Tag Archives: carbon

FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.

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FEMA director calls San Juan mayor’s concerns ‘political noise.’

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Elon Musk wants to help Puerto Rico go all-renewable.

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.

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Elon Musk wants to help Puerto Rico go all-renewable.

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Tropical Storm Nate could hit the Gulf Coast as a hurricane this weekend.

Sorry to ruin the party, but a report from the Food Climate Research Network casts doubt on recent suggestions that pasture-raised cattle could sequester massive amounts of carbon in the soil.

By nibbling plants and stimulating new root growth, the old argument goes, cows can encourage deeper root networks, which suck up more carbon. Proponents of grass-fed meat have embraced these findings, saying that pasture-raised livestock could mitigate the impact of meat consumption on the environment.

The new report — cleverly titled “Grazed and Confused?” — acknowledges that pastured cattle can be carbon negative, but this depends on the right soil and weather conditions. In most places, according to the report, grazers produce much more greenhouse gas than they add to the ground. It is an “inconvenient truth,” the authors write, that most studies show grass-fed beef has a bigger carbon footprint than feedlot meat. “Increasing grass-fed ruminant numbers is, therefore, a self-defeating climate strategy,” the report concludes.

Fortunately, grass-fed beef is not the only solution being bandied about: Research shows that a small dose of seaweed in livestock feed could drastically reduce methane emissions. And if you really want to reduce your impact on the climate you could, you know, stop eating meat.

Taken from – 

Tropical Storm Nate could hit the Gulf Coast as a hurricane this weekend.

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Hurricane Harvey could be the strongest storm to hit the country in over a decade.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative announced yesterday that it plans to curb power plant emissions by 30 percent between 2020 and 2030.

The participating states — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont — will finalize the agreement on Sept. 25. According to the Washington Post, Massachusetts wanted to set the bar higher by “reducing carbon emissions 5 percent a year. But Maryland balked and threatened to pull out of the pact, saying it would lead to higher energy costs for consumers.”

The agreement caps the emissions from the power generation only (unlike California’s system, it does not include other industry, transportation, or agriculture), and allows those electricity generators to buy and sell emissions rights. This latest move simply lowers the cap.

Even though Washington, D.C., tends to suck up all the oxygen in the conversation, local and regional leaders are trying different approaches to suck all the carbon out of the economy. In these statehouses, it’s a lot less hot air, and a lot more action.

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Hurricane Harvey could be the strongest storm to hit the country in over a decade.

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Which Type of Mulch is Best for Your Garden?

Next time youre in nature, try looking at the ground. Its usually covered in old leaves, fallen branches, rocks and other debris. This layer is vital for soil health. It helps regulate moisture, provides nutrients, suppresses weeds, prevents erosion and supports resident microbes and insects.

You can recreate this effect by mulching any bare areas in your garden. Mulch is essentially anything that covers your soil. And its meant to stay on top of soil as a buffer, not to be dug in like compost or fertilizer. Organic types of mulch will break down and release nutrients over time, but keep them on the soil surface for the most benefit.

There are many different types of mulch you can use. Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages, depending on your site. These are some of the most common mulches available.

Wood Chips and Shredded Bark

Wood chips are primarily branches and wood fiber cut into small pieces. Whereas, shredded bark is only bark with no wood pulp. Both make excellent mulch in areas youd like to keep clean, such as under strawberries or other low-growing crops. You can also use them in pathways or around perennial plantings.

Wood chips retain water better and break down faster than shredded bark. This means that chips may be a better choice in areas like a vegetable garden where you want more moisture and nutrients. Bark may do better in long-term areas where you want better drainage, such as underneath shrubs.

Rocks

Covering the soil with large rocks counts as mulch. Rock gardens may look dry, but the moisture stored under rocks helps sustain the surrounding plants.

Rocks will also capture heat from the sun and create warm microclimates around them, which can be very helpful in cooler regions. Rocks can also prevent erosion when used on a slope.

Yard Debris

Dont be too quick to clean up your yard. Lawn clippings can be left on the lawn to compost in place, or gathered and spread over your garden beds. You can do the same with any plant trimmings, especially leafy greens from vegetables or flowering plants. These can be left next to the plants to cover the soil and allow the nutrients to be recycled.

Fall leaves are a great opportunity to add extra organic matter to your beds. They also help keep the soil warm and safe over winter.

If you have your own compost pile, your finished compost can be used as mulch. Depending on how rich your compost is, you may want to spread a small amount throughout your garden and then cover it with a less nutritious mulch like dried leaves.

Gravel or Pebbles

These small stones are typically used for pathways or driveways. Unlike pavement or cement, they allow water to pass through to the soil underneath. Like larger rocks, gravel and pebbles will absorb heat during the day and release it at night.

Its best to contain gravel or pebbles within a frame or solid edging material. They often scatter into your garden beds or lawn if theyre left loose. This is annoying for bed maintenance, and can be a hazard if your lawnmower catches and throws loose gravel.

Wine Cork Mulch

Almost 13 billion wine corks are produced worldwide every year. Unfortunately, many of these end up in landfills. A much better use for corks is to repurpose them as mulch.

