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Biodiversity for a Livable Climate:
Restoring Ecosystems to Reverse Global Warming
First Conference and International Action Week
November 2014

November 21-23, 2014
Tufts University
Medford, Massachusetts, USA (near Boston)
Details here.

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Biodiversity for a Livable Climate brings you information about decades of scientific research and the practical experience of land managers around the world.  We work to remedy the information gap in mainstream climate advocacy which tells us that virtually the only practical effective action we can take is to reduce fossil fuel emissions.  There is another way.

One foundational approach is Holistic Management as applied to billions of acres of grasslands worldwide, which soils have the potential to store enough carbon to reduce atmospheric carbon concentrations significantly.  In addition, we are fully supportive of reforestation, ocean regeneration and other restorative endeavors, all of which return essential health, climate stability and diversity to the biosphere.  

Based in the physical sciences, climate scientists generally do not yet recognize what life scientists and ecologists have long known: the power of life has molded almost every aspect of the physical earth, including the climate.  Wise human management of the biosphere can undo the eco-mess we have created, and regenerate a planet that we can live on.

While reducing emissions is of critical importance, there is far more that we can and must do, especially considering that emissions reductions efforts have failed to date and show little indication of turning around any time soon.  In fact, we have lost far more carbon to the atmosphere from soil disruption since the beginning of agriculture than we have added by burning gas, coal and oil.  We can take it out of the atmosphere and put it back into the ground. Continue reading

Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions Won’t End Global Warming

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by Jacqueline Sussman
Research Associate, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate

Solar panels on rooftops. Hybrid and electric vehicles. Meatless Mondays. What do all of these indicators of societal progress have in common? They are just some examples among the many symbolic, yet widely attainable, lifestyle modifiers for reducing energy consumption in our fossil fuel-addicted world. But while replacing SUVs with hybrid cars and changing lifestyle habits to reduce individual carbon footprints is important, it simply isn’t enough to reverse climate change. We have long surpassed the point where phasing down fossil fuel emissions alone will arrange for a biologically-diverse and livable climate.

Grid-connected PV and wind system

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A Call for Sanity

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By Helen D. Silver, Director of Policy, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate

In September, members of the United Nations will convene a round of climate change negotiations. It’s not hard to guess what is on the table: GHG emissions reductions – again. Albert Einstein is often credited with defining insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  After over two decades of unsuccessful efforts, yet another meeting focused primarily if not exclusively on emissions reductions would repeat an approach that holds little if any promise for success.

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Biodiversity for a Livable Climate (BLC) seeks to redirect the climate conversation to include large-scale carbon sequestration through ecosystem restoration.  Given that we know that healthy soils have the potential to sequester vast amounts of carbon dioxide, indeed enough to potentially reverse climate change, why haven’t policies seized upon this simple, apparent opportunity?  I have found the following questions helpful:

1.  Have GHG emissions reduction efforts reduced emissions?  Clearly not.  Despite admirable attempts and presumably sincere commitment, climate policies have resulted in little meaningful mitigation of the climate crisis.  Atmospheric concentrations of CO2 have climbed to 400 parts per million (ppm), far above what most scientists agree is the upper bound of a safe level.  Emissions continue rising annually, and all the while disruptions from climate change – in the form of rising temperatures, unpredictable water supplies, widespread drought and more violent storms – are being felt on every continent with ever-increasing frequency and intensity. Continue reading

Good news!

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The Paradigm Fence: Wish You Were Here, See You Soon!

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Changing the Climate Conversation

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by Steve Wineman

“Everything is connected to everything else.” - Barry Commoner, The Closing Circle

Like most climate activists, for a long time I thought that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were THE driving force behind climate change.  It followed that reducing emissions was our overriding goal. 

 A steady stream of messages from both the climate movement and the mainstream media are constantly reinforcing the perception that GHGs and the climate emergency are synonymous.  The most prominent activist organization is named after atmospheric carbon levels.  Even the climate deniers reinforce this focus when they react against the claims of scientists and activists  about carbon.  GHGs and what to do (or not do) about them frame the debate.

