The Kritic

Humans have burned 420 billion tonnes of carbon since the start of the industrial revolution. Half of it is still in the atmosphere.

Humans have burned 420 billion tonnes of carbon since the start of the industrial revolution. Half of it is still in the atmosphere.Reuters/Stringer

Getting climate change under control is a formidable, multifaceted challenge. Analysis by my colleagues and me suggests that staying within safe warming levels now requires removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The Conversation

The technology to do this is in its infancy and will take years, even decades, to develop, but our analysis suggests that this must be a priority. If pushed, operational large-scale systems should be available by 2050.

We created a simple climate model and looked at the implications of different levels of carbon in the ocean and the atmosphere. This lets us make projections about greenhouse warming, and see what we need to do to limit global warming to within 1.5℃ of pre-industrial temperatures – one of the ambitions of the 2015 Paris climate agreement.

To put the problem in perspective, here are some of the key numbers.

Humans have emitted 1,540 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide gas since the industrial revolution. To put it another way, that’s equivalent to burning enough coal to form a square tower 22 metres wide that reaches from Earth to the Moon.

Half of these emissions have remained in the atmosphere, causing a rise of CO₂ levels that is at least 10 times faster than any known natural increase during Earth’s long history. Most of the other half has dissolved into the ocean, causing acidification with its own detrimental impacts.

Although nature does remove CO₂, for example through growth and burial of plants and algae, we emit it at least 100 times faster than it’s eliminated. We can’t rely on natural mechanisms to handle this problem: people will need to help as well.

What’s the goal?

The Paris climate agreement aims to limit global warming to well below 2℃, and ideally no higher than 1.5℃. (Others say that 1℃ is what we should be really aiming for, although the world is already reaching and breaching this milestone.)

In our research, we considered 1℃ a better safe warming limit because any more would take us into the territory of the Eemian period, 125,000 years ago. For natural reasons, during this era the Earth warmed by a little more than 1℃. Looking back, we can see the catastrophic consequences of global temperatures staying this high over an extended period.

Sea levels during the Eemian period were up to 10 metres higher than present levels. Today, the zone within 10m of sea level is home to 10% of the world’s population, and even a 2m sea-level rise today would displace almost 200 million people.

Clearly, pushing towards an Eemian-like climate is not safe. In fact, with 2016 having been 1.2℃ warmer than the pre-industrial average, and extra warming locked in thanks to heat storage in the oceans, we may already have crossed the 1℃ average threshold. To keep warming below the 1.5℃ goal of the Paris agreement, it’s vital that we remove CO₂ from the atmosphere as well as limiting the amount we put in.

So how much CO₂ do we need to remove to prevent global disaster?

Are you a pessimist or an optimist?

Currently, humanity’s net emissions amount to roughly 37 gigatonnes of CO₂ per year, which represents 10 gigatonnes of carbon burned (a gigatonne is a billion tonnes). We need to reduce this drastically. But even with strong emissions reductions, enough carbon will remain in the atmosphere to cause unsafe warming.

Using these facts, we identified two rough scenarios for the future.

The first scenario is pessimistic. It has CO₂ emissions remaining stable after 2020. To keep warming within safe limits, we then need to remove almost 700 gigatonnes of carbon from the atmosphere and ocean, which freely exchange CO₂. To start, reforestation and improved land use can lock up to 100 gigatonnes away into trees and soils. This leaves a further 600 gigatonnes to be extracted via technological means by 2100.

Technological extraction currently costs at least US$150 per tonne. At this price, over the rest of the century, the cost would add up to US$90 trillion. This is similar in scale to current global military spending, which – if it holds steady at around US$1.6 trillion a year – will add up to roughly US$132 trillion over the same period.

The second scenario is optimistic. It assumes that we reduce emissions by 6% each year starting in 2020. We then still need to remove about 150 gigatonnes of carbon.

As before, reforestation and improved land use can account for 100 gigatonnes, leaving 50 gigatonnes to be technologically extracted by 2100. The cost for that would be US$7.5 trillion by 2100 – only 6% of the global military spend.

Of course, these numbers are a rough guide. But they do illustrate the crossroads at which we find ourselves.