Wine corks are a natural material made from bark of the cork oat tree, native to the Mediterranean. Corks are dried and compressed to be water resistant, so they need to be broken into smaller pieces to make a good mulch. These are full instructions on how to make your own wine cork mulch.

Newspaper

Mulching is a great way to reuse newspaper. Newspaper blocks sunlight from reaching the soil, so its excellent for controlling weeds. These are some helpful tips on how to use newspaper mulch in your garden.

Newspapers that are only printed with black ink are safe to use. The black ink contains a carbon-based compound thats biodegradable. On the other hand, colored inks may contain harmful metals or other compounds, such as lead or sulfur. Not all inks are harmful, but its hard to know exactly whats in each one. Its best to avoid any colored flyers and inserts from your newspapers.

Straw

Straw is the dry stalks left-over from grain crops after the grains have been harvested. Not to be confused with hay, which is usually a mix of grasses, legumes and other plants that are grown to feed to animals. Hay includes all the seeds from these plants, which would create a huge weed problem if you used it as mulch.

Straw will have less seeds in it than hay, although some of the grain and other possible weed seeds will be present. Its good organic matter and will provide lots of carbon to your soil as it breaks down.

Although, avoid using straw if you have any rodents on your property. Rodents like mice, voles or rats love nesting in straw and will make homes in your mulch.

Landscape Fabrics

The most common landscape fabric is made from woven polypropylene, which is a type of plastic. Its typically laid directly on top of soil. The fact its woven allows water to go through the fabric while providing a solid barrier to prevent weed growth. You can cut individual holes in the fabric where you want to plant shrubs, trees or other plants.

Other mulches can be put on top of the fabric to make it look better, such as bark mulch or gravel. Although, weeds often take root in between the mulch and the fabric as the fabric breaks down over time. These weeds can be difficult to remove in older landscapes as they become entangled in the fabric.

Synthetic Lawns

Many mulches are good in garden beds, but what if you have an area you want to keep open for recreation or other uses? Thats where synthetic lawns work well. They dont require the water and maintenance of a real grass lawn, and they still provide the benefit of protecting your soil.

A synthetic or artificial lawn is made from different types of plastic materials to create a mat that looks and feels like real grass. It can be shaped to fit any area you need to fill.

Living Mulch

If you have a bare edge in your garden, try planting something low-growing to fill the space. Perennials like thyme, sedum, rock cress, snow in summer or candytuft can make excellent ground covers that will return every year. Annuals like alyssum, lobelia, begonia, bacopa or petunias will bloom all season as well as cover your soil.

Related
10 Bee-Friendly Plants That are Easy to Grow
9 Beneficial Bugs & Insects to Welcome in the Garden
12 Ways to Get Rid of Aggressive Weeds Without Resorting to Roundup

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Which Type of Mulch is Best for Your Garden?

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A Crucial Climate Mystery Is Just Under Our Feet

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

What Jonathan Sanderman really wanted was some old dirt. He called everyone he could think of who might know where he could get some. He emailed colleagues and read through old studies looking for clues, but he kept coming up empty.

Sanderman was looking for old dirt because it would let him test a plan to save the world. Soil scientists had been talking about this idea for decades: farmers could turn their fields into giant greenhouse gas sponges, potentially offsetting as much as 15 percent of global fossil fuel emissions a year, simply by coaxing crops to suck more CO2 out of the air.

There was one big problem with this idea: It could backfire. When plants absorb CO2 they either turn it into food or stash it in the ground. The risk is that if you treat farms as carbon banks, it could lead to smaller harvests, which would spur farmers to plow more land and pump more carbon into the air than before.

Back in 2011, when Sanderman was working as a soil scientist in Australia (he’s now at Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts), he’d figured out a way to test if it was possible to produce bumper crops on a piece of land while also banking carbon in it. But first, he needed to get his hands on that really old dirt.

Specifically, he needed to find a farm that kept decades of soil samples and precise records of its yields. That way he could compare the amount of carbon in the soil with the harvest and see if storing carbon kneecapped production.

Sanderman’s office was in the southern city of Adelaide, directly across the street from the Waite Agricultural Research Institute. The researchers there supposedly had the soil and records that Sanderman needed, dating back to 1925. But no one had any idea where to find the dirt. After numerous dead ends, a chain of clues led Sanderman into the basement of a big research building down the road, covered in greenhouses.

The basement was a big, dimly lit room full of floor-to-ceiling shelves crammed with boxes in various stages of disarray. He walked the rows slowly, scanning up and down until they were in front of his nose: scores of gallon jars made of thick, leaded glass with yellowing labels. “Like something you’d find in a second-hand store and put on your shelf,” Sanderman says.

He felt a rush of excitement. Then he squinted at the labels. There were no dates or locations. Instead, each bore a single series of numbers. It was a code, and Sanderman had no clue how to crack it.

The question that Sanderman wanted to answer was laid out by the Canadian soil scientist Henry Janzen. In 2006, Janzen published a paper, “The soil carbon dilemma: Shall we hoard it or use it?” Janzen pointed out that since the dawn of agriculture, farmers have been breeding crops that suck carbon out of the air and put it on our plates, rather than leaving it behind in the soil.

