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You can put a price tag on environmental and economic returns from protecting rangeland

by Karen Ross and Michael Delbar, Cal Matters


Highlights

  • New analysis from UC Berkeley found that 300,000 acres of protected rangeland can provide up to $1.4 billion a year in ecosystem benefits and that every dollar spent to protect working rangeland returned $3.43 on the investment in ecosystem benefits
  • Managed grazing can help sequester carbon out of the atmosphere and put it back into healthy soil, restoring land to its natural state and providing an important tool to mitigate climate change
  • Rangelands sold for development jeopardize ecosystems and responsible practices such as grazing, which can reduce invasive plants and revitalize vegetation
  • Private rangelands are nearly 63% of California’s undeveloped land and contain 67% of federally threatened or endangered species

Accelerating sequestration is critical to achieving drawdown greater than emissions by 2030 for a climate-safe future. We know today how to manage natural and agricultural lands for sequestration through proven carbon farming practices. The Climate Center applauds Governor Newsom’s recent Executive Order on protecting state lands and water resources. The Center encourages the Governor to adopt the Executive Order as written by us to accelerate negative emissions and carbon drawdown.


Read More: https://calmatters.org/commentary/my-turn/2020/08/you-can-put-a-price-tag-on-environmental-and-economic-returns-from-protecting-rangeland/

Locust swarms ravaging East Africa are the size of cities

By David Herbling and Samuel Gebre, Bloomberg


Highlights:

Swarms of desert locusts are devastating farms throughout East Africa.

  • The outbreak is due to an increased amount of cyclones and sudden rainfall after a long dry spell, resulting in the perfect breeding conditions for locusts
  • Further increases in climate change effects will cause more cyclones and therefore more locusts outbreaks over time
  • The devastation of farms is impacting regions where there is already an overwhelming amount of food insecurity
  • Locusts can destroy from 80% to 100% of crops in areas they invade

The Climate Center’s Rapid Decarbonization Campaign addresses the urgency of the climate crisis by setting a timeline in line with the current science.


Read More: https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-africa-locusts

After a rough year, farmers and Congress are talking about climate solutions

by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News

As millions of acres of American farmland sat under historic floodwaters this spring, a remarkable pattern began to emerge.

Even among fields that sat side-by-side, with the same crops and the same soil type, researchers and farmers noticed that some bounced back faster than others.

What made the difference?

The fields that were slow to drain and remained waterlogged longer had been farmed conventionally—tilled, left bare and unplanted over the winter. The fields that drained quickly and were ready for sowing hadn’t been tilled in years and had been planted every winter with cover crops, like rye and clover, which help control erosion, improve soil health and trap carbon in the soil.

Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26122019/agriculture-climate-change-flood-recovery-sustainable-farming-cover-crops-2019-year-review

Algae blooms fed by farm flooding add to midwest’s climate woes

by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News

The historic rains that flooded millions of acres of Midwestern cropland this spring landed a blow to an already struggling farm economy.

They also delivered bad news for the climate.

Scientists project that all that water has flushed vast amounts of fertilizer and manure into waterways, triggering a potentially unprecedented season of algae blooms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that the “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico—a massive overgrowth of algae—could become the size of Massachusetts this summer, coming close to a record set in 2017, and that an algae bloom in Lake Erie could also reach a record size.

Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/26062019/midwest-flooding-algae-blooms-dead-zone-climate-change-fertilizer-livestock-gulf-mexico-lake-erie

Farmers are using Twitter to document the disastrous effects of climate change on crops

by Brenna Houck, Eater

In case we need anymore evidence that the globe is disastrously warmed, a pattern of conditions is impacting the world’s agricultural systems and threatening food supplies in the U.S. and abroad. Because legislators will continue to deny the what’s literally happening before their eyes (*cough* Climate Change), U.S. farmers have now turned to the Twitter hashtag #NoPlant19 to bring attention to the extremely wet spring that’s made it difficult plant corn and soybeans.

The U.S. is currently in the midst of its wettest 12 months on record, with regions of the Great Plains and Midwest — where much of the nation’s corn and soy is produced — bearing the brunt of this spring’s rainfall. Not only are homes being damaged as a result of the extreme flooding, but the conditions are making it damn near impossible for farmers to plant their crops.