The job to be done

Right now is the time to choose: without action, we’ll be locked into the pessimistic scenario within a decade. Nothing can justify burdening future generations with this enormous cost.

For success in either scenario, we need to do more than develop new technology. We also need new international legal, policy, and ethical frameworks to deal with its widespread use, including the inevitable environmental impacts.

Releasing large amounts of iron or mineral dust into the oceans could remove CO₂ by changing environmental chemistry and ecology. But doing so requires revision of international legal structures that currently forbid such activities.

Similarly, certain minerals can help remove CO₂ by increasing the weathering of rocks and enriching soils. But large-scale mining for such minerals will impact on landscapes and communities, which also requires legal and regulatory revisions.

And finally, direct CO₂ capture from the air relies on industrial-scale installations, with their own environmental and social repercussions.

Without new legal, policy, and ethical frameworks, no significant advances will be possible, no matter how great the technological developments. Progressive nations may forge ahead toward delivering the combined package.

The costs of this are high. But countries that take the lead stand to gain technology, jobs, energy independence, better health, and international gravitas.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
By Eelco Rohling, Professor of Ocean and Climate Change, Australian National University
Read the original article.

Please follow and like us:
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
https://thekritic.net/2017/04/we-need-to-get-rid-of-carbon-in-the-atmosphere-not-just-reduce-the-emissions/

I wish to preface this post by stating that the references made to the Australian Bush Meat trade in this post are only included as a condition of republishing this material as I feel the rest of the article has merit. I do not condone or support the commercial Bush Meat trade in any way and I encourage all readers to do the same.

Being vegetarian saves cows' lives, but threatens the future of other sentient creatures.

Being vegetarian saves cows' lives, but threatens the future of other sentient creatures.nunro

The ethics of eating red meat have been grilled recently by critics who question its consequences for environmental health and animal welfare. But if you want to minimise animal suffering and promote more sustainable agriculture, adopting a vegetarian diet might be the worst possible thing you could do.

Renowned ethicist Peter Singer says if there is a range of ways of feeding ourselves, we should choose the way that causes the least unnecessary harm to animals. Most animal rights advocates say this means we should eat plants rather than animals.

It takes somewhere between two to ten kilos of plants, depending on the type of plants involved, to produce one kilo of animal. Given the limited amount of productive land in the world, it would seem to some to make more sense to focus our culinary attentions on plants, because we would arguably get more energy per hectare for human consumption. Theoretically this should also mean fewer sentient animals would be killed to feed the ravenous appetites of ever more humans.

But before scratching rangelands-produced red meat off the “good to eat” list for ethical or environmental reasons, let’s test these presumptions.

Published figures suggest that, in Australia, producing wheat and other grains results in:

  • at least 25 times more sentient animals being killed per kilogram of useable protein
  • more environmental damage, and
  • a great deal more animal cruelty than does farming red meat.

How is this possible?

Agriculture to produce wheat, rice and pulses requires clear-felling native vegetation. That act alone results in the deaths of thousands of Australian animals and plants per hectare. Since Europeans arrived on this continent we have lost more than half of Australia’s unique native vegetation, mostly to increase production of monocultures of introduced species for human consumption.

Most of Australia’s arable land is already in use. If more Australians want their nutritional needs to be met by plants, our arable land will need to be even more intensely farmed. This will require a net increase in the use of fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and other threats to biodiversity and environmental health. Or, if existing laws are changed, more native vegetation could be cleared for agriculture (an area the size of Victoria plus Tasmania would be needed to produce the additional amount of plant-based food required).

Australian cattle eat mostly pasture, reducing their environmental impact.

Australian cattle eat mostly pasture, reducing their environmental impact.chris runoff

Most cattle slaughtered in Australia feed solely on pasture. This is usually rangelands, which constitute about 70% of the continent.

Grazing occurs on primarily native ecosystems. These have and maintain far higher levels of native biodiversity than croplands. The rangelands can’t be used to produce crops, so production of meat here doesn’t limit production of plant foods. Grazing is the only way humans can get substantial nutrients from 70% of the continent.

In some cases rangelands have been substantially altered to increase the percentage of stock-friendly plants. Grazing can also cause significant damage such as soil loss and erosion. But it doesn’t result in the native ecosystem “blitzkrieg” required to grow crops.