“Grain is 45 percent carbon by weight,” Janzen told me. “So when you truck away a load of grain, you are exporting carbon which, in a natural system, would have mostly returned to the soil.”

Janzen has the rare ability to explain complicated things with such clarity that, when talking to him, you may catch yourself struck with wonder at an utterly new glimpse of how the world works. Plants, he explained, perform a kind of alchemy. They combine air, water, and the sun’s fire to make food. And this alchemical combination that we call food is, in fact, a battery—a molecular trap for the sun’s energy made of broken-down CO2 and H2O (you know, air and water).

Sugars are the simplest batteries. And sugars are also the building blocks for fat and fiber, which are just bigger, more complicated batteries. Ferns, trees, and reeds are the sum of those parts. Bury these batteries for thousands of years under conditions of immense heat and pressure, and they transform again—still carrying the sun’s energy—into coal, oil, and gas.

To feed our growing population, we keep extracting more and more carbon from farms to deliver solar energy to our bodies. Janzen pointed out that we’ve bred crops to grow bigger seeds (the parts we eat) and smaller roots and stems (the parts that stay on the farm). All of this diverts carbon to our bellies that would otherwise go into the ground. This leads to what Janzen dubbed the soil carbon dilemma: Can we both increase soil carbon and increase harvests? Or do we have to pick one at the expense of the other?

Sanderman thought he could help answer those questions if he could crack the codes on those glass bottles. But the codes on the labels didn’t line up with the notes that Waite researchers had made. After a flurry of anguished emails, Sanderman tracked down a technician who had worked at Waite 25 years earlier, and she showed him how to decode the numbers. Finally, after a year of detective work, he could run his tests.

In January, Sanderman and his colleagues published their results. Carbon wasn’t simply going into the ground and staying there, they found; it was getting chewed up by microbes and floating into the air again. Fields with the biggest harvests had the most carbon turnover: more microbes chewing, while carbon gas streamed out of the soil.

Bizarrely enough, these same fields with the biggest harvests also had the most carbon in their soils. How could this be?

To answer that, it helps to think of carbon like money. We have an impulse to hide our savings under a mattress. But if you want more money, you have to invest it.

It’s the same with carbon. Life on earth is an economy that runs on carbon—the conduit for the sun’s energy. You have to keep it working and moving if you want your deposits to grow. The more busily plants and microbes trade carbon molecules, the more prosperous the ecological economy becomes.

That’s the key—you’ve got to use carbon to store carbon. By amping up harvest and turning up the volume on the microbes, sure, you get higher carbon emissions, but you also get more vigorous plants sucking up even more carbon. That, in turn, gives the plants enough carbon to produce a big harvest with a surplus left over to feed the dirt.

“You can have your soil carbon and eat it, too,” Sanderman says.

Is all this too good to be true? Soil scientist Whendee Silver at U.C. Berkeley had some reservations about Sanderman’s methods. She wondered if the Australian soils that he studied might have changed during decades of storage, and if the results would have been different if researchers had looked at more than just the top 10 centimeters of soil.

That said, Silver thought Sanderman’s conclusions made sense: Grow more stuff, and you get more carbon left behind in the soil. Rattan Lal, director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center at Ohio State, also gave the study his seal of approval.

The implications are huge. The study suggests we can slow climate change simply by feeding people. But there’s a gap between discovering something and putting it to use.

Solving one puzzle often opens up many, many more. Humphry Davy invented the electric light in 1802, but lightbulbs weren’t available for regular use until Thomas Edison’s day, 75 years later.

In this case, Sanderman’s sleuthing provides a proof of concept. To apply it, farmers would have to get more plants turning carbon to sugars on every acre of land. Now scientists and policy makers just need to find the barriers that prevent farmers from putting this knowledge into practice.

One issue is that the high-yield Australian fields in Sanderson’s study were growing grass, not wheat or corn. Grass directs its carbon into roots that stay in the soil, while grains are bred to shove carbon into their seeds. That doesn’t compromise the point of the study; the grass was still able to produce tons of hay for harvest while also making the dirt carbon-rich.

But it does add a new riddle: How do we get food crops to act like grass and spend more of their carbon budget on their roots, while still producing bountiful harvests?

The simplest answer, Janzen says, would be to boost yields. Anything farmers can do to allow more plants to thrive—like improving nutrition, irrigation, and protection from insects—will mean more carbon flowing into the soil. And in the long run, breeding for more roots as well as more grain will be a key to getting carbon into the ground without losing food production. Ultimately, that requires improving on photosynthesis, which is as difficult as putting a man on the moon (yep, scientists are working on it).

Another approach is to grow plants on fields that would otherwise be bare. By rolling out a carpet of green during the winter, farms could suck more carbon from the air into the soil. Some farmers are already doing this—growing cover crops like clover and ryegrass and experimenting with a suite of techniques often called “climate-smart agriculture.”

But there’s yet another barrier here: money. For farmers, the costs of planting cover crops often outweigh the immediate benefits. That’s why Ohio State’s Lal argues that farmers should get some help. “We have to recognize that farmers are making an investment that benefits society as a whole,” she says. “They should be compensated. My estimate is $16 per acre per year.”