On average over the past four years, farmers in the states that represent a majority of the nation’s harvest would have planted 90 percent of their corn and 66 percent of their soy by May 26, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report. That makes a lot of sense since crop yields tend to decline when corn is planted after May 10 and farmers typically wrap up their planting efforts by May 31. However 2019’s crops are far behind schedule. As of May 26, only 58 percent of the nation’s corn had been planted and just 29 percent of its soy. Farmers are rightly worried and consumers should be too. Crop shortages will likely result in higher prices for consumers and since corn and soy are basically in every part of the American diet, that could be a real problem.

Read more: https://www.eater.com/2019/5/29/18644596/farmers-are-using-noplant19-to-document-climate-change

Taking a spin on an electric tractor

With a view of the future?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the ranch of Steve Heckeroth, architect, legendary clean energy pioneer, inventor, former contributing editor for Mother Earth News, and in this instance, creator of the Solectrac electric drive tractor. Steve’s ranch, and e-tractor manufacturing operation, is located along the Mendocino Coast near Albion, California, about two hours northwest of where I live.

My interest in electric tractors is partly personal. After moving to a rural area in Sonoma County in 2009 and finding that perfect place at the end of the lane away from the road noise, we woke up the first few mornings to realize we had not thought about tractor noise. Duh. Being surrounded by small farms, what did we expect? But perhaps with electric tractors now becoming reality, there may be hope for quieter mornings – and assuming they are plugging in to cleaner power, less-polluting farms.

So the first thing I noticed about the e-tractor is how quiet it is. Barely even a buzz or hum. The other thing I noticed immediately was how clean and simple it looked. No black oil, grease, or soot stains as one typically sees on diesel tractors.

One of the interesting things Steve demonstrated was the fact that you can set the tractor to move at a constant, very slow speed, which allows for an excellent seed spreading process. This is something that is difficult for diesels to do. He also explained how electric tractors have an enormous amount of torque, enabling them to tow or push many times their own weight.

There are two main models to choose from, the eUtility and the eFarmer. According to the Solectrac website, the eUtility tractor is designed for vineyards, equestrian centers, livestock operations, hobby farms, etc. It has a 20 kWh onboard battery pack that provides three to eight hours of run time depending on loads. It uses level two (240v) charging and takes about three hours to reach 80% charge, so having two battery packs and switching them out is the way to keep working all day. It accommodates a wide variety of implements on the rear hitch and uses linear electric actuators that replace inefficient hydraulic implements.

Steve Heckeroth on the eFarmer tractor.

The eFarmer is designed for row crop farms and operates at a fraction of the lifetime cost of diesel tractors. Both tractors are zero-emission and quiet with no diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, engine noise, or exhaust fumes.

Now, yes, clearly these tractors are designed for smaller operations, but the principle is demonstrated successfully and scaling up is a matter of investment. No technological breakthroughs are required.

Another key part of my interest revolves around our work in Community Choice Energy and in the Central Valley. E-tractors will not address the air quality issues of dust kicked up by agricultural activities, but the particulate matter and other toxic air contaminants that result from diesel combustion by farm equipment, an extremely harmful part of the poor air quality in the Central Valley, is indeed something that may be mitigated by this kind of technology. We look forward to helping advance electric farm equipment as we do passenger EVs.

And how might Community Choice agencies (CCAs) play a role? CCAs have successfully demonstrated that they can design a buy-down program for passenger electric vehicles. For CCAs with significant agricultural activity in their service territories, why not do the same for electric farm equipment?

Several other manufacturers including John Deere and Fendt have recently introduced electric tractors, but given that they have a huge market base of long-time diesel customers, it is not clear that they will do much to support their successful adoption.

For more information about the Solectrac electric tractors manufactured right here in California, eager to sell, visit Solactrac.com.

Thanks to Farm Bureau lobby, U.S. taxpayers on the hook for insuring farmers against growing climate risks

by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News

Like every Midwestern farmer, Jerry Peckumn relies on a few things going right every season. Rain, but no deluge. Sunshine, but no heat wave. A timely cycling of the seasons.