This environmental damage is causing some well-known environmentalists to question their own preconceptions. British environmental advocate George Monbiot, for example, publicly converted from vegan to omnivore after reading Simon Fairlie’s expose about meat’s sustainability. And environmental activist Lierre Keith documented the awesome damage to global environments involved in producing plant foods for human consumption.

In Australia we can also meet part of our protein needs using sustainably wild-harvested kangaroo meat. Unlike introduced meat animals, they don’t damage native biodiversity. They are soft-footed, low methane-producing and have relatively low water requirements. They also produce an exceptionally healthy low-fat meat.

In Australia 70% of the beef produced for human consumption comes from animals raised on grazing lands with very little or no grain supplements. At any time, only 2% of Australia’s national herd of cattle are eating grains in feed lots; the other 98% are raised on and feeding on grass. Two-thirds of cattle slaughtered in Australia feed solely on pasture.

To produce protein from grazing beef, cattle are killed. One death delivers (on average, across Australia’s grazing lands) a carcass of about 288 kilograms. This is approximately 68% boneless meat which, at 23% protein equals 45kg of protein per animal killed. This means 2.2 animals killed for each 100kg of useable animal protein produced.

Producing protein from wheat means ploughing pasture land and planting it with seed. Anyone who has sat on a ploughing tractor knows the predatory birds that follow you all day are not there because they have nothing better to do. Ploughing and harvesting kill small mammals, snakes, lizards and other animals in vast numbers. In addition, millions of mice are poisoned in grain storage facilities every year.

However, the largest and best-researched loss of sentient life is the poisoning of mice during plagues.

Each area of grain production in Australia has a mouse plague on average every four years, with 500-1000 mice per hectare. Poisoning kills at least 80% of the mice.

At least 100 mice are killed per hectare per year (500/4 × 0.8) to grow grain. Average yields are about 1.4 tonnes of wheat/hectare; 13% of the wheat is usable protein. Therefore, at least 55 sentient animals die to produce 100kg of usable plant protein: 25 times more than for the same amount of rangelands beef.

Some of this grain is used to “finish” beef cattle in feed lots (some is food for dairy cattle, pigs and poultry), but it is still the case that many more sentient lives are sacrificed to produce usable protein from grains than from rangelands cattle.

There is a further issue to consider here: the question of sentience – the capacity to feel, perceive or be conscious.

You might not think the billions of insects and spiders killed by grain production are sentient, though they perceive and respond to the world around them. You may dismiss snakes and lizards as cold-blooded creatures incapable of sentience, though they form pair bonds and care for their young. But what about mice?

Mice are far more sentient than we thought. They sing complex, personalised love songs to each other that get more complex over time. Singing of any kind is a rare behaviour among mammals, previously known only to occur in whales, bats and humans.

Girl mice, like swooning human teenagers, try to get close to a skilled crooner. Now researchers are trying to determine whether song innovations are genetically programmed or or whether mice learn to vary their songs as they mature.

Hoping to prepare them for an ethical oversight

“Hoping to prepare them for an ethical oversight”Nikkita Archer

Baby mice left in the nest sing to their mothers — a kind of crying song to call them back. For every female killed by the poisons we administer, on average five to six totally dependent baby mice will, despite singing their hearts out to call their mothers back home, inevitably die of starvation, dehydration or predation.

When cattle, kangaroos and other meat animals are harvested they are killed instantly. Mice die a slow and very painful death from poisons. From a welfare point of view, these methods are among the least acceptable modes of killing. Although joeys are sometimes killed or left to fend for themselves, only 30% of kangaroos shot are females, only some of which will have young (the industry’s code of practice says shooters should avoid shooting females with dependent young). However, many times this number of dependent baby mice are left to die when we deliberately poison their mothers by the millions.

Replacing red meat with grain products leads to many more sentient animal deaths, far greater animal suffering and significantly more environmental degradation. Protein obtained from grazing livestock costs far fewer lives per kilogram: it is a more humane, ethical and environmentally-friendly dietary option.

So, what does a hungry human do? Our teeth and digestive system are adapted for omnivory. But we are now challenged to think about philosophical issues. We worry about the ethics involved in killing grazing animals and wonder if there are other more humane ways of obtaining adequate nutrients.

