threegenerationsleft

human activity and the destruction of the planet


1 Comment

Soil organic matter and its role in climate change mitigation

This is a paper published in July 2018 by Mark Measures:

https://info925698.wixsite.com/mark-measures/single-post/2018/07/20/Soil-Organic-Matter-and-its-role-in-climate-change-mitigation

Further down this page is other, more recent work from India showing similar conclusion. But first, here is a direct copy, with acknowledgements, from Mark Measures’ website:

“Soil organic matter (SOM) is the focus of much attention in both organic farming and conventional circles; conventional arable farmers have finally woken up to the fact that SOM is important and that poor rotations and lack of organic matter inputs might be something to do with their poor soil structure and static or declining yields. Organic farmers have always believed that SOM is important, not just for soil structure but also for mineralisation, which results in nitrogen release, needed for crop growth and they have in the back of their minds the idea that SOM has something to do with pest and disease control. More recently it has been realised that SOM plays an important part in overall soil biological activity and nutrient release. The potential for carbon sequestration and for the soil to function as a carbon sink has led some to think that SOM can play an important and major role in reducing green house gases and addressing climate change.

Many organic farming practices will contribute organic matter to the soil; grass clover leys, use of farmyard manure, compost, green waste, cover crops and green manures will all contribute to SOM. The extent to which these inputs will result in a net sequestration of carbon is dependant on how they are processed in the soil, the level of nitrogen input and C:N ratio, on the initial SOM levels, on cultivations, soil type and climate. The evidence for long-term on-going carbon sequestration from organic farming is not clear-cut and categorical statements that organic farming will have a significant impact on green house gasses and climate change should be treated with caution.

The fate of organic matter, or carbon, added to the soil is particularly dependant on its form; fresh manure and slurry will contribute little to the build-up of SOM, but it will supply readily decomposable material that will provide nutrients to the plants. Compost, on the other hand will provide a more stable form of organic matter, which will contribute to SOM build up. Mineralisation is the oxidation of the chemical compounds in organic matter by the soil microorganisms, in the process releasing nutrients, particularly nitrogen, phosphorus and sulphur in a form available for plant uptake, together with the release of carbon dioxide. This process of mineralisation is brought about by cultivations and aeration and is absolutely central and fundamental to providing the nutrients for organic crop production.

Humus is an important component of SOM and of compost. Humus is relatively stable and is primarily the result of fungal decomposition of lignin and has many roles in the soil including water holding, soil structure and nutrient retention.

Farms that use well-made composted manure or green waste will tend to build SOM, while fresh or once turned FYM and green manures will not result in the same build up of SOM. They will of course be tremendously important for providing nutrients in a plant available form, either directly or indirectly as a result of biological breakdown. Multiple cultivations, whether that is ploughing or repeated use of cultivators will tend to deplete organic matter as it encourages mineralisation.

Soil type will have a major impact on SOM accumulation potential; dry, light sandy soils will tend to be difficult to build SOM and such soil in an arable rotation will often have naturally low levels of 1.5 – 2.5%, unless they have evolved under acidic conditions in which case levels of 6 – 10% may be found. Clay loam soils in the UK will typically have SOM in the range of 3 – 4.5%. Clay soils will tend to have higher SOM than other soil types.

Finally we need to recognise that the SOM accumulation reaches some equilibrium. Depending on the soil type, management practices, organic inputs, rotation and the cultivations used the accumulation of SOM will tail off at some point; it is not realistic to expect to be able to increase SOM from say 4% to 10% under normal farming practices, an equilibrium will be reached before that.

Does organic farming increase SOM?

The evidence from farm experience in the UK is limited because there has been very little thorough and reliable monitoring; inconsistent sampling methods and field locations, changes in analytical methods and infrequent sampling are all a problem. Experience from the arable organic farms that I have worked with is that sometimes, but not always, SOM levels initially increase following conversion to organic farming from continuous non-organic arable cropping; an example from Holme Lacy College shows an increase from 2.7 to 3.1% over 10 years, and average of 0.04% SOM per year. Experience elsewhere is that subsequently increases are small.

Replicated research over long periods of time is a more reliable indication. The 40-year-old DOK trial at FiBL (Switzerland) compares conventional, organic and biodynamic systems.

Table 1. DOK-trial soil carbon

The results after 35 years, Table 1. show that SOM levels have declined slightly in all four treatments. The conventional and the organic treatments are not significantly different, however it would be expected that if the conventional had followed a continuous cropping  rotation that this would have resulted in a greater decline and that the difference between the organic and the conventional would be expected to be greater. The biodynamic treatment resulted in a small but significantly higher level of SOM than the conventional or the organic; this may be a result of the use of well-composted manure rather than the fresh manure in the organic.

Interestingly there is a significant difference in the soil microbial biomass between some treatments, Table 2., Showing that Organic (O2) and Biodynamic (D2) has greater biomass than Conventional both with manure (M) and without manure (N).