Peckumn is a progressive, conservation-minded farmer who’s deeply concerned about the impact of the changing climate on his farm. He knows nature isn’t controllable and the weather is getting more erratic. So, like hundreds of thousands of American farmers, he relies on federal crop insurance.

“I’d quit farming if I didn’t have crop insurance,” Peckumn said, sitting at his kitchen table in central Iowa this summer, surrounded by corn and soybeans in every direction.

Read more: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/31122018/crop-insurance-farm-bureau-taxpayer-subsidies-climate-change-risk-rising?utm_source=InsideClimate+News&utm_campaign=bfded7af77-&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_29c928ffb5-bfded7af77-327824881

Easy fix? America’s biggest beef eaters responsible for large chunk of climate emissions

by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News

March 20th, 2018

The biggest eaters of burgers, steaks and ribs contribute the largest hunk of diet-related greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, according to a new study that examined individual eating habits across the country.

New research from the University of Michigan and Tulane University finds that 20 percent of American eaters accounted for nearly half of total diet-related emissions, and that their diets were heavy on beef.

If those people consumed fewer calories and shifted to a more moderate diet with less beef, that could achieve almost 10 percent of the emissions reductions needed for the U.S. to meet its targets under the Paris climate agreement, the researchers found.

The study, published Tuesday in Environmental Research Letters, adds to a growing pile of evidence linking beef with high greenhouse gas emissions, but it is the first to look at what people ate—or recalled eating—rather than at data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which measures how commodities flow through the economy.

“USDA tracks how much of a commodity is imported and exported, what gets used for non-food purposes, and applies food waste losses to those numbers. What comes out of that is divided by the population,” said Martin Heller, the study’s lead author. “What we looked at is what an individual said they ate on a particular day.”

With the “recall survey” approach, Heller and his co-authors were able to examine what and how certain portions of the population ate, providing data they believe could be more useful in developing diet-related recommendations that might drive consumers toward more sustainable food choices.

The study comes as more countries are recommending lowering beef consumption for environmental reasons, and as some contemplate taxes on beef, in part to help reach their emissions targets under the 2015 Paris Agreement.

Comparing Diets, Low-Impact to Beefy

To develop their estimates, Heller and his team built a database that looked at the environmental impacts of producing 300 commonly eaten foods. They then linked the database to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally representative survey that includes self-reported dietary data for more than 16,000 Americans.

The researchers were able to rank those diets by their greenhouse gas emissions. They found that the top 20 percent, with the highest carbon footprint, was responsible for eight times more emissions than the lowest 20 percent, and that beef consumption accounted for 72 percent of the difference.

Meat production overall—largely from beef, but also including pork and chicken—accounted for 70 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions in the highest-impact group, but only 27 percent in the lowest-impact group. And while the highest-impact group consumed an average of nearly 3,000 calories a day and the lowest just above 1,300, when the researchers adjusted the findings based on caloric intake, the highest-impact group still represented five times more emissions.

The researchers did not look specifically at how the beef was produced, which can influence its carbon footprint. “That information is not available on the dietary side,” Heller said. “People aren’t saying where their beef is coming from or how it was raised. It was just beef.”

Where Do Those Emissions Come From?

Agriculture accounts for about 9 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the USDA and Environmental Protection Agency. Globally, food production is responsible for 30 percent of total emissions.

Of the 14.5 percent of global emissions from the livestock industry, more than two-thirds come from beef, largely from fertilizer used to grow grain and from cattle belching.
The study notes research that says dietary choices will become critical to meeting emissions targets under the Paris climate agreement as global demand for food rises with a growing population.

source: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/20032018/beef-climate-impact-cows-carbon-footprint-methane-greenhouse-gas-emissions-diet-data?utm_source=InsideClimate+News&utm_campaign=87e80811f5-Weekly+Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_29c928ffb5-87e80811f5-327824881

Sugar gets taxed in some countries. Could meat be next?

by Georgina Gustin, InsideClimate News

December 13th, 2017

If Americans and people in most other developed countries ate according to their nationally recommended dietary guidelines, they would consume less red meat and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are fueling climate change, new research shows.
But the world’s consumers don’t always eat what their government nutritionists tell them. So it might take a little more prodding—and that prodding could be on the way.

