Let's ask a scientist:
"Regarding your questions about where did I get the "100 year" figure for carbon dioxide and its relation to the issue of permanence. The figure has its origins in the Kyoto protocol. The IPCC have then used 100 year horizon values to compare the other greenhouse gases to carbon dioxide (the IPCC table is here). Regarding a specific reference for the 100 year value, I can't find one. From what I can gather, the rationale behind using 100 years is from this paper which states an "adjustment time" of 50-200 years". This paper actually states that the decay of excess CO2 in the atmosphere cannot be expressed in a single figure, so the 100 year figure seems to be more politically correct than scientifically correct."
Dr John Friend, Leader, Soil and Salinity, Natural Resources Advisory Services, Department of Primary Industries, NSW Department of Trade and Investment, Regional Infrastructure and Services
“This 100 year timeframe is a policy-determination, not a technical one,” reveals a peer--reviewed report by Pedro Moura Costa and Charlie Wilson.(1) It is a period chosen by the IPCC for calculating the Global Warming Potential of each different Greenhouse Gas compared to CO2. For instance, Nitrous Oxide has a GWP of 298 (ie., one tonne of N2O is equivalent to 298 tonnes of CO2).
Some believe that 100 years is the time it takes for a tonne of CO2 to cycle through the atmosphere. It is not. This takes only 4 years, according to an IPCC Report. “The turnover time of CO2 in the atmosphere, measured as the ratio of the content to the fluxes through it, is about 4 years. This means that on average it takes only a few years before a CO2 molecule in the atmosphere is taken up by plants or dissolved in the ocean.” (2.) However, it can take far longer for the atmosphere to adjust to the new levels of CO2, up to 200 years. (3.)
The EcoSecurities analysts calculate that removing a tonne of CO2 and holding it for 55 years is sufficient to counteract its effect on Global Warming. The IPCC uses 20, 100 and 500 year periods in much of its analysis. “The Kyoto Protocol set the time horizon against which [GWPs] are to be determined at 100 years (addendum to the Protocol, Decision 2/CP.3, para. 3)." (4.)
"To be consistent, it can be implied therefore that the Protocol also requires the benefits of sequestration in counteracting the radiative forcing effects of CO2 emissions to be evaluated over a 100 year time horizon. Any uncertainties derive from both this choice of time horizon, as well as future scenarios of atmospheric CO2 concentrations, are not technically driven but rather are a natural consequence of ‘arbitrary’ policy selections.”
Clearly, there is no definition of Permanence for Biosequestration that is dictated by Scientific Fact. The periods quoted range from 4 years to ‘forever’, with points of 20, 50, 55, 100, 200 and 500 years in between. The choice of 100 Years appears to have been a function of the need to find a scale on which to compare the Global Warming Potential of various Greenhouse Gases. Its choice as a time horizon took place as part of the negotiations around the Kyoto Protocols and was based on functional considerations. One function – the engagement of farmers in soil carbon sequestration activities – was overlooked.
(1.) Pedro Moura Costa and Charlie Wilson, An equivalence factor between CO2 avoided emissions and sequestration – description and applications in forestry, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Volume 5, Number 1, 51-60
(2.) Watson, R.T., Rodhe, H., Oeschger, H. and Siegenthaler, U. 1990. Greenhouse gases and aerosols. In IPCC Report No 1, World Meteorological Organization and United Nations Environment Programme, Cambridge University Press.
(3.) “This short time scale must not be confused with the time it takes tor the atmospheric CO2 level to adjust to a new equilibrium if sources or sinks change This adjustment time… is of the order of 50 - 200 years, determined mainly by the slow exchange of carbon between surface waters and the deep ocean.” ibid
(4.) "Reaffirms that global warming potentials used by Parties should be those provided by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its Second Assessment Report (“1995 IPCC GWP values”) based on the effects of the greenhouse gases over a 100-year time horizon, taking into account the inherent and complicated uncertainties involved in global warming potential estimates. In addition, for information purposes only, Parties may also use another time horizon, as provided in the Second Assessment Report.” IPCC, REPORT OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES ON ITS THIRD SESSION, HELD AT KYOTO FROM 1 TO 11 DECEMBER 1997, PART TWO: ACTION TAKEN BY THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES AT ITS THIRD SESSION, 25 March 1998, P. 31, Decision 2/CP.3
- Soil microbes are responsible for them.