Table 2. FiBL DOK-trial Microbial Biomass

The Aarhus University (Denmark) farming systems trial was set up in 1997  on 3 sites, the one at Foulum continues to run. A replicated trial compares organic using both green manure and manure with a continuous cropping non-organic rotation. While there are significantly higher levels of carbon inputs to the soil under organic management and there is indication that a one-year green manure with residues returned does increase SOM, overall the conclusion is “not able to detect consistent differences in measured Soil Organic Carbon between systems”.

The Rodale Farming Systems Trial (USA) has been running since 1981, it is a replicated trial comparing an organic manure system with an organic legume system with a conventional continuous arable cropping system.  Table 3. The SOM levels in both the organic systems increased from 3.5% to approximately 4.25% in the first 20 years (0.37%/year) thereafter stabilising or in the case of the organic legume system subsequently declining to approximately 3.9%. The conventional has shown some recent decline to approximately 3.3%. In the absence of trial data and peer-reviewed papers it is not possible to know the statistical significance of these results.

Table 3. Rodale SOM levels

The Scotland Rural College  (SRUC) organic systems trial was set up in 1991 following a period of conventional ley arable farming. The results, Table 4.  show over a period of 20 years that organic ley-arable under a rotation of 50% ley, 50% arable maintains SOM, but that under the prevailing conditions SOM did not increase, even during the conversion period. This reflects the previous cropping regime and the fact that these are inherently high SOM soils, in the order of 8%. The stockless organic rotation introduced 8 years ago indicates a slight decline in SOM, but which may not be significant.

Table  4-.Tulloch rotational train, SRUC Aberdeen Soil Organic Matter

The conclusion of the review of available evidence undertaken by Organic Research Centre in 2011 is that:

  1. Organic cropping systems have considerable potential for increasing soil carbon, through the incorporation of fertility building grass-clover leys and use of livestock manures within diverse crop rotations, when compared with specialist (e.g.: monoculture) cropping systems;

  2. The exact amount of carbon that can be sequestered through organic management of cropping systems is still uncertain, due to the disparity in assessment methods, and farming/land-use systems;

  3. The difference between the wide range of organic and conventional farm types is not yet clear, partly because of the current difficulty in defining these systems and their individual characteristics;

  4. Organic management of grassland is unlikely to increase soil carbon levels over those from conventional management, but the reliance on legumes and biological instead of industrial nitrogen fixation will still have a positive impact on climate change mitigation through reduced fossil energy use and related carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions

The ratio of Clay to SOM is considered important by some of authorities (Agroscope and Aarhus University) and it may be a more important measure of the need and potential to increase SOM levels than SOM% per se.

Claims that the practice of Mob Grazing results in substantial increase in organic in the order of a change from 3 to 5% over 3 or 4 years have not been substantiated under UK conditions.

The use of very high levels e.g. 50 tonnes/ha/year of imported manure, compost or green waste will undoubtedly result in SOM increase over time, up to a point, but that is not typical of organic farming.

The studies that I have seen have focused on arable systems, the situation with permanent pastures is very different, and soils under permanent pasture generally have higher SOM and will have developed an equilibrium. This higher level may be due to both the lack of cultivations and the use of manures and fertilisers as well as forage residues. In my experience there is very little difference in SOM levels between conventional and organic management of permanent pastures.

Conclusions

Based on the evidence of the three farming systems trials visited under the Winston Churchill Fellowship in 2017/18, the results of the SRUC trials, my personal experience and the review of research by Organic Research Centre I draw the following conclusions.

  1. SOM is important for soil physical, biological and nutrient reasons and mineralisation of SOM is particularly important in organic farming.

  2.  The following practises will all tend to increase SOM: Grass clover leys, farmyard manure, compost rather than fresh manure, green waste, over-winter cover crops and annual green manures.

  3. The following will tend to decrease SOM: cultivations, continuous cropping, nitrogen supply.

  4. Given that organic arable farming involves many of the beneficial practises identified above, there is likely to be some advantage to organic farming during conversion from conventional,  continuous cropping conventional farming, particularly where longer leys are involved.

  5. There is no evidence that organic arable farming offers potential for on-going, long term sequestration of carbon in the soil. The indications are that increased SOM levels of between 0 and 0.4% per year may be possible during the first 10 – 20 years of organic conversion, but that this depends on the initial SOM levels, soil type and management practices.  Thereafter increases are unlikely.

  6. SOM is likely to be higher under some established organic arable rotations than under conventional rotations, but this is not necessarily so and will depend on various management practices, particularly the length of the ley and use of compost.

  7. 65% of organic farms in the UK are permanent pasture, not in an arable rotation. These farms are unlikely to show a significant difference between conventional farms.

  8. Organic arable farming has higher levels of soil microbial biomass compared to conventional. Organic farmers wanting to improve crop productivity should focus on improving the quality and biological activity of their soils rather than merely focusing on total SOM.

  9. Given the wide range of results from arable system comparisons and the fact that the majority of organic farming in the UK is permanent grassland claims that organic farming will contribute significantly to climate change mitigation through carbon sinks should be avoided.