This week, the two-year-old investment network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) released a report saying that countries could begin taxing meat—the way they tax sugar, alcohol or tobacco—to drive down consumption and to hit their carbon emissions targets under the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

A few countries, including Germany, Denmark and Sweden, have considered behavioral, or “sin taxes,” on meat, but the taxes haven’t yet gained support. This type of tax aims to cut meat consumption for health reasons—reducing the healthcare costs associated with a high-fat, animal-based diet—as well as for environmental reasons.

“Agriculture emissions alone will be so high by 2050, that that alone will push temperatures above 2 degrees,” said FAIRR Director Maria Lettini, referring to the target set in Paris of limiting warming to at most 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. “We think, in the absence of other interventions, this is one that should be in the basket of tools.”

FAIRR has a clear objective of steering its investor network, which it describes as managing $4 trillion in assets, away from factory farming over animal welfare concerns. Its report acknowledges that the concept of a meat tax is “at an embryonic stage,” but says “it is on a clear path that ends with taxation in some form.”

“We do see some similarities with what happened with sugar and tobacco,” Lettini said. “Because investors are always worried about what’s coming down the pipeline in terms of regulation.” At least 16 countries have recently imposed taxes on sugar, for example, the report says.

Lettini conceded, “This is not going to be without contention”—a view echoed by agricultural economists in the U.S.

“It would face a lot of opposition,” explained Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri. “A tax on meat would reduce meat consumption. Lower prices for livestock and poultry would reduce meat production. Less meat production would reduce feed demand, and thus the prices for corn, soybeans and other crops. Farm income would fall.”

Dietary Standards Can Already Cut Emissions

Currently, to the extent that countries influence how their citizens eat, they issue voluntary nutrition standards, and increasingly those standards—particularly in developed countries—are calling for a reduction in red meat consumption to varying degrees.

A report issued earlier this month by researchers in the Netherlands took a first-ever, country-by-country and overall look at the greenhouse gas reductions—or potential increases—if consumers actually followed those guidelines.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the average diets of people in 37 countries, representing 64 percent of the world’s population, and compared those diets to the government-recommended diets. The researchers put that information into a massive database that allowed them to track the environmental impacts of producing food through the supply chain, from growing to transporting it.

The lead researcher of the study, Paul Behrens of the University of Leiden, and his colleagues found that adhering to government-recommended diets could lead to a drop in emission of up to nearly 25 percent in high-income countries, including in the U.S. (In lower-income countries, if consumers hewed to the dietary recommendations, emissions could go up because some developing countries’ recommendations urge more protein intake because of higher levels of malnutrition.)

Still, Behrens said, only four countries in his report mention environmental impacts in their nutritional recommendations, with Sweden’s the most progressive.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines, for example, make no mention of the environmental impacts of diet, despite discussions to factor in “sustainability” as the last version of the guidelines was being developed. This, critics said, was largely because of pressure from the meat industry.

“It’s fairly well known now, by the public and policy makers, that beef has huge environmental impacts,” Behrens said. “There may be a reason why some countries that have this in their guidelines don’t have those powerful groups.”

Agriculture Becomes a Big Player in Climate

The discussion comes as global appetite for animal-based food is soaring along with growing incomes in some countries, notably China. From 1993 to 2013, demand for animal products globally rose 62 percent, though population only rose 29 percent, Behrens’ report says.

As consumption goes up, animal agriculture—and agriculture more broadly—is becoming a bigger part of the conversation around climate targets. Food production accounts for as much as 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, including land use, deforestation, transportation and food waste; and livestock for about 14.5 percent.

At the international climate talks last month in Germany, agriculture-focused sessions were more prominent than in previous rounds.

“People are taking climate very seriously in agriculture,” said Bruce Campbell, director of the research program on climate change, agriculture and food security for the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), which tracks how many countries have focused on agriculture in their plans to meet the Paris targets.

That, FAIRR believes, means meat taxes could help some countries reach their emissions targets.

source: https://insideclimatenews.org/news/13122017/meat-tax-cut-greenhouse-gas-emissions-dietary-guidelines-climate-change