Some companies have already started paying farmers to employ these techniques, says Roger Wolf, director of the Iowa Soy Association’s environmental programs. These corporations see a trend toward sustainability, with more of their customers pushing for environmental stewardship, and are trying to get out in front of it. The food and cosmetics giant Unilever and the grain trader ADM offer farmers a premium price for adhering to practices that accrue carbon.

Ever since people began pushing seeds into the dirt, we’ve been eating away the carbon from our topsoil. Now we’re finally developing the knowledge necessary to pump that carbon back into the ground. We have a proof of concept and Sanderson has taken the next logical step: He’s working on creating the tools farmers need to put this knowledge into practice. It’s one more link in the chain humans are forging to hold back the worst ravages of climate change.

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A Crucial Climate Mystery Is Just Under Our Feet

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Leading Climate Experts Have Some Advice for Donald Trump

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

To fulfill his campaign slogan of “Make America great again,” Donald Trump must back the boom in green technology—that was the message from the leading climate figures ahead of his inauguration as president on Friday.

Unleashing US innovation on the trillion-dollar clean technology market will create good US jobs, stimulate its economy, maintain the US’ political leadership around the globe and, not least, make the world a safer place by tackling climate change, the experts told the Guardian.

The omens are not encouraging. Trump has called global warming a hoax and is filling his administration with climate change deniers and oil barons. But reversing action on climate change and championing fossil fuels will only “make China great again,” said one top adviser.

Here are the messages to Trump from some of the key figures the Guardian contacted.

Michael Liebreich, founder of analyst firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance who has advised the UN and World Economic Forum on energy: “If I had one minute with president elect Trump my message would be that the best way to ‘Make America great again’ is by owning the clean energy, transportation and infrastructure technologies of the future. Not only will this create countless well-paid, fulfilling jobs for Americans, but will also lock in the US’ geopolitical leadership for another generation.”

John Schellnhuber of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany, who has advised Angela Merkel, the Pope and the EU: “Mr. President, if you want to make China great again, you have to stay the course you have promised. I think it would be the end of US domination in innovation, in economics. If you try to take the US backwards to the days of mountain top removal for coal in West Virginia and all those things, then you will just make sure China becomes No. 1 in all respects. In the end, you would produce precisely what you promised to avoid to your electorate.”

Dame Julia King, an eminent engineer and one of the UK government’s official advisers at the Committee on Climate Change: “If President Trump wants to deliver greater job security for Americans, he should focus on clean and sustainable industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Those are the sectors that are set to prosper. He needs to build an economy for 2050, not one for 1950.”

Lord Nicholas Stern, a leading climate change economist at the London School of Economics: “If you want to make America great again, building modern, clean and smart infrastructure makes tremendous commercial and national sense. In the longer term, the low carbon growth story is the only growth story on offer. There is no long-term, high-carbon growth story, because destruction of the environment would reverse growth.”

Mark Campanale, founder of the Carbon Tracker Initiative think tank: “If you’re interested in quality, high paying and skilled jobs for the American middle classes, then renewable energy has to absolutely be the place to look. It’s a sector with more employees now than in the US coal industry and with a long way to grow.”

James Hansen, director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University: “If Trump wants to achieve the things that he claimed he would: improving the situation of the common man, the best way he could do this would be a program of a rising carbon fee with the money distributed to the public.”

Jennifer Morgan, co-executive director of Greenpeace International: “Mr. Trump, you might not realize it yet, but your action, or inaction, on climate will define your legacy as president. The renewable energy transformation is unstoppable and, if the US chooses to turn its back on the future, it will miss out on all the opportunities it brings in terms of jobs, investment and technology advances. China, India and others are racing ahead to be the global clean energy superpowers and surely the US, led by a businessman, does not want to be left behind.”

Alden Meyer of the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US: “Trump’s stance threatens to diminish America’s standing in the world and to weaken the ability of US companies and workers to compete in the rapidly growing global market for clean energy technologies.”

May Boeve, head of climate campaign group 350.org: “Quit. But if you have to stick around, realize that the clean energy economy is the greatest, biggest job creator in history.”

Some leading figures, who will have to deal directly with the Trump administration, chose more diplomatic messages to the new president, while emphasizing the vital need to act on global warming:

Patricia Espinosa, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change—the UN’s climate chief: “I look forward to working with your new administration to make the world a better place for the people of the US and for peoples everywhere in this very special world.”

Scientist Derek Arndt, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, presenting the temperature data showing 2016 was the hottest year on record: “We present this assessment for the benefit of the American people.”

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Leading Climate Experts Have Some Advice for Donald Trump

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U.S. likely to become a major energy exporter in a decade

The amount of energy Americans use and the pollution they emit from using coal, oil, and natural gas are not likely to change radically over the next 30 years, even as the U.S. becomes a major energy exporter, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s Annual Energy Outlook, published Thursday.

The outlook, which does not factor in any policies from the incoming fossil fuel–friendly Trump administration, shows that the U.S. is unlikely to make significant gains in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to meet its obligations under the Paris Climate Agreement, even though zero-carbon renewables are expected to grow faster than any other energy source over the next three decades.