- Soil carbon increases are the key.
Disease suppression is the result of increased species density among microbial communities in soils associated with increased carbon levels. We know that, when soil carbon levels are rising, biodiversity increases and this has the effect of increasing resilience (or disease resistance). “We know the effect is due to the presence of a diverse range of ‘good’ micro-organisms,” says Professor Mele.
Three facts Dr Mele mentioned provide further evidence that soil carbon is a key influence:
- Balance in the microbial community is critical: “upsetting the balance or sterilising the soil can cause the disease to strike with a vengeance”.
- It is not soil type specific; it could therefore be a soil health agent – such as carbon – that is at work: “ we believe every soil has the potential to be suppressive”
- It is a feature of soil heavily influenced by a farmer’s management practices: “it’s just a matter of working out what management techniques will encourage it.”
“HIGH rainfall zone (HRZ) grain growers stand to increase yields and save significant amounts of money on chemicals, if the secrets of suppressive soils can be unlocked,” reports The Land. Growers lose an estimated $250 million each year from root lesion nematodes alone. “Soil biology is tipped to be the ‘next big thing’ in terms of productivity gains and a five-year research program is currently being funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to address some of the knowledge gaps.” Having poured scorn on soil biology as “snake oil” and ‘witches brew’ for so long, the GRDC’s epiphany is welcome.
“The soil biological resource under our feet is seen as something of the ‘last frontier’ for the grains industry… We know it’s about competition for resources. If we create a habitat that favours one type of soil microbe, say through repeated use of the same management practice such as addition of fertiliser or sowing the same plant types, the community may end up with fewer types of biota present; thereby reducing the resilience of the system,” says Professor Mele.
The writing is on the wall for chemical companies. “Using biological suppression to reduce crop losses, without chemicals or with minimum chemical input, could improve the profitability of growers worldwide,” says the Professor.
More information about the Soil Biology Initiative II is available here. Research partners include the Victorian Department of Primary Industries (DPI Vic), Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestries (DAFF), Department of Agriculture and Food WA (DAFWA), and CSIRO.
We believe in the principle of healthy diversity and ‘let the market decide’. We advocate a plurality of offerings: 100 year contract, 25 year contract, 5 year renewable contracts – renewable 4 times. The latter is the most acceptable to farmers, according to our research. However prices are likely to be lower at this end of the continuum.
We have long advocated the logic of a shorter option for the Permanence requirement because:
- No sane farmer would sign a contract for 100 years with all the uncertainties and penalties associated with soil carbon as it has been presented;
- Soil Carbon sequestration can play an important interim role in the next 50 years while renewable energy sources grow to baseload capacity, according to prominent scientists
- The 100 years period is not scientifically significant; it is not the time it takes for a molecule of CO2 to cycle out of the atmosphere. It was selected as a convenient period for comparing the warming potential of different greenhouse gases.
- 100 years was chosen supposedly to equalise offsets based on sequestration with offsets based on avoided emissions. But the permanence of the avoided combustion of a tonne of coal via the use of renewable energy has been questioned on the grounds that there is no guarantee that the tonne of coal won't be dug up and burnt at a later date.
- The co-benefits of soil carbon are so many and so beneficial, including reducing the need for chemical inputs and suppressing disease in crops, according to the latest reports.
But will the enthusiastic buyers find any growers willing to take the risk of signing a contract that lasts longer than their lifetime? Will the rules that make CFI Carbon Credits so attractive to buyers have the reverse effect on sellers?
Could it be that locking up land is overkill, especially in the environmental plantings methodology?
- The methodology requires a planting density that reaches only 20% ‘crown cover’ at maturity, leaving 80% of the project area grassy vegetation that will need grazing to avoid baring of the soil due to desertification (rank and dead grasses stifle fresh grasses emerging).
- The carbon in the understory is not factored into the sequestration equation anyway.
- Occasional grazing can reduce fire loads.
- The methodology itself makes allowances for occasional grazing from 3 years after establishment.
But Mark Dreyfus says there is some good news: farmers will not face financial penalties if the credits they've earned are destroyed by a bushfire or drought. Now you're talking.
Firstly, Climate Spectator has reported on the research you may have heard on the news as well. Click here to read the article. Then, Crown Melbourne announced a 'carbon neutral' option for rooms - and it costs so little to offset your stay, at $3.80 extra per day down to just 65c per day for a conference room. This is an 'opt in' system like the airlines.
While these businesses are buying carbon from overseas projects at the moment, once there are Australian Carbon Credit Units available, you might be able to assist an Australian farmer as you sleep!
We will soon be announcing our first Carbon Neutral company - a company which we have assisted to walk through this mine field. A regional business that's leading the way in this area.
A word of warning on these prices - If we are to assist our own farmers to become and maintain sustainable (regenerative) practices, the price of a tonne of carbon cannot be as low as what is offered overseas at the moment. HOWEVER, don't forget you will be assisting an Australian farmer to improve the Australian air!
SAVE THE DATE: 2012 CARBON FARMING WEEK COMING IN OCTOBER
It is amazing how Governments (of all persuasions) manage to complicate things. Climate Spectator's letter is a wonderful, plain English, easy to understand explanation for why we need a price on carbon! Very hard to say no when things are explained in these terms.
“Microbial priming” is a process where soil microbes are stimulated to decompose old soil organic matter via an increase in new carbon and other energy sources, and the faster turnover of recently fixed root and fungal carbon.
"We call it the RAMP hypothesis -- Rhizo-Accelerated Mineralization and Priming -- and it states that root-induced changes in the rates of microbial processing of carbon and nitrogen are key mediators of long-term ecosystem responses to global change," Phillips said. "Most ecosystem models have limited representations of roots, and none of them include processes such as priming. Our results demonstrate that interactions between roots and soil microbes play an underappreciated role in determining how much carbon is stored and how fast nitrogen is cycled. So including these processes in models should lead to improved projections of long-term carbon storage in forests in response to global environmental change'" he said.
These new results have been reported in a recent paper in the journal Global Biogeochemical Cycles, written by an international team of researchers at Princeton University (USA), NIWA (New Zealand), and the University of Missouri (USA). They applied a suite of statistical techniques to objectively determine the timing, size, and statistical significance of this shift. They explored whether it could be explained by volcanic eruptions or the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) – it can't.
"The scientific community has known for a long time that the land biosphere takes up CO2. What's new about this study is that we have discovered an abrupt shift towards more uptake by the land biosphere since 1988. Our team applied mathematical techniques that haven't been widely used in this field to detect the shift," says NIWA's Dr Mikaloff-Fletcher.
"While the increase was shown to be significant, the physical processes driving it remain a mystery. It poses big questions for us. What caused this shift? What can it tell us about how land's ability to take up CO2 is going to change in the future, and the sensitivity of the land carbon sink to climate? How is that going to feed back into climate conditions in the future?" says Dr Mikaloff-Fletcher
- I'm a PC and the carbon tax was my idea
- Voluntary Carbon Market Lesson -2
- Opposition Climate Policy gets some flesh
- Getting to know the Voluntary Market.
- Quite a good, balanced view on what is happening.
- Voluntary Markets Power On!
- The Carbon Market for farmers is doomed, right?
- CSIRO wins funds for lowering the cost of soil C measurement!
- Voluntary Market Rules!
- Groovy Map re 'we are going it alone' on price on Carbon.
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