Category Archives: Climate Change

Short-term profit misusing technical know-how beyond understanding of nature –Cosmos

Another Cosmos script Neil deGrasse Tyson read maybe he should have paid more attention to regarding the situation with short-sighted corporate monopolies misusing cherry-picked science to promote their profits at the expense of all of us and the only planet we’ve got.

Talking about the fall of the ancient Mesopotamia civilization, the script Dr. Tyson read for Cosmos Episode 11, The Immortals, says: Continue reading

N.deG. Tyson falls for the misuse of the authority of science that he decried in Cosmos

In his recent misstatements about GMO foods, Neil deGrasse Tyson has fallen for what he called the misuse of the authority of science, in Episode 7 of Cosmos, the Clean Room, which recounted Clair Patterson’s discovery of lead pollution by leaded gasoline. That use of lead had been promoted and defended by Robert E. Kehoe’s “scientific” papers.

The script Tyson read (but did not write) said: Continue reading

Higher climate temperatures mean more and faster tree deaths

Higher average temperatures acres of pine trees dead due to pine beetles mean much more frequent droughts and trees dying faster in droughts because of the temperatures. That plus pine beetles, according to research from 2009. Forestry is Georgia’s second largest industry in terms of employment and wages and salaries, more than $28 billion a year according to the Georgia Forestry Commission, plus an estimated $36 billion a year in ecosystem services such as water filtration, carbon storage, wildlife habitat, and aesthetics, not to mention hunting and fishing. Climate change matters to Georgia’s forests and to Georgia.

The paper appeared 13 April 2009 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences, Temperature sensitivity of drought-induced tree mortality portends increased regional die-off under global-change-type drought, by Henry D. Adams, Maite Guardiola-Claramonte, Greg A. Barron-Gafford, Juan Camilo Villegas, David D. Breshears, Chris B. Zou, Peter A. Troch, and Travis E. Huxman, 106(17) 7063-7066, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0901438106.

Fig. 1. Water relations progression and death dates.

All drought trees in the warmer treatment died before any of the drought trees in the ambient treatment (on average 18.0 vs. 25.1 weeks, P <0.01; Fig. 1A).

They say warmer trees dying faster in drought wasn’t due to a difference in amount of water. Instead, they infer the warmer trees couldn’t breathe.

Combined, our results provide experimental evidence that piñon pines attempted to avoid drought-induced mortality by regulating stomata and foregoing further photosynthesis but subsequently succumbed to drought due to carbon starvation, not sudden hydraulic failure. Importantly, we isolate the effect of temperature from other climate variables and biotic agents Fig. 3. Drought frequency and die-off projections. and show that the effect of warmer temperature in conjunction with drought can be substantial.

Our results imply that future warmer temperatures will not only increase background rates of tree mortality (13, 16), but also result in more frequent widespread vegetation die-off events (3, 35) through an exacerbation of metabolic stress associated with drought. With warmer temperatures, droughts of shorter duration—which occur more frequently—would be sufficient to cause widespread die-off.

How much more frequently? They calculated an estimate for that, too: five times more frequently. Of course, that’s for the specific kinds of forests they were studying, and the exact number may vary, but the general trend is clear: higher temperatures mean more frequent droughts, like drought in south Georgia the year-long drought we just experienced in south Georgia.

pine beetle tube

This projection is conservative because it is based on the historical drought record and therefore does not include changes in drought frequency, which is predicted to increase concurrently with warming (2, 37—39). In addition, populations of tree pests, such as bark beetles, which are often the proximal cause of mortality in this species and others, are also expected to increase with future warming (7, 9, 38).

Bark beetles, such as the ones that bored into this 19 inch slash pine and spread from there to twenty others I had to cut down to prevent further spread of the pine beetles. What happens when pine beetles spread is what you see in the first picture in this post: acres and acres of dead red pine trees. slash pine killed by pine beetles Monoculture slash pine plantations may show this effect most clearly, but look around here, and you’ll see red dead loblolly and longleaf pines, too.

The article is saying that if the beetles don’t get the trees weakened by droughts that will be much more frequent, the trees will die more quickly of suffocation, because the temperature is higher. Higher temperatures is something that should concern every Georgian in our state where forestry is the second largest industry and our forests protect our wildlife and the air that we breathe and the water that we drink.


John Quarterman on the Withlachoochee (audio)

Back at the end of March at a river conference in Roswell, Georgia, I was interviewed for a podcast. Here’s the audio, and here’s the blurb they included:

John Quarterman on the Withlachoochee
Monday, July 9th, 2012

John S. Quarterman was born and raised in Lowndes County, where he married his wife Gretchen. They live on the same land where he grew up, and participate in local community and government.

NPS talks with Quarterman and his observations on starting and strengthening a Withlachoochee Riverkeeper organization at Georgia River Network‘s 2012 Weekend for Rivers.

The water organization has since been incorporated as the Georgia non-profit WWALS Watershed Coalition:

WWALS is an advocacy organization working for watershed conservation of the Willacoochee, Withlacoochee, Alapaha, and Little River Systems watershed in south Georgia and north Florida through awareness, environmental monitoring, and citizen advocacy.


PS: They also recorded another podcast which starts out on what may sound like a completely different topic, but which is actually quite related.

Protracted extreme drought: U.S. Drought Monitor, 2012-05-08

Acording to U.S. Drought Monitor, drought throughout south Georgia and surrounding areas is either extreme or exceptional, and has been for months.

Here you can see detail for Georgia:

Continue reading

Organic farming as productive as pesticiding (proven yet again)

Rodale Institute has been running a side-by-side comparison of organic and chemical agriculture since 1981. They report:
After an initial decline in yields during the first few years of transition, the organic system soon rebounded to match or surpass the conventional system. Over time, FST became a comparison between the long term potential of the two systems.
Year after year, Rodale found:
Organic yields match conventional yields.

As Tom Philpott reported for Mother Jones 17 November 2011, Yet Again, Organic Ag Proves Just as Productive as Chemical Ag,

And now comes evidence from the very heart of Big Ag: rural Iowa, where Iowa State University’s Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture runs the Long-Term Agroecological Research Experiment (LTAR), which began in 1998, which has just released its latest results.

At the LTAR fields in Adair County, the (LTAR) runs four fields: one managed with the Midwest-standard two-year corn-soy rotation featuring the full range of agrochemicals; and the other ones organically managed with three different crop-rotation systems. The chart below records the yield averages of all the systems, comparing them to the average yields achieved by actual conventional growers in Adair County:

Norman Borlaug, instigator of the “green revolution” of no-till and pesticides, when asked in 2000 whether organic agriculture could feed the world, said: Continue reading