Electricity generation is expected to remain the largest single use of energy in the U.S., but crude oil use for transportation is expected to be the largest source of energy-related carbon emissions. Carbon emissions from transportation surpassed those from electric power generation for the first time in U.S history in 2016.

The U.S. is likely to become a major exporter of energy because it is expected to produce about 20 percent more energy than it does today through 2040 while using only about 5 percent more energy, said EIA administrator Adam Sieminsky.

“We’re going to have fairly strong domestic production of energy and relatively flat demand,” he said. “You put those two together, it implies that the U.S. could become a net energy exporter.” And that could happen as soon as 2026.

That scenario, in addition to gains in energy efficiency across the country and declining coal consumption, will keep annual carbon emissions from energy use roughly level with today’s — about 5.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to EIA data.  Energy-related carbon emissions in the U.S. have been falling since they peaked at about 6 billion metric tons in 2007.

The EIA offers a variety of different projections for how Americans will produce and use energy in the coming decades. The scenario in which the U.S. emits the most carbon dioxide through 2040 is the one in which the Obama administration’s signature climate change policy, the Clean Power Plan, is tossed out by the courts or the incoming Trump administration.

The Clean Power Plan, a major key to the success of the Paris Climate Agreement, was designed to limit carbon dioxide emissions from existing coal-fired power plants, encouraging utilities to generate more and more electricity using natural gas and renewables. But the plan’s fate is in doubt because 24 states have sued to kill it, the Supreme Court has temporarily blocked it, and the incoming Trump administration has vowed to rescind it because it wants to revive the flagging coal industry.

The federal government is projecting that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions from energy use will remain relatively steady in the coming decades.EIA

Regardless of the fate of the Clean Power Plan, energy-related carbon emissions are not expected to change much. If the plan is rescinded or overturned, the U.S. will emit about 5.4 billion metric tons annually through 2040 — slightly higher than today. If the plan remains in place, emissions are expected to drop to about 5 billion metric tons annually.

The biggest change the EIA expects to see over the next 30 years is one that’s already in progress today —  Americans are expected to use more and more natural gas and renewables than they do now. Natural gas production is expected to grow 1.2 percent through 2050, with wind and solar power production growing 3.5 percent.

“If the Clean Power Plan is not implemented, if natural gas prices remain relatively low, and the tax credits in the renewables area play out a little, we will see more natural gas in the future,” Sieminsky said.

The fracking boom in the U.S. over the past decade has flooded the country with natural gas, bringing prices down. Cheap natural gas, more so than climate regulations under the Clean Power Plan, has encouraged electric power companies to switch away from coal-fired power plants, which have always formed the backbone of the energy grid. The trend is expected to continue over the next 30 years.

For example, just this week, the operator of one of the West’s largest coal-fired power plants, the Arizona’s Navajo Generating Station northeast of the Grand Canyon, announced the plant and the coal mine that supplies it may close this year because of low natural gas prices, according to the Arizona Republic newspaper.

Despite growth in natural gas and renewables, the EIA expects coal production will continue a slow but gradual decline, falling only 0.7 percent through 2050.

Sieminsky said the decline in coal use in the U.S. will translate worldwide as well, and the fate of the Clean Power Plan isn’t much of a factor in the long-term outlook for coal because utilities have already begun committing to using natural gas to generate electricity.

“Capital costs of building coal plants are high,” he said. “A lot of countries are moving away from coal for air pollution reasons. It’s not a climate issue — it’s more of a health issue.”

China, for example, has begun shuttering coal-fired power plants to reduce its urban smog — the worst in the world.

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U.S. likely to become a major energy exporter in a decade

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How to Compost at Home

In the old Brothers Grimm tale Rumpelstiltskin, a miller swears to the king that his daughter can spin straw into golda bold-faced lie.With the help of the eponymous imp and his magical powers, the daughter was eventually able to spew gold from her very fingers. But, she had to promise her firstborn child to him in order to receive the special talent.

In the real world there is one way to turn straw into gold, so to speak, that doesnt require any special powers or bargaining with a frightful creatureits known as composting. Creating organic fertilizer from food scraps happens to be much easier than most people think. Heres everything you need to know:

Photo Credit: Paul Delmont

WHAT IS COMPOSTING?

In basic terms, composting means recycling plant scraps from the kitchenincluding carrot tops, potato peels, herb stems, celery fronds, eggshells, coffee grounds, used tea bagsall in the effort to minimize waste and to make garden fertilizer. The process transforms such food scraps, which would have normally ended up in the garbage, into a nutrient-rich mulch that can be added to soil and help you grow even more fruits and vegetables, thereby perpetuating the cycle. Now thatssustainability at its finest.

How it works

As organic materials decompose, they break down into nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassiumthe same compounds plants need to thrive. Brown matter, like dead leaves and branches, provide carbon while green matter, like vegetables and fruits, provide nitrogen. Compost piles and bins ideally consist ofthree parts brown matter to one part green matter.

When these organic materials are exposed to air and water, microorganisms likebacteria, actinobacteria, fungi, protozoa, and earthwormsstart to break them down into compost. Carbon gives these microbes energy, and nitrogen facilitatesprotein synthesisa biological process where individual cells build up their specific proteins..