  10. Climate change mitigation is one the principle challenges of our time and needs to be addressed by a radical change in the food and farming system as a whole, including food distribution and with a particular focus on drastic reduction in use of fossil fuels. Organic food and farming systems offer the best agricultural system to do that. Soil carbon sinks play a supporting role.”

Mark Measures July 2018

References

FiBL Dossier No 1. August 2000 Organic Farming enhances soil fertility and biodiversity (online) https://shop.fibl.org/CHde/1090-doc.html?ref=1

Fliessbach A. 2017 Okologi-Kongres Denmark Comparison of organic and no-organic farming systems in the DOK trial (online) https://okologi-kongres.dk/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/G2-Fliessbach_DOK_Kolding2017.pdf

Hu T., Sorensen P., Olesen J E. Soil 2018 Carbon varies between different organic and conventional management schemes in arable agriculture. European Journal of Agronomy 94 (2018) 79-88 (online) http://orgprints.org/32999/7/1-s2.0-S1161030118300108-main.pdf

Moyer J. 2008 Farming System Trial A 34 Year Old Living Laboratory https://ostafjells.nlr.no/media/ring/1209/Jordkarbon/Norway%2035%20years%20of%20FST.PDF

 Smith L., Padel S., Pearce B. 2011 Organic Centre Wales Soil Carbon Sequestration and Organic Farming: an overview of current evidence. http://www.organicresearchcentre.com/manage/authincludes/article_uploads/Organic%20farming%20soil%20carbon_6.0.pdf

B.R. Taylor, D. Younie, S. Matheson, M. Coutts, C. Mayer, C. A. Watson and R. L. Walker 2006 Output and sustainability of organic ley/arable crop rotations at two sites in northern Scotland

C. A. Watson & J. A. Baddeley & A. C. Edwards & R. M. Rees & R. L. Walker & C. F. E. Topp 2011 Influence of ley duration on the yield and quality of the subsequent cereal crop (spring oats) in an organically managed long-term crop rotation experiment



Towards a Global Organic Future

Devinder Sharma, in The Tribune (May 1, 2019) stressed the paramount importance of working towards a sustainable, climate-resilient agriculture.

 A few months earlier – to set the scene – Kiran Pandey and Rajit Sengupta had recorded that India is home to 30% of the total organic producers in the world, according to the World of Organic Agriculture 2018 report, but most are struggling due to poor policy measures, rising input costs and limited market (a study by ASSOCHAM and Ernst & Young). 

Sharma points out that, at a time when global temperatures are soaring, the latest study by a French think tank – Sustainable Development and International Relations (IDDRI) – has shown that agro-ecological farming alone has the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Europe by 47% and thereby keep global temperature rise below 2degrees.

Continueshttps://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/towards-a-global-organic-future-devinder-sharma/



80% of the world’s food is produced by small farmers – the rest comes from industrial farms

“Don’t industrial farms produce most of the world’s food?” A reader drew attention to this question posed by Fiona Harvey in the Guardian.

Her answer: “No. There are more than 570m farms worldwide; more than 90% are run by an individual or family and rely primarily on family labour. They produce about 80% of the world’s food”. (Below, small farmers in America.)

Continues: https://foodvitalpublicservice.wordpress.com/2019/05/18/80-of-the-worlds-food-is-produced-by-small-farmers-the-rest-comes-from-industrial-farm



Please also see the website on vermecology by Rob B. which looks at the role of earthworms for organic farming:

https://vermecology.wordpress.com/

Rob has also commented on this website, as follows:

Hello Christine, Appreciate the work you are doing and the word you are spreading. My take, as one of a dying breed of soil ecologists, is to promote organic farming/permaculture and to focus on earthworms as monitors/mediators. We have know that these problems would bite for over a century (Sir Albert Howard/Lady Eve Balfour). Personally I started research in 1980 and for the longest time thought I was talking to myself. My latest paper had 3,000 hits in a month, so there is now some interest in the critical loss of earthworms and the need for healthy soil restoration.

http://www.mdpi.com/2571-8789/2/2/33

Unfortunately it does not yet translate into proper funding nor policy change. Cheers, Rob B



 

And today (8th Aug 19), I received a forwarded email from Devinder Sharma, from India, entitled:

“Protect the soil the way we protect tigers”

Here is the rest of his posting:

“The alarm bells have been ringing for quite some time now. Reports after reports warning of a continuing degradation of India’s soils – the foundation of assiduously built food security and more importantly the healthy well-being of the country — have been conveniently swept under the carpet.

Added to this monumental blunder of allowing the wilful devastation of land resources in the name of economic growth lies the threat awaiting in the form of climate change. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) — the global body which governs the international agricultural research centres — has conclusively established that agriculture, livestock and deforestation together account for 41% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

Intensive cropping patterns, unbalanced nutrient application, injudicious use of pesticides and mining of groundwater has turned the soils sick. What is not being understood is that a sick soil cannot produce a healthy generation.

