheat and rice stocks largely reflects an anticipated accumulation of inventories in China, whereas for coarse grains, the expansion reflects higher end-of-season maize stocks in South America and the United States.” [...]

Record hottest year means record bumper wheat crop, opposite of crop models

Last year there were warnings from crop modelers in Nature that heat kills wheat and yields were going to fall in the “near future”, if temperatures rose. In fact global warming was “already slowing wheat gains”. What followed was a record El Nino, and 2015 was the hottest ever year, with 2016 vying to beat it. But instead of wheat doom, this month the USDA forecasts a record yield of wheat with bumper crops globally. Wheat output has grown in Australia, the US, Russia, Ukraine, everywhere pretty much, except the EU where it has been too rainy. Where are the mea culpas?    h/t to the GWPF

Jan 2015, published in Nature.  “Global Wheat Yield May Drop as Temperatures Rise”

“… researchers are now letting farmers know that the world’s wheat yields are excepted decline in the near future, with the world standing to lose six percent of its wheat crop for every degree Celsius that the annual global temperature increases.

“The simulations with the multi-crop models showed that warming is already slowing yield gains, despite observed yield increases in the past, at a majority of wheat-growing locations across the globe,” researcher Senthold Asseng, at the University [...]

18 million square kilometers more greenery due to “carbon pollution” that the Greens hate

What kind of pollution do you want to feed your plants? The carbon kind.

Yet again, a satellite study of leaf area shows that the world is greener than it was in 1982. There are more plants mostly thanks to CO2 aerial fertilization. The biggest benefits from CO2 are in the warm tropics. The extra greenery in colder areas was due to that other disaster called “global warming”. About a tenth of the greening had nothing to do with either carbon pollution or extra warmth and was apparently thanks to nitrogen from man-made fertilizers.

Obviously we need a $10 billion dollar program to stop this immediately.

Click to enlarge.

Humans are Greening planet Earth — ABC

The most comprehensive modelling of remote sensing data so far shows the area on Earth covered by plants in this time has increased by 18 million square kilometres — about 2.5 times the size of the Australian continent — largely due to the fertilising effect of carbon dioxide (CO2).

“[The greening] has the ability to fundamentally change the cycling of water and carbon in the climate system,” said Dr Zaichun Zhu, from Peking University in China and lead author [...]

Burn oil, feed the world, grow plants, save forests, get richer, live longer. Why we urgently need to raise CO2.

It’s time to stop pussy footing around. We need higher levels of CO2. It is morally and ethically irresponsible to be silent while millions starve, biodiversity is under threat, and people are dying from cold weather.

Carbon dioxide increases crops, forest and plant life by 14% and is worth $140 billion, just in agricultural production. Thanks to CO2, forests have been protected because farms are more efficient in a higher CO2 world.

Countries that don’t do their part in producing enough carbon dioxide emissions need to lift their game. Coal use should be favoured over nuclear, hydro, wind and solar. Countries like France are free-riding on the nations like China, the US, and Australia — which are helping to green the world and feed the starving.

Indur Goklany has put together a comprehensive report on the benefits of CO2 for the GWPF.

The advantage of higher CO2 for all C3 crop plants is spectacular. That’s rice, wheat, barley, rye, cotton, sugar beet, spinach, and potato. C4 plants evolved in the last 30 million years to be good at dealing with low CO2 atmospheric concentration (corn, sugarcane, cabbage, broccoli, sedge, daisy.) Most plants are C3.

Figure 1: Carbon dioxide fertilization [...]

Welcome to the CO2 disaster — 4 billion tons more plants, more greenery

During the recent warmest decades on record, Earth suffered under the highest CO2 levels of the last 800,000 years. Life responded to this devastating situation by — flourishing. There are now some 4 billion tons more living matter on the planet than there was in 1993. What a calamity. (And what a lot of carbon credits.)

It has, naturally, got nothing to do with warmth and aerial fertilizer. The researchers tell us it due to that force of nature known as “good luck”. Remember, human CO2 emissions were pollution that was going to afflict life on Earth. After twenty years of predicting the loss of forests and species, it turned out that biology bloomed instead. Notch up another model “success”. The press release headline: Good luck reverses global forest loss. (What else would we expect from UNSW?)

To those who know basic biology — and that almost half the dry weight of plants is carbon, sucked straight out of the air — this is not so much good luck as one entirely foreseeable and foreseen consequence of rising CO2. Acquiring carbon is often a plant’s hardest task. When the sun comes up, a cornfield begins sucking, and by lunch time [...]

Peak Wheat! One quarter of wheat production will be lost to extreme climate (or maybe Not)

According to a new study released by Nature Climate Change we are, remarkably, at the very peak of conditions for wheat growth worldwide — and it’s all downhill from here. (What are the odds?) The last 15 years, which have been the “hottest on record” and saw massive human CO2 output, were the peak time for wheat. But all that is about to fall off a cliff if we do … more of the same.

To demonstrate that millions will starve: take projections of extremes from broken climate models, and put them in wheat crop models, and then assume we take no adaptive measures for the first time in human history. Ignore that even the IPCC doesn’t think extreme events are necessarily changing: “Climate models are unable to predict extreme events because they lack spatial and temporal resolution. In addition, there is no clear evidence that sustained or worldwide changes in extreme events have occurred in the past few decades. “

There’s been no increase in drought globally in the last 60 years either. Pouring free fertilizer into the sky, along with better agricultural practices, has produced a global boom in crops (See CO2science for scores of studies on biomass [...]

Write to a tree about climate change in the Melbourne City Council, and it will write back

Wait for it… “dozens” of Melbournians are writing emails to trees and the trees are writing back (thanks to paid staff who can speak Elmlish, Oatin, and Planely).  Lots of trees are being told they are set to die off thanks to climate change. The Stress!

Broadsheet Melbourne

Right now, you can log onto the City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest Visual map and email any tree you’d like within the council’s boundaries.

Yep, all 60,000 of them.

The Gulf Today. AE

But almost a quarter of its trees, including oaks, elms and planes, are set to die off by the end of the decade, and that figure will rise to almost 40 per cent by 2030, speeded by a devastating 13-year drought that broke in 2012.

“As our climate becomes more and more extreme, we’re going to have to look at trees that are fit for purpose,” Councillor Arron Wood said.

So you can write to a tree in Melbourne and it will write back:

The quirky emails, to which staff respond on behalf of the trees, are building awareness of climate change in Melbourne, regarded as Australia’s most European [...]

Look out, a soil model says more plants means massive carbon stores might be freed

The Doom message version 48.2a (subclause i) has been released.

Forget methane clathrate pits, now extra plant growth (blame CO2) could cause  global soil to unleash massive amounts of carbon.

Carbon dioxide (aka “pollution”) feeds plants. This is now bad (didn’t you know?). An all new “first” computer model with plants, soil, and fungus, warns us that more plants could get soil microbes excited which might break down more soil carbon and release it into the air. Disaster! It’s a could-be-might-be-catastrophe. (At  least until paragraph 6 — see that caveat below.)

In the meantime this is is so big, it’s practically nuclear — the model reports that it could set off a “chain reaction”:

An increase in human-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could initiate a chain reaction between plants and microorganisms that would unsettle one of the largest carbon reservoirs on the planet — soil.

Did you know there is twice as much CO2, carbon in the soil as there is in Earth’s whole atmosphere?

Researchers based at Princeton University report in the journal Nature Climate Change that the carbon in soil — which contains twice the amount of carbon in all plants and Earth’s [...]

Where have those fossil fuel emissions gone?

Oh the paradox! Human emissions upset the delicate balance and drive up global CO2 levels by 2ppm a year, but lordy, at the same time, that delicate balance roils and rolls with the seasons by a far larger range. Get the feeling there is more to Life on Earth than humans?

There are places on Earth when CO2 swings every year by 16ppm or more – like Point Barrow. Then there are places like the South Pole, where it barely changes all year round — a bit like the level of greenery there which varies from white to white. And there’s a clue. The other part of the world where CO2 levels don’t swing is at the equator — where it’s 100% green all year long. The big changes in terrestrial CO2 occur in the zones where plant life ebbs and flows.

Tom Quirk tracks the seasonal shifts in CO2 and finds that the northern Boreal forests are probably drawing down something like 2 – 5 gigatons of CO2 every year, and because the seasonal amplitude is getting larger each year, it suggests there is no sign of saturation.  Those plants are not bored of extra CO2 yet. This fits [...]

Increasing CO2 threatens human nutrition (From the Annals of Hype)

Disaster Disaster! Driving a car in 2014 could one day cause 2 billion people to suffer from zinc and iron deficiencies leaving them anaemic and prone to infection, and causing a loss of 63 million life-years annually. This is brought to you from the  Annals of Hyped-Science (formerly known as Nature). A sad day indeed.

It’s true that carbon dioxide is plant fertilizer and increases plant yields, so future crops, grown in a CO2 rich world, may not have exactly the same nutrient profile. Presumably future plants will have slightly more useless starchy carbohydrate. It is a kind of dilution effect at work, where plants keep absorbing the same amount of minerals, but spread them out among more carbohydrate.

Before we hit the panic button, lets look the numbers. The new Myers et al study[1] reports that zinc and iron content of rice may fall by, wait for it, five percent. In wheat the iron content could fall by as much as 10%. But no one who has a choice, eats grains like rice or wheat for their iron and zinc content, since both these are poor sources of both. We’re talking about low grade bulk filler food.

Assuming the reduction [...]

Plants suck half the CO2 out of the air around them before lunchtime each day

A paper that is nearly 60 years old shows us just how intrinsically important CO2 is to life.

An acre of corn is a living machine drawing CO2 from the air around it. In windless conditions, CO2 concentrations over a cornfield build up each night as CO2 diffuses from higher air and the organic matter and bacteria create CO2 from the soil.  A paper by Chapman et al  from 1954[1], shows that as soon as the sun comes up, to power-up those dormant photosynthetic cells, the plants rapidly draw down as much CO2 as possible, and when the CO2 levels fall too low, plant growth surely slows.

On a windless day CO2 values rose to 410ppm overnight and fell to 210ppm during the morning.

This graph shows CO2 content of the air over a cornfield on a still day (no wind). Sunrise occurs at 5am and CO2 levels plummet til 8am, reaching their lowest by 1pm, which is nearly half the CO2 concentration of the peak reached overnight. The corn is affecting CO2 levels in air even as high as 150m or 500ft above. These level out by around 8am and only start to increase again, a couple of hours [...]

Growing trees 40% faster with the help of the right bacteria and fungi

Mycorrhiza helps root growth  | Photo CAES

Amazing how the Agricultural Revolution started 10,000 years ago, yet we still know so little about plant growth. We’ve been tossing bulk carrier loads of fertilizer at plants all over the world, but wasting some of it, and putting up with poorer yields and slower growth by not paying enough attention to the microbiology under the surface.

Obviously good scientific research, real science, can still deliver big improvements. Here’s a study showing that fruit trees, which normally take six years to reach maturity, can get there in three or four with the help of the right bacteria and fungi. This would help us adapt to climate change (of whatever kind is coming), help with reforestation, help feed the starving and improve the ability of these trees to survive during drought conditions too.

It applies to not just one or two species but to many kinds of trees: oaks, pines, mesquites, acacias, citrus and guava. Presumably this would help the “direct action” plan store more carbon in our soils too, not that that will change the weather, but it will help improve our soils:

“…the beneficial bacteria are located in the immediate area [...]

Wetlands like CO2 — “Gimme 700ppm” say sedge-grass

scirpus olneyi | Smithsonian

Not only does one particular grass seem quite happy at 700ppm, it was absorbing 30% more carbon dioxide, and there was no sign that it might not be equally happy at even higher levels. Will disaster strike the world at 401ppm? This 19 year study suggests (again) it might not be so bad. Arguably, 700ppm might be better. Even the C4 plants (supposedly the ones which prefer low CO2) still absorbed 13% more CO2 at 700ppm. (Absorbing more carbon usually means growing faster.)

During the worst drought years, growth slowed dramatically, but drought-stricken plants with 700ppm of CO2 around them still absorbed 4% more.

From the Smithsonian

High CO2 Spurs Wetlands to Absorb More Carbon

Under elevated carbon dioxide levels, wetland plants can absorb up to 32 percent more carbon than they do at current levels, according to a 19-year study published in Global Change Biology from the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Edgewater, Md. With atmospheric CO2 passing the 400 parts-per-million milestone this year, the findings offer hope that wetlands could help soften the blow of climate change.

Plant physiologist Bert Drake created the Smithsonian’s Global [...]