After these microorganisms break down the plant matter, what youre left with is a substance calledhumus(no, not hummus) which basically looks, smells, and feels like dark, moist soil. Spread a thick layer of it on top of the soil in your garden and watch your plants flourish! (Well get to more specifics below.)

COMPOSTING BENEFITS

Reduces and recycles kitchen and yard waste

One of the greatest benefits of composting is giving food scraps and yard waste another life. Instead of going straight to a landfillwhere40 percent of all food produced in the U.S. ends uptheyll serve a new purpose and nourish your garden naturally and even help you to cultivate more food.

Good for the environment

Compost can serve as a natural alternative to chemical fertilizers, which oftenseep into groundwater and end up polluting waterways.

Conditions and fertilizes soil

Compost helps give soil a softer, looser texture, which allows water and nutrients to reach the plants roots more efficiently. Its all thanks to those beneficial microorganisms, which can evenkill pathogensand prevent plant disease, according to theEnvironmental Protection Agency.

Photo Credit: Paul Delmont

WHAT TO COMPOST

Heres what can (and cant) go into your compost heap,according to the EPAandRodales Organic Life.

Brown matter

These are generally dry ingredients that are rich in carbon:

Cardboard
Corn husks
Cotton
Dead leaves
Hay
Nutshells
Paper
Pine needles
Sawdust
Shredded newspaper
Straw
Twigs
Wood ashes
Wood chips
Wool

Green matter

These tend to be wet and are rich in nitrogen:

Algae
Bread
Coffee grounds and filters
Dead plants
Eggshells
Freshwater aquarium water
Fruits
Fur
Grains (cooked, plain)
Grass clippings
Hair
Seaweed
Tea bags
Vegetables

WHATNOTTO COMPOST

These materials may be harmful to the health of your compost:

Black walnut tree leaves and twigs
Charcoal
Dairy products
Diseased plants
Dryer or vacuum lint from synthetic fabrics
Fats or oils
Glossy paper (especially with color printing)
Meat or fish scraps or bones
Pet waste

HOW TO COMPOST

Its easy to start composting at home. Whether you have a big backyard or live in an apartment with minimal outdoor space, heres how to do it.

Composting in a backyard

1. Pick a spot

The first step is to pick a dry, sunlit area outdoors and near a water source (like a garden hose). Since compost tends to be smelly, be mindful and choose a spot where the appearance or smell wont bother your neighbors. Its best to keep it far away from anywhere you eat or entertain, too. You should also avoid placing it near the house or any other wooden structures, as the decomposing materials can rot wood.

2. Dig a hole or buy a compost bin

If you dont mind letting your compost heap sit exposed, its a good idea to dig a hole in the ground to make it easier to manage. Make sure the hole measures at least 3 x 3 x 3.

You can buy a holding unit or bin at Thrive Market, likethis one here. Or you can get crafty and check out how tomake a DIY version. A closed bin with a lid also worksjust drill holes into the lid to allow air in, and add your own worms (you can pick those up at home and garden stores, too).

3. Start adding organic materials

Add compostable materials in alternating layers, starting with brown matter, then green matter, and some brown again. Try to maintain a ratio of three parts carbon (brown) to one part nitrogen (green). Too much carbon can slow down the decomposition, while too much nitrogen can make the pile slimy, smelly, and difficult to aerate.

4. Turn and add water

If you arent continually adding new matter, let it sit for five weeks. Then, turn it with a pitchfork or rake to oxygenate the mixture, and add enough water to dampen the pile. (Excess moisture hinders airflow, and too little prevents the microorganisms you need to start decomposition from thriving.) Leave it for three or four months longeritll turn into dark, moist soil, which is your key to know its ready to use.

Most people, however, tend to add new materials throughout the year. In this case, whenever you add new food waste or kitchen scraps, bury it to incorporate. Turn and moisten the pile at least every four to five weeks, but keep in mind that turning more often can really speed up the decomposition process.

Composting indoors or in an apartment

No backyard? No problem. You can make your own small-scale composting system indoorsand you dont even need worms. Heres how:

What you need

Small trash bin with a lid
Tray that fits underneath trash bin
Soil
Newspaper

Instructions

Choose a space to keep your compost bin. (Under the sink works well.)
Poke or drill a few holes on the bottom and around the rim of the bin.
Cover tray with newspaper and place the bin in the tray.
Add a layer of soil, a few inches deep, into the bin.
Add a layer of shredded newspaper into the bin.
Start adding your food scraps (green matter as listed above), along with a handful of newspaper or other brown matter as you go. (If it starts to smell bad, add more brown matter.)
Once a week, mix the pile and add a handful of fresh soil.

Youll know the compost is ready when its broken down into dark, moist soil. Use it as a top layer for potted plants or donate whatever you cant use to a neighborhood garden.

Photo Credit: Paul Delmont

TOP COMPOSTING TIPS

Here are some important things to know before getting started to make your composting a success.