In August 2016, a report of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), estimated that nearly 30% of the country’s land – more than 4 times the size of UK – is faced with desertification. That desertification continues to prevail in semi-arid regions of Rajasthan and in some parts of Haryana was quite well-known but the fact that desertification had encroached on more than 50% of the land in states like Jharkhand, Gujarat, Goa, Delhi and Rajasthan is more worrying. Even the hilly states of Jammu & Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh and other states of northeast India as well as Orissa are now fast getting into a desertification spiral.

This report comes two years after the 5th National Report on Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought in 2014 had warned of nearly 45% of country’s total land, 146.82 million hectares of the total 329 million hectares, suffering from various degrees of land degradation, including water erosion (93.68 million hectares), wind erosion (9.48 million hectares), waterlogging (14.30 million hectares), salinity or alkalinity (5.94 million hectares), soil acidity and other complex reasons . . .

Studies point to some 5.3 billion tonnes of soil getting eroded every year, much of it from water and wind erosion. Of this, 29% was permanently lost to the sea, 10% was deposited in reservoirs, reducing their storage capacity and 61% got shifted from one place to another. While this results in tremendous loss in productive capacity of soil, it also helps in expanding the area under deserts. The more the green cover is lost to deforestation and urbanisation, the more is the barren land exposed to soil erosion. In Haryana, for instance, accompanied by strong winds shifting of sand dunes have often resulted in cultivated lands being encroached upon.

The priorities of successive governments have been in complete contrast to what has been spelled out in the numerous environment documents since the 1st Plan

Beginning with the 1st Five Year Plan, the thrust has been on ‘land rehabilitation’ thereby showing that the planners were seized of the crisis that was expected to build up in the years to come. Numerous Ministries and departments, including the Department of Land Resources, Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change; Ministry of Agriculture; Ministry of Water Resources; Ministry of Rural Development had framed a number of policies wherein the effort was to contain soil degradation . . . (but) over the years the Ministry for Environment, Forests and Climate Change has been on the forefront of bringing in policy directives that actually have undermined the protection, conservation and rehabilitation of land resources. Recent changes introduced silently by the environment ministry, tribal affairs ministry and the mines ministry to redefine forests in a bid to bypass the forest and environment clearances required for mining companies, needing several thousand hectares of mineable area, is one such example . . .

If the soil is unhealthy, you may be sure your food is also unhealthy

It has often been said that you are what you eat. And what you eat depends on how healthy and nutritious the soil is. After all the plants derive their nutrition from the soil, and if the soils are unhealthy be sure your food too is unhealthy. Ask any farmer the difference between an organically-rich healthy soil and a chemically farmed soil, and he will tell you how enriching it is to work with nature. Healthy soil not only supports biodiversity – more bees, more earthworms, more birds – restricts run-off and erosion, and is also is also a storehouse for soil nutrients and carbon.

Soils are predominantly rich in three major nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous and potash. In addition, it also provides 16 micro-nutrients, including iron, molybedenum, calcium and zinc. But because of intensive farming practices, like having a continuous cropping pattern of wheat and rice, interspersed with potato and vegetables, like we see in Punjab, the organic content in the soils have been exhausted. In Punjab and for that matter in other Green Revolution areas, the organic matter in the soil has almost come down to 0.1 %. This means farmers are left with no option but to apply more of chemical fertilizers to produce the same harvest they used to produce five years back.

Excessive use of chemical fertilizers, especially nitrogen in the form of urea fertilizer has led to nutrient imbalance in the soils

Moreover, the effective uptake of nitrogen by plants from the urea that is applied does not exceed 30%. Rest of the chemically applied nitrogen seeps underground causing contamination of groundwater. The problem got compounded with agricultural universities recommending more application of chemical fertilizers as the way forward to meet the nutrient deficiency arising from intensive farming. At no stage did the universities and the extension officials of the State Department of Agriculture advise farmers to take up integrated farming practices that include the application of organic manures and green compost in adequate proportions.

Continuous application of chemical fertilizers along with mechanized farming has compacted the soils. In many places, a solid layer has been formed almost a foot below the surface thereby restricting the spread of plant roots. Organic cultivation practices on the other hand turn the soil porous, which allows for an enabling environment for soil microbes. One indicator of a healthy soil is the percentage of earthworms visible in the soil. The more the number of earthworms, the healthier is the soil.

A soil health card for every farmer

The thrust on making available a soil health card for every farmer suffers from the same deficiency in approach. It is designed primarily to ensure that farmers apply balanced doses of chemical fertilizers. I would have preferred a soil health card that measures the organic content in the soils and accordingly makes suggestion on how to improve the strength and structure of soils. At a time when chemical fertilizers, especially nitrogen fertilizers, have been found to be acerbating greenhouse gas emissions leading to climate changes, the emphasis should be on reducing its application.