Relying on grains and pulses brings destruction of native ecosystems, significant threats to native species and at least 25 times more deaths of sentient animals per kilogram of food. Most of these animals sing love songs to each other, until we inhumanely mass-slaughter them.

Former Justice of the High Court, the Hon. Michael Kirby, wrote that:

“In our shared sentience, human beings are intimately connected with other animals. Endowed with reason and speech, we are uniquely empowered to make ethical decisions and to unite for social change on behalf of others that have no voice. Exploited animals cannot protest about their treatment or demand a better life. They are entirely at our mercy. So every decision of animal welfare, whether in Parliament or the supermarket, presents us with a profound test of moral character”.

We now know the mice have a voice, but we haven’t been listening.

The challenge for the ethical eater is to choose the diet that causes the least deaths and environmental damage. There would appear to be far more ethical support for an omnivorous diet that includes rangeland-grown red meat and even more support for one that includes sustainably wild-harvested kangaroo.

Thanks to many colleagues including Rosie Cooney, Peter Ampt, Grahame Webb, Bob Beale, Gordon Grigg, John Kelly, Suzanne Hand, Greg Miles, Alex Baumber, George Wilson, Peter Banks, Michael Cermak, Barry Cohen, Dan Lunney, Ernie Lundelius Jr and anonymous referees of the Australian Zoologist paper who provided helpful critiques.

The ConversationAt the time of original publication Mike Archer AM did not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and had no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
By Mike Archer AM, Professor, Evolution of Earth & Life Systems Research Group at UNSW Australia
Read the original article.

Please follow and like us:
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
https://thekritic.net/2014/09/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands/

O2 Bar

O² Bar Oxygen Station – Darling HarbourPhoto: Tee Kay

Thomas Henry (26 October 1734 – 18 June 1816) was a surgeon, apothecary and Fellow of the Royal Society of England. In 1776 he speculated, tongue in cheek, that Joseph Priestly’s newly discovered dephlogisticated air (now called oxygen) might become “as fashionable as French wine at the fashionable taverns”. He did not expect, however, that tavern goers would “relish calling for a bottle of Air, instead of Claret”[1]

Well to some extent that is exactly what is happening. Bring on the O² Bar, the first of which opened in Toronto, Canada, in 1996 and now we have two here in Australia and more on the way.

For around $1 per minute an O² Bar is a kiosk that offers internet access (via iPads) and “non-medical” oxygen which, in Australia, is 90% oxygen mixed with various aromas and comes complete with claims, including at least two of which are therapeutic, of:

  • increased energy
  • an uplifted refreshing feeling
  • clearing the mind
  • relief of toxic headaches such as hangovers
  • relief of stress
  • promotion of higher concentration levels
  • detoxification
  • anti-aging properties.

Of the four primary layers of atmosphere it is Earth’s troposphere which contains the air we inhale and it is roughly composed of:

  • 78% nitrogen
  • 21% oxygen
  • 0.96% argon
  • 0.04% carbon dioxide, helium, water, and other gases

Whilst oxygen is the essential component of all breathing gases the use of O2 bars may well be just an expensive way to browse the internet. According to Wikipedia, “…no long-term, well-controlled scientific studies have confirmed any of the proponents’ claims. Furthermore, the human body is adapted to 21 percent oxygen, and the blood exiting the lungs already has about 97 percent of the oxygen that it could carry bound to hemoglobin(sic). Having a higher oxygen fraction in the lungs serves no purpose, and may actually be detrimental.”[2]

Hyperoxia results from breathing high partial pressures of oxygen causing an excess of oxygen in body tissues and can lead to oxygen toxicity. Oxygen toxicity is characterised by visual and hearing abnormalities, unusual fatigue, muscular twitching, anxiety, confusion, in-coordination, and convulsions.

In the United States of America the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, states that any type of oxygen used by people for breathing and administered by another person is a prescription drug. Therefore the drug oxygen is covered by Section 201(g)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) (21 U.S.C. 321(g)(1)).[3] and Oxygen bars are prohibited from making medical claims in relation to supplementary Oxygen.