Start your compost in summer:The process works best in heata compost pile that maintains an internal temperature of 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit breaks down faster.
Keep a small compost bin in the kitchen:Its a convenient way to collect food scraps without having to run out to the compost pile every time you have something to add. Once your indoor bin is filled, you can throw it all into the pile at once.
Always keep a healthy balance of of carbon to nitrogen (brown to green):Remember its three parts brown to one part green. Too much or too little of either can slow things down.
The smaller the materials, the better:Before adding things into the compost, cut them down to smaller chunks to help them decompose faster.
Dont pack too much waste in:The pile needs air to breathe.
The more green matter you use, the less water you need:Remember that too much water keeps the air from flowing freely through the mixture.
Do not compost pet waste:It can contain parasites.
Do not compost meat, meat scraps, fats or oils:Otherwise pests will come crawling and potentially spread disease through the compost.
Wormsare your friends:When these guys show up, leave them be and let them do their thing. Theyll feed on your food waste and help turn it into the beautiful compost youve been waiting for.
You can compost weeds:Just make sure they dont have seeds, or else you may get some pesky plants cropping up in your garden.
Turn your pile frequently:Aerating the compost as often as every two weeks can really speed up the process.
Keep two separate compost piles:Got a lot of organic material and extra space? Starting a second pile is handy so you can let the original one break down faster while continuing your composting habit.
Add compost to the garden two to four weeks before planting:This allows time for it to meld with the soil. Once youve got it all ready to go, its time to plant theseeds. When beautiful, bright-orange carrots grow in, youll be pretty happy you didnt trash those old peels.

Written by Emily Murphy, and reposted with permission fromThrive Market.

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Photo Credit: Lindsay/Flickr

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

Read more – 

How to Compost at Home

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The most dramatic climate fight of the election is in Washington state

Voters in a progressive Pacific Northwestern state could approve the nation’s first carbon tax next week, providing a much-sought victory to proponents of legislative climate action — and possibly a model for the rest of the country.

And yet the ballot measure is at equal risk of failing spectacularly. Not because of the usual oil and coal industry foes, or even because it includes the dreaded t-word. No, the biggest obstacle in its way: other environmentalists.

An unlikely array of local and national organizations have come out against — or declined to support — Washington state’s carbon tax initiative, which will appear on the ballot as I-732. Their concerns: That a revenue-neutral carbon tax wouldn’t raise money for investing in clean energy and communities, and that people of color didn’t get a fair say in crafting the policy.

Although the split became public last year, it’s only been in the last few months that a barrage of organizations have proclaimed their opposition. Washington Conservation Voters called the measure “flawed,” while Sierra Club Washington noted its members have “deep concerns.”

Infighting is not uncommon in the environmental movement, which actually represents a fairly large and loose coalition of diverse local, state, and national interests. But the carbon tax battle in Washington state appears to stem from a recent and fundamental shift: Following the lead of more community-minded activists, the nation’s most powerful environmental groups are attempting to change their emphasis from a largely white perspective to one that is more diverse and equitable. And that means a new approach to issues like climate legislation.

“We have to find a different climate movement going forward.” –Gregg Small, Climate Solutions executive director

Many of those groups have come to the realization in recent years that they can’t fight climate change without including a broader range of people in their solutions. Attempts to remake policy so it is equitable and impactful has resulted in two main visions for how to approach climate action.

The tension between a narrowly focused environmental campaign and a newer approach that involves more consensus around a broader progressive agenda has been simmering for a long time. With I-732, it’s broken out into the open.


False starts have plagued the climate movement for years. The failed 2009 Waxman-Markey bill, which would have capped carbon emissions and created a national market for trading credits (hence the name “cap and trade”), sent the movement into existential soul-searching.

Since then, Congress has only become more hostile to climate action, meaning any successes have largely come at the state level or inside the White House. As Republicans at the national level have been less and less involved in a serious fight against climate change, the solutions have evolved without them.

Progressive states including California, New York, and yes, Washington have recently made significant strides on climate policy. Part of the movement’s post-Waxman-Markey strategy was to broaden the base of support for climate policy beyond a very white core — not by appealing to increasingly intransigent conservatives, but by listening to the people representing low-income communities and communities of color, which are disproportionately impacted by pollution and climate change.

“It isn’t just about reducing emissions,” said Green for All’s Vien Truong, who works on climate justice policy initiatives in California and other states. “It is that, but we have to move forward.” This includes bringing people to the movement who “feel the pinch of climate change” most.

Gregg Small of the Washington-based Climate Solutions noted that the cap-and-trade bill’s failure was a teaching moment. “We have to find a different climate movement going forward,” he said. “The climate community can’t do it on their own.”


Despite the recognition by many environmentalists that a new, more inclusive approach was needed, it was a divided effort that helped set the stage for the current battle in Washington state.

Two years ago, a new-school coalition of social justice and environmental groups that became the Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy began working on a climate action proposal, gathering extensive input from community organizations.

But a smaller, grassroots-based climate group, known as Carbon Washington, got its carbon tax proposal on the ballot first. I-732 would phase in next year, tax carbon emissions at $25 per metric ton in 2018, and gradually ramp up over 40 years to $100.

What’s troubling some opponents is where that money would go: cutting the state’s sales tax by 1 percent, cutting taxes for manufacturers, and providing tax rebates to more than 400,000 low-income households. That’s allowed I-732 proponents to try to appeal to conservatives by calling it revenue neutral, but it doesn’t sit well with the Alliance-affiliated enviros.