I have always advocated subsidizing organic manure, bio-pesticides and working out a separate price policy for organic produce which incentivizes organic farming

It is important to understand the political economy that promotes chemical fertilizers and pesticides. It has been generally accepted that fertiliser subsidy is fertilizers and pesticides. It has been generally accepted that fertiliser subsidy is the major determinant of land degradation. Although there have been efforts to reduce subsidies on chemical fertilizers, especially phosphorous and potash, but still due to political reasons and lobbying by farmers groups, it has not been possible to cut down subsidies on fertilizers in a desirable manner. This makes organic farming systems unattractive to farmers. Numerous studies, both nationally and at the international levels, have conclusively shown that business as usual is not the right approach. To provide healthy food, protect environment and ensure proper soil management, the time is ripe to radically overhaul the crop cultivation practices. An international study – backed by World Bank and United Nations and involving more than 400 scientists globally – called IAASTD in short – has shown that crop production by non-chemical practices goes up steadily and is the only sustainable path ahead.

Studies have shown that 1% reduction in fertilizer subsidy reduces land degradation by 3%.

This is a startling analysis and should be driving the national agricultural policies, including the research priorities. While population density and poverty ratio, the coefficients of both are statistically significant, are normally also thought to be responsible for land degradation, a study done by Mythili Gurumurthy (2015) show that these two variables cannot be held as reasons for land degradation. The results of poverty ratio-land degradation link also corroborate the results of other studies that poor are victims rather than cause of land degradation.

Feeding the soils with organic manure, and laying out a well-working drainage system, which increases water use efficiency are required to protect soil erosion as well as to maintain soil fertility. But more importantly, policy makers have to understand that rebuilding the soil health is a precursor to meeting the food requirements for a growing population in the future, and at the same time a healthy soil is a determinant for a healthy population.

Take the case of China. Hit by a significant drop in food production this year in the wake of rapid urbanization, it has now vowed to protect arable lands. China aims to retain at least 124.33 million hectares of arable land in 2020, with no less than 53.3 million hectares of high-quality farmlands, news agency Reuters reported. In India, nearly 45 % of the cultivable land is faced with degradation and the country has still to wake up to the looming threat.

“Farmland should be protected the way we protect pandas,” stated a spokesperson for the Chinese government. India too should launch a nation-wide programme to save and protect soils the way it protects tigers.”


Leave a comment

Heat waves in UK and US – effects of global warming? What about India? The Middle East? Pakistan? Iran? Portugal? Africa?

June has been really hot here in the UK and there are reports that the USA is experiencing similar high temperatures. In July and August in Europe, temperatures have risen into the 40s, with a heatwave named ‘Lucifer’, and reports that snow is melting in the Italian alps and increased deaths due to heat stroke.

p05bjnl3

 

USA: A report from USA Today has said that due to the heat, American Airlines have had to cancel several flights from Phoenix, as follows:

The extreme heat forecast for Phoenix on Tuesday has caused the cancellation of 20 American Airlines flights out of Sky Harbor International Airport. 

According to a statement from American Airlines, the American Eagle regional flights use the Bombardier CRJ aircraft, which has a maximum operating temperature of 118 degrees. Tuesday’s forecast for Phoenix included a high of 120 degrees, and the flights that are affected were to take off between 3 and 6 p.m. MT.

Customers affected were told to contact American Airlines for rebooking options or to request a refund.

Extreme heat affects a plane’s ability to take off. Hot air is less dense than cold air, and the hotter the temperature, the more speed a plane needs to lift off. A runway might not be long enough to allow a plane to achieve the necessary extra speed. “

Are we to experience more and more of these excessive temperature events? After all, every one of the last three years has been the hottest on record. Will this be enough to change Donald Trump’s mind about the Paris Agreement?

Another report in the Huffington Post on 14th February 2018, cites a study from Princeton University, which predicts that, by 2100 most cities are set to become unbearably warm. Thanks to a combination of impenetrable, concrete surfaces and lack of moisture in the surrounding areas these cities will become hot spots during a heat wave.  By 2050, it is predicted that 70% of the world’s population could be living in cities.

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/by-2100-cities-are-going-to-become-unbearably-warm_uk_5a841b3be4b02b66c513b133?ncid=webmail

In the UK, 2017 was the hottest June since 1976.  I can remember the heat in that year – but somehow it felt like a dryer heat then. Still uncomfortable if you were out in the sun but not quite as sticky and debilitating as this June has been.

And whilst we are feeling the effects here in a temperate country, let us not forget those hotter countries where they are experiencing even higher temperatures than normal. And the devastating forest fires in Portugal, France, the USA and Australia.

IRAN

Iran, having the highest ever recorded temperature in June 2017, with Pakistan not far behind, both well into the 50s Celsius.

18541795550_fe4f65fe75_k

Ahvaz in Iran, which reached the highest ever recorded temperature on 29th June 2017, a staggering 129.2 degrees Fahrenheit

Heat waves are more easily attributable to climate change, according to scientists, because there is a clear connection between carbon absorbed in the atmosphere and temperature rises. Such extreme heat put the residents of Ahvaz in serious danger for dehydration, heat fatigue, heat cramps, heat stroke, and other illnesses. For the elderly, these risks are amplified.

Parts of Iran have also struggled with extreme droughts in recent years, which is threatening the country’s water sources and harming agriculture. Lake Urmia, for instance, once the sixth-largest saline lake in the world, has lost 90% of its water since 1970.  Taken together, Iran is experiencing climate change more intensely than many other countries in the world.

1-s2.0-S0380133014002688-fx1

India

India_heat_wave_large-1-678x381

My book finishes with a quote from Devinder Sharma from India. Here is part of what he wrote in 2016 (and 2017 has been even worse):

It has now become even more obvious than before that the world we are living in has
changed profoundly in the last five years. Every passing year is turning out to be hotter
than the previous. It is just the middle of April but vast tracts of India are reeling under
scorching heat with temperatures zipping past the 40 degrees mark. In 13 States, April
temperature is higher by 8 degrees from the average. This will only intensify, as the
season warms up.  India is on the boil, literally………….

“We are now in mid-April and I can already feel the average temperatures creeping up. While we can survive, my thoughts go out to the 700 million people reeling under two consecutive years of drought. With wells almost dry and walking on a parched land they will now have to confront an unkindly hot sun. Some reports say wells have dried to a level in Marathwada not seen in past 100 years. Another report tells us that 133 rivers have dried in Jharkhand. To make matters worse, a BBC report indicated that the government might pipe Himalayan water and carry it all the way to the parched lands. After all, this is the surest way to add to GDP!

The relatively well-off in the cities, towns and suburbs have the facility to switch on an air conditioner or an air-cooler but imagine the plight of majority population who have no
other option but to survive under shade, be it at home or under the tree.
Water bodies have dried up. Many studies point to a steep fall in water levels in major
reservoirs to the levels that are lowest in a decade.”

Sharma also reports that, in the previous year (2015), there were 1,500 deaths from the effects of heat wave in Andhra Pradesh alone.

Pakistan has also felt the effects of extreme heat.  The photograph below shows people in Lahore cooling off in a water channel.

PAKISTAN-WEATHER

AFRICA

And in Africa, there are more famines and drought and more starving children.  Also, from the following website:

https://newrepublic.com/article/143019/one-meal-day-lake-chad-vanishes-seven-million-people-starvation

came this report:

Not so long ago, Lake Chad was one of the largest bodies of water in Africa. The thick reeds and vital wetlands around its basin provided vast freshwater reserves, breeding grounds for fish, fertile soil for agriculture, and grasslands where farmers grazed their animals. In 1963, it spanned almost 10,000 square miles, an expanse roughly the size of Maryland. But as climate change has taken its toll, the lake has shrunk by 90 percent. Today, only 965 square miles remain. Wetlands have given way to sand dunes. Farmers have abandoned their fields. Those who still live by the lake struggle to survive, beset by chronic drought and the slow onset of ecological catastrophe.”

0281-lakechad-EN_0

Update August 17th 2017

Now today, I have received a report to say that July 2017 has been equal first in being the hottest global temperature since records began.  And yes, it is equal with July 2016!  July is traditionally the hottest month of the year globally and the last two Julys have been the hottest ever.

The researchers from England, France, Switzerland, and the U.S., found that climate change made the intensity and frequency of the extreme heat at least twice as likely to occur in Belgium, at least four times as likely in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and central England, and at least 10 times as likely as Portugal and Spain.

The unusual heat was not limited to Europe, either.

On July 21, Shanghai, China, which is the most populated city in the world with 24 million residents, set a record for its hottest day since record-keeping began there in 1872. The high temperature on that day was 105.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 40.9 degrees Celsius, and it fits with a pattern of hotter weather in that city.

The planet has not had a cooler than average month since December of 1984.

The graph below shows seasonal temperatures from 1884 to 2017.

https-blueprint-api-production.s3.amazonaws.comuploadscardimage5647026012232f-acd6-4098-828f-491dbac30eda

Can we continue to ignore these facts and behave as if nothing is happening?

I believe that we are seeing the beginnings of climate change effects that can only get worse if nothing is done to reverse the trend.


Leave a comment

End Piece Two

CHAPTER 10

I started this book by talking about my love of nature and how it had been present in me from a very early age and I shared that the fauna of this world have a very special place in my heart. And I saw how this special world of ours, originally so much in harmony and balance, was systematically being destroyed by the hand of man.

I cited an article by American scientists which argues that most of the life forms living on this earth will have become extinct in only three generations, with maybe humans becoming extinct at about the same time too. Hence the title of this book became: “Three generations Left: Human Activity and the Destruction of the Planet”. These scientists may be wrong about the dates and about the mass extinction but I believe that there is sufficient risk to rouse me into writing a book about it and attempting to show how other, apparently disconnected factors, have added to the risk.

The book has been targeted at the average person in the street, because I feel that the message in it has to become worldwide knowledge before serious actions are likely to be taken to reverse the destruction. There are too many vested interests to keep the status quo but the status quo will not be good enough any longer.  We need radical system change.

The message in this book has not yet become universal knowledge.  This was emphasised for me recently when I attended an anti-austerity workshop in Birmingham.  A group of 50 or so thinking people had come together to discuss what might be the alternatives to the present Chancellor’s austerity programme.  We were split up into groups of five and given a poster to write down key factors that we considered to be important as alternatives to austerity.  Then the groups were split up again, so that a different set of people was going through the same exercise.  This happened four to five times.  The thing that astonished me most was that each group seemed to have an entirely different list, though common themes did emerge.  The other thing that astonished me was that the majority of people saw no link between anti-austerity and a green economy; indeed, many people did not know what a green economy was. Nobody mentioned loss of species and few were aware of the links between economies, trade, population increase, the industrial revolution, wars etc. that I have described in this book.

Whilst it was a shock to discover this lack of knowledge amongst thinking people, it has also been a spur for me to proceed to the publication of this book.

I have also been concerned that ordinary people, who are not particularly thinkers but who regularly read the red-top tabloids, have been strongly influenced by the lies that are, frequently and without conscience, spread across the pages and headlines of the daily papers that they read.  I am sad that they have been so misled by a mixture of divisive rhetoric, scandal-mongering and fear-inducing falsification that is the situation we are living with today. How can people tell the difference between the truth and lies, when this is frequently being peddled to them by a frenzied media who gain from the tax breaks handed out to them through austerity economies, and who pander to the corporations because they want to receive advertising revenue from them to help them to balance their own books.  They have no conscience about the lies that they propagate.

This is nothing short of corruption and it occurs, not only in today’s media, but also in the business world, amongst the super-rich and in many politicians in power today, throughout the world. Several corrupt dictators have been brought down but others seem to get away with it because deceit and lies is their second nature and, if something is repeated often enough, people begin to believe in it as the truth.  A good example of this was during the last two general elections in this country, when Conservative politicians repeated over and over that the Labour party were responsible for the 2008 recession and were weak on the economy.  Many people believed this and voted the Conservatives into power as a result; the truth of the matter is that the 2008 recession was a world recession and the UK was not the only country to be affected by it. The recession was caused by banks being able to create too much money too quickly and used it to push up house prices and speculate on financial markets, so that debts became unpayable.


fig80


Figure 80 showing that the 2008 recession did not only occur in the UK but also in the Eurozone and the USA (From: https://www.economicshelp.org/blog/7157/economics/to-what-extent-did-eu-recession-cause-uk-recession/  Source ONS IHYQ)

From the same source as the figure above, is a bar chart of the UK economic growth during that same period, which shows that the economy had recovered before the 2010 general election began.  And the truth of it is that, those who make this claim to be “strong on the economy” are actually not strong at all because the market economy as it stands at the moment (and as described in previous chapters), is actually destroying our beautiful world.  This is not only occurring in the UK but in other countries too who have market economies. So, relentlessly pursuing a market economy is not the answer to the world’s problems. It is positively dangerous.

The other point I want to make in this “End Piece Two” is about how power corrupts.  When people get into a position of power and take rather dodgy actions from that position, and get away with it, never being taken to task by anyone, they gain in confidence to do it more and more, each time taking bigger and bigger risks.  Thus, some politicians will go so far as to change their country’s laws and constitutions to improve their chances of staying in power.  This has happened in some African countries (e.g. Zimbabwe and now Uganda) and is currently happening in the UK, as constituency boundaries are being changed to improve the Conservative’s chances of hanging onto power, as well as giving monetary handouts to Tory-run councils and squeezing the others. And their ability to do this is, of course, being fuelled by the super-rich.

In the last 35 years in the UK, we have had three Prime Ministers who held onto power for longer than usual and, towards the end of their terms of office, I noticed that these three began to have a manic gleam in their eyes. You could say they went power mad.

We have just had another budget in the UK issued by the present Chancellor, George Osborne and yet again, it is peddling this worn-out ideology of austerity measures, this time hitting disabled people even harder.

And, at the moment the media are in a frenzy about a forthcoming referendum to be imposed on the British public about whether to stay in the European Union or whether to come out, most of the frenzy being xenophobic or racist in nature.  I fear this is a distraction.  It is not the main issue we should be concerned about. If the earth on which we live is in danger, it is neither here nor there as to whether the UK is in Europe or not.  The media, and the present government, is focussing on the wrong issue.  Let us work together to ignore this distraction and to set a new agenda. An agenda to save our planet.