Biodiversity for a Livable Climate is dedicated to expanding the terms of the climate conversation.  We want to bring to the table measures for restoring degraded and desertified lands, re-establishing balanced water cycles, managing forests and reforestation, and restoring ocean food chains.  This is not instead of working to reduce GHG emissions, but in addition.  These are measures that have the potential to store huge amounts of carbon in the soil, reduce flooding and drought by stabilizing local climates, address the immediate dangers posed by the world’s diminished water supplies, restore habitable environments for innumerable species,  increase food supplies and create jobs.  Why would such measures not be on the climate table in addition to emission reduction?

Spanning the specific benefits of individual measures is the overarching need to restore the balance of Earth’s interconnected natural systems.  Why would we not place carbon reduction into this larger ecological context?

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I can think of several reasons why it’s not easy to change the conversation. Continue reading

Cool It! Water and the Climate Crisis

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By Judith Schwartz, Advisory Board Member and author of Cows Save the Planet

With a record drought in California, floods in the UK and snow paralyzing areas of the South that have hardly met a plow, people are starting to make the connection between climate change and water. But generally the cause-and-effect link only goes one way, noting how climate change will affect water by putting stress on global water sources while parts of the world get soaked. This is a real concern. But we’re not seeing the other part of the picture: the effect that water can have on climate. You see, water in its various forms is an important thermoregulator of climate. By working with the water cycle—most basically by keeping water on the land in soil and vegetation—we can address climate changes locally, regionally and even beyond.

thermals from park in Trebon new water paradigmPhotograph of the square and adjacent park in Trebon, Czech Republic, taken with a thermal camera. The differences in temperatures between the vegetation, facades and roofs of the houses – from 15°C (59°F) to 30°C (86°F) – are visible.
[From New Water Paradigm, p. 33]

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Carbon Farming: Paying for Results, Not for Data (Soils Are Far Too Important for a Commodities Market!)

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By Adam D. Sacks, Executive Director

At Biodiversity for a Livable Climate, removing carbon from the atmosphere by regenerating ecosystems and restoring biodiversity is our non-profit mission. Supporting farmers, herders and ranchers around the world to work in ways that both sequester carbon in soils and provide major benefits in productivity is a key means to that end. Unfortunately, the resources that carbon farmers need to accomplish this are currently in short supply. We need to develop a conceptual framework outside the current carbon-market mechanisms to advance the soil solution to global warming, and to provide funds, training and supplies that make worldwide carbon farming on billions of acres a reality.

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Why everyone – vegetarians and vegans included – should be passionate about Holistic Planned Grazing

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Helen D. Silver, Director of Policy, Biodiversity for a Livable Climate

Happy New Year!

fifties woman with meat

Over the holiday season, I had the luxury of sharing many meals with family and friends, including latkes and apple sauce; Tofurkey and yams; and locally caught shrimp and farm-raised oysters.  In discussing my work, I was asked several times, “But how can you not eat meat and be so passionate about Holistic Planned Grazing?”

Easily. Holistic Planned Grazing promotes reversing climate change, restoring grassland ecosystems, animal welfare, and healthier food.  That Holistic Planned Grazing offers a sustainable meat source is incidental for most ecological purposes, in particular restoring degraded land (notably, 74% of the land in North America).  Such restoration is necessary here and worldwide to avoid the worst impacts of climate change in the near and long term.

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Without vast tracts of grasslands, what can we do in New England?

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signal_lamb copyTo pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sequester it in soils, we need to restore biodiversity: that’s the foundation of the whole show. One of the most important visible elements from the perspective of ecosystems is to cover bare ground. Bare ground doesn’t absorb water, it breaks the water cycle, it interferes with the moderating effects of moisture on planetary temperature, it kills soil life, it fails to create carbon storing molecules created by green plants, fungi and microbes. This is less obvious in the relatively wet northeast than in the dry west, but still a real problem here.

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