Their four-page alternative proposal is murky on the details, though: It calls for a carbon “fee” that would redirect the revenue collected toward clean energy efforts, water quality improvement, and helping disadvantaged communities. It doesn’t cut taxes, and unlike 732, it establishes an absolute, though unknown cap on carbon emitted. The actual tax on polluters starts at $15 per metric ton, but is unclear on how it would ramp up over time. It promises some “compliance flexibility” for polluters, yet doesn’t say what that entails.

Small, a chair of the Alliance, said his group was ready to put its proposal on the 2016 ballot, but pulled its plans when 732 gained the signatures needed. Two competing ballot measures would likely have meant success for neither.

Carbon Washington met with the Alliance to figure out a compromise, but moved ahead without the full blessing of the organizations that had fought hard to bridge justice and environmental concerns. In return, there are now a slew of environmental and social justice groups slamming I-732 for not doing enough to fight climate change, not managing to be revenue-neutral, and failing on equity.

The founder of Carbon Washington, Yoram Bauman, defends his group’s approach. “I think that underneath, there’s a philosophic difference in how to provide benefits to low-income communities and communities of color,” he said. “Their approach was to fund community-directed investment. They wanted a pot of money that could be controlled by local communities to reduce emissions, create jobs, and lower pollution in communities of color. Our approach was we wanted to put money back [into the pockets of low-income] households.”

Bauman says that if his group’s measure passes, small tweaks and improvements could be made by the state legislature. But opponents say that a flawed model is not a good place to start from.

“Perfect shouldn’t be the goal,” Bauman argues. “I think folks who care about climate change need to support action on climate change. We don’t have many opportunities to take a swing at the ball, and there are serious questions about how many more years we want to wait.”


I-732 does have its share of supporters. Actor and activist Leonardo DiCaprio, 28 environmental and energy-focused groups (including the Audubon Society’s state chapter), and dozens of Republican and Democratic lawmakers and economists have endorsed it. All this has lead to one very fractured environmental community.

The Seattle-based sustainability think tank Sightline Institute is neutral on 732, but still manages a good summary of the pro-side’s position in a lengthy analysis weighing the pros and cons: “Initiative 732 does exactly what the scientists and economists prescribe: it sets a science-based, steadily rising price on pollution,” Sightline writes. “The citizens’ initiative covers most of the state’s climate pollution, makes the tax code more progressive, and is administratively elegant.” Based on a Washington Office of Financial Management projection, the 732 carbon tax would raise $2 billion in fiscal year 2019 (4 percent of the state’s annual budget), which would go back to taxpayers in various forms.

Critics, however, remain convinced that 732 it doesn’t do enough to fight climate change, nor does it address justice concerns. They also felt shut out of the process.

“I think folks who care about climate change need to support action on climate change.” –Yoram Bauman, Carbon Washington founder

“We’ve got to get it done right the first time,” said Small, who was careful to make it clear that Climate Solutions is not opposed to I-732. “Effective carbon pricing needs to really do three things: It needs to put a meaningful price on carbon to drive down pollution; it needs to invest the money generated in clean energy solutions; and it should invest in those affected by climate change.”

A coalition of environmental justice organizations penned an open letter to the Sightline Institute, saying they took issue with the group’s analysis, arguing that it serves to “denigrate our perspective and profess to speak for the interests of our communities without our consultation or knowledge.”

“People who can actually begin to be part of the solution were hoping to be part of this clean energy future,” Green for All’s Truong said. “And this carbon tax essentially shut that effort down.”

Perhaps the most unexpected argument is that the tax won’t do the intended job of cutting emissions. Food and Water Watch issued a report claiming that the model for 732, a British Columbia carbon tax, “fails to demonstrate that it has reduced carbon emissions, fossil fuel consumption, or vehicle travel, as it purported to do.”

Technically, it would be possible to alter 732 in the legislature down the line if voters approve it in November, but it’s politically unfeasible. Some environmentalists would prefer to work with what they have if it passes, but in a few cases, the critics would rather see no tax at all. Seattle public radio station KUOW asked Alliance member and OneAmerica activist Ellicott Dandy if she would regret her position against I-732 if no other carbon tax ever passed.

Her answer: “No.”


The latest polling shows a close vote. In an early October poll, 21 percent of voters were undecided. In a late-October poll from KOMO News/Strategies 360, that number is even higher, with 28 percent unsure how they will cast their ballot. How the undecideds break makes all the difference for an initiative leading with just 40 percent of the electorate, and 32 percent opposed.

If 732 fails, the lessons for environmentalists will be clear: An approach designed to appeal to more conservative sensibilities — tax cuts, revenue neutral — isn’t going to help them bring in new voices on the left, who want to be heard and play a guiding role in the process.

“Carbon pricing is incredibly difficult and maybe impossible if people don’t come together,” Small said. “Other states will face similar types of dynamics here on the policy and strategy. I hope people learn from the painful lesson we have in Washington to, you know, work it out.”

Also read: Climate hawk vs. climate hawk: State carbon tax splits national climate hawks

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The most dramatic climate fight of the election is in Washington state

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