In Canada, the Canadian Society of Respiratory Therapists simply says that “As health professionals, we cannot ethically or morally support providing oxygen therapy to those who do not require it”

In Australia the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which is part of the Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing, is responsible for regulating therapeutic goods including medicines, medical devices, blood and blood products. The TGA website states “Essentially, any product for which therapeutic claims are made must be listed, registered or included in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) before it can be supplied in Australia.”[4]

According to the TGA document “Australian medical devices guidance document number 35”[5] there is no mention of a division between medical or non-medical oxygen and as such it is referred to simply as “Oxygen”. The status for oxygen in the ARTG is that of “Medicine”, which certainly gives at least the appearance that regardless of its source the supply of oxygen is covered by TGA regulations and especially when any therapeutic claims are made.

When initially approached for a statement regarding Oxygen Bars a ‘spokeswoman’ for the TGA advised The Kritic that “Oxygen gas may only be considered a medicine if it is intended for therapeutic purposes.” Apropos the previously listed claims of relief of headaches and relief of stress would indeed see the oxygen supplied by an O² Bar as meeting the definition of a therapeutic good, or so you would think. The TGA have this little rider hidden within their regulations – “Some products, even though they may technically meet the definition of a therapeutic good, are declared not to be therapeutic goods under section 7 of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989.

The ‘spokeswoman’ continued with “The oxygen bar products do not appear to use medical grade (regulated) oxygen, and would therefore be considered non-therapeutic oxygen. Even products used to deliver non-therapeutic oxygen, such as a mask or tube, would not be considered a therapeutic product, and would therefore not be regulated by the TGA.” Medical grade (regulated) oxygen?? According to their own document – “Australian medical devices guidance document number 35” there is no division between medical or non-medical oxygen or any other flavour of oxygen.

The response finished with a suggestion that The Kritic take it up with State authorities of which three were suggested:

1. NSW Health Department
2. Department of Fair Trading
3. ACCC – Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (Which is actually a federal body.)

After explaining the reason for my enquiry I had quite a lengthy discussion with a spokesperson for the NSW Health Department – Pharmserv division and he stated categorically that Oxygen is not listed as a poison therefore this matter does not fall under the purview of the NSW Health Department. Additionally he stated that “given the proponents are making quite obvious therapeutic claims that I should take the matter back to the TGA.”

Fair Trading NSW basically gave me the same run around, it is nothing to do with them unless I can prove the misleading claims and suggested it would be better if I took it up with the TGA as the governance of goods making therapeutic claims lies with that department.

The ACCC simply stated that this is not a matter for the ACCC and suggested, as with the other departments, that I take the matter with the TGA.

In a further enquiry to the TGA, The Kritic pointed out the incongruity between the statement provided and the information from the website. It was also pointed out that the above three departments, those recommended by the TGA, state that governance of this matter lies with the TGA. The following question was also included: “Is the TGA now prepared to assess, for safety or efficacy, the therapeutic benefits claimed by Oxygen Bars?” To which the following response was received: “Our original response to you stands.”

So if you decide to patronise one of these Oxygen Bars and spend $60.00 an hour on flavour infused oxygen do so with the knowledge that there is no department in Australia overseeing the use of Oxygen or Oxygen supply products and the ingredients of the various aromas in these premises and despite the fact that relevant agencies overseas have misgivings over the use of excess oxygen and the contents of some or all of the aromas nobody here seems to give a damn.

[1] Wikipedia – Thomas Henry (apothecary) – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Henry_(apothecary)
[2] O2 bar Health _benefit claims – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O2_bar#Health_benefit_claims
[3] Section 201(g)(1) of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act) (21 U.S.C. 321(g)(1)) – http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Guidances/ucm124716.htm#GLOSSARY
[4] Therapeutic Goods Administration – http://www.tga.gov.au/about/tga.htm
[5] Australian medical devices guidance document number 35 (Page 9, 5. Body fluid replacements and nutrients: Oxygen & other medical gases Status for ARTG: Medicine) – http://www.tga.gov.au/pdf/devices-guidelines-35.pdf

Please follow and like us:
Facebook
Twitter
Google+
https://thekritic.net/2014/01/oxygenating-your-internet-time/