Rx for ‘climate change’ | TheFencePost.com

Rx for ‘climate change’

By Bill Bennett, Powell, Wyo.

Tiring of hearing the drum beat chant of “CO2,” “CO2 emissions,” “CO2 and climate change,” I decided to refresh my long in the tooth memory as to CO2’s role in the grand scheme of things.  A quick review of atmospheric gases found nitrogen at 78%, oxygen at 21%, argon at just less than 1% have remained relatively unchanged. CO2 on the other hand has risen by 0.01 to 0.02% depending on the author cited and is now at approximately 0.037%. It is this increase that purportedly contributes dire consequences relative to climate change and global warming. In other words, we are gravely concerned as to an amount equal to one to two pennies out of a 10 dollar bill. 

A plethora of articles, newscasts, and activists’ rants attempt to document the offenders and all the CO2 they are releasing into the atmosphere. By inference you would think there is a huge CO2 landfill at 40,000 feet that will last forever and is getting thicker. Maybe it will even block the sun some day!

Wait a minute! I think third grade science said plants use that stuff to make sugars and starches. Later in junior high and high school you study the carbon cycle that reveals the relationship between the atmosphere, plants, animals and long term deposits of carbon such as in fossil fuels. So it doesn’t just hang up there in the atmosphere. Oh, that’s right, most schools don’t teach that anymore! So essentially plants use the CO2 as fuel and ‘exhaust’ — wait for it — oxygen.

Now we all know oxygen is essential to animal life. They breathe it in, utilize it in metabolism, and exhale CO2 as a waste product. They then consume the sugars, starches and proteins from both animal and plant sources and build bodies onto primarily carbon skeletons. That captured carbon remains until they are consumed and digested as food or die and decompose releasing the carbon as CO2.

So if CO2 levels are increasing, what’s happening with oxygen? It has remained relatively stable in spite of oxygen demand increasing over the last 100-plus years. That demand is predominantly driven by global population increase, fuel consumption to meet their needs and to an extent animal production systems to feed them. So where did the extra oxygen come from… increased agriculture production? As food demand grew, farmers responded with some increase in acreage but mostly from scientific and technological advances that enhanced their output to meet a growing demand. In so doing they increased oxygen output and met the majority of the increase in oxygen demand. 

So if agriculture has the ability to capture carbon and produce oxygen, then therein lies the solution, support farming and ranching as if your life depended on it for it really does not only act as a food source but also addresses environmental quality.

If one goes on-line in search of sound scientific articles on agricultural practices in regard to their benefits to the environment, they are diluted in a sea of group think articles bemoaning the death of the environment. I specifically recall work done a number of years ago that documented the amount of oxygen produced per acre of crop grown. It was rather astounding the amount of O2 produced and I do remember an alfalfa field seemed to top the list. I can no longer find that research article. I did find though, an interesting NASA graphic in that regard in which imagery showed the Midwest U.S. from roughly the Missouri River into the Ohio Valley was producing as much oxygen during their growing seasons as would be produced in the Amazon jungle. So if oxygen is being produced then CO2 is being utilized and carbon captured.

Take that approach in an online search, carbon capture, and all kinds of positive articles pop up. In reviewing them, I find it rather hypocritical that those that blast farmers and ranchers as greenhouse gas polluters are willing to pay them for carbon credits. That just doesn’t make sense. To illustrate that point I chose four specific articles that show the only viable solution to climate change while maintaining resources to support an ever expanding population.

Capturing carbon with crops, trees and bioenergy; Phil Robertson of Michigan State University in collaboration with others at Colorado State University and the University of Aberdeen in the U.K. studied combining the above entities and adopting practices known to reduce greenhouse gases resulted in advantages larger that even expected. “A 50% increase in the capacity for changes in land management to capture carbon dioxide is big, especially because we currently lack other affordable options for doing so. We’re confident that an integrated approach that combines bioenergy and advanced management of crop, forest and grazing lands can provide climate benefits far greater than previously realized.”

Carbon capture: a win-win for farmers and the planet; Brett Begemann, COO, Crop Science Division of Bayer. Begemann noted a UN report that stated global agriculture and forestry accounts for nearly 23 percent of human greenhouse gas emissions. However, farms and forests also absorb about one-third of the carbon dioxide emissions coming from fossil fuels and industrial activities. I would view that as a 10% positive advantage provided by those farms and forests. He then goes on to introduce a program they are sponsoring with farmers to help them generate carbon credits. His comment relative to their program is sound in stating, “It’s as simple as if it’s good for farmers, then it will be good for society.”

Tong Wang and Stephen Cheye of South Dakota State University Extension do a nice concise job of explaining the types of carbon markets in their article Carbon Markets and Opportunities for Farmers. They further note practices that qualify farmers for payment typically include cover crops, conservation tillage, nitrogen optimization, diversified crop rotations, improved grazing and increased biodiversity. They continue granting that some programs also provide payment for practices that were adopted in the past. Key point is though, that all of these practices are carbon capture (solution) not emissions (problem). 

Cows & Carbon what’s all the Hype?; Levi McPhillips, PhD. Great Plains Livestock Consultants, Inc. in Feedlot magazine, Feb. 2023; The author states “New research also shows that agricultural practices using minimal tillage, crop rotations, and grazing strategies could help increase soil carbon and sequester 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions.” A key point within this article states, “New research has shown that year-over-year accumulation of carbon on grazing lands may be enough to offset all carbon emissions from beef production.” He then continued discussing potential credits and pricing. In addition, the article addresses some common misconceptions and future carbon markets and carbon taxes. The main takeaway is that well-managed ranching operations, just like their farmer neighbors, can be carbon capture sinks, not greenhouse gas emitters.

Nuf said! So to the overtly environmentally conscience and their like-minded, emotional, indoctrinated, uneducated crowd (they can’t help it, the teachers didn’t teach it) get to know some farmers and ranchers. They ARE the only viable solution, NOT the problem!

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