So, I will quote again from the “End Piece” to my first book:

“To reverse current trends, and to prevent the destruction of the world, there is an urgent need for co-operation between nations, in which the commonality of the human condition is stressed, rather than its diversity.  Then, mankind might find a way to tackle global warming, to alleviate extreme poverty and to frustrate exploitation by the merchants.”

fig81

Fig.81

From: http://www.catchnews.com/environment-news/cop-out-on-climate-change-will-paris-summit-achieve-anything-1448814544.html

Reproduced with permission from catchnews

 

And I will end by adding a quote (with permission) from Devinder Sharma in India, which is receiving much of the increase in global temperatures:

It has now become even more obvious than before that the world we are living in has changed profoundly in the last five years. Every passing year is turning out to be hotter than the previous. It is just the middle of April but vast tracts of India are reeling under scorching heat with temperatures zipping past the 40 degrees mark. In 13 States, April temperature is higher by 8 degrees from the average. This will only intensify, as the season warms up.

India is on the boil, literally.

This is just the beginning of the summer months. In the next three months, before the monsoons set in, the heat wave is going to deadly. The Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) has predicted that the summer months this year will be warmer than normal across the country in all meteorological sub-divisions of the country. This year, unlike in the past, heat wave conditions are likely to hit more of central and north-western parts of the country. In fact, this is becoming quite visible with the hills facing very high temperatures.

I don’t know why the IMD uses the word ‘warmer’ to describe sweltering heat conditions but shooting mercury has already taken a death toll of 130. If this is ‘warmer’ by IMD definition, I shudder to think what it would mean if it were to use the word ‘hotter’ instead?

Last year, 1,500 deaths from heat wave were reported from Andhra Pradesh alone.

Now, let us look at the rising graph of mercury. According to NASA, 2015 was the warmest year ever since it began to keep record. But a year earlier, in 2014, the world also lived through the warmest year till then. In other words, mercury has been rising with each passing year. And now, meteorological predictions globally point to a still warmer 2016. Let me add, India is not going to be an exception. The IMD too points to a deadly heat wave in the months ahead. Its predictions shows that ‘all temperatures’ maximum, minimum and mean for most sub-divisions from northwest India, Kerala from south India and Vidharbha from central India are likely to be above 1 degree C.

If you thought January was unusually warm this year, let it be known that February was still warmer. Globally, February 2016 was the hottest month known based on the long-term averages drawn. NASA had used the word ‘shocker’ to describe the unprecedented warming it measured for the month of February and warned of a ‘climate emergency’. The average global temperatures in February were higher by 1.35 degree C. In India too, February was unusually warm this year with average temperature hike fluctuating between 1.5 degree and 2 degree.

But March has now turned to be the hottest. As per the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) March has ‘smashed’ all previous records. Data compiled by Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) shows that the March temperature was higher by 1.07 degree, based on an average since 1891. Data released by NASA also shows that March temperatures have beaten the past 100-years records.”

fig82

Fig.82
A drying out water hole in India, surrounded by thirsty animals

We are now in mid-April and I can already feel the average temperatures creeping up. While we can survive, my thoughts go out to the 700 million people reeling under two consecutive years of drought. With wells almost dry and walking on a parched land they will now have to confront an unkindly hot sun. Some reports say wells have dried to a level in Marathwada not seen in past 100 years. Another report tells us that 133 rivers have dried in Jharkhand. To make matters worse, a BBC report indicated that the government might pipe Himalayan water and carry it all the way to the parched lands. After all, this is the surest way to add to GDP!

The relatively well-off in the cities, towns and suburbs have the facility to switch on an air-conditioner or an air-cooler but imagine the plight of majority population who have no other option but to survive under shade, be it at home or under the tree.

Water bodies have dried up. Many studies point to a steep fall in water levels in major reservoirs to the levels that are lowest in a decade. Reports of several rivers drying up are also pouring in, Tungbhadra in Andhra Pradesh being one of them. But while the media remained embroiled in the controversy surrounding IPL matches following the Mumbai High Court directive to shift them outside Maharashtra, the nation has failed to focus on what is clearly a ‘climate emergency’.

What should certainly be more worrying is that each year is turning out to be hotter than the previous. Quoting JMA, a report in The Guardian says: ‘every one of the past 11 months has been the hottest ever recorded for that month.’ The way the temperature is climbing every month, it seems the records will go on tumbling as we step into the future. Is this because of the climate change or not is something for the scientists and policy makers to conclude but as far as I am concerned the climate is already changing.

Can we do something? Yes, we can. There are already a number of stories of hope – of how ordinary people have made efforts and demonstrated the will to make a difference. Just to illustrate. From Anna Hazare’s water harvesting techniques in the famed village of Ralegon Siddhi in Maharashtra to the tiny but forgotten village of Sukho-Majri tucked away in the Shivalik hills in Haryana, such examples are aplenty. This is just one way to minimize the impact. Several other alternatives and solutions have also been prescribed.

It’s therefore high time to take a fresh look at what development means. Policy planning must shift to address the emerging issues linked to human survival at times of worsening climate. I am not sure whether the two-years of back-to-back drought followed by an unprecedented heat wave have given any jolt to policy planners. We seem to be simply waiting for a normal monsoon to provide a succour, and wash away the dark realities.”

India is on a boil, literally. ABPLive.in April 16, 2016
http://www.abplive.in/blog/india-is-on-the-boil-literally


Posted By Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality at 4/26/2016 05:30:00 PM