Animal Agriculture’s Generation of Deadly Black Carbon   
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Greetings, eco-loving viewers, and welcome to Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. On today’s program we examine the effects of the short-lived climate forcer, Black Carbon, on ice masses and planetary warming, and the role that animal agriculture and deforestation for livestock raising play in intensifying Black Carbon’s impact.

Black Carbon, also known as soot, is a powerful warming agent that originates from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels, diesel exhaust, inefficient cook stoves mainly used in developing countries burning biomass such as dried dung, wood, brush, or crop residue as fuel, and the clearing forests and savannas with fire. When the Black Carbon particles are airborne, they have an intense warming effect, but have an even greater impact when they are deposited on ice masses.

This is a major concern and why Black Carbon emissions need to be addressed immediately. Its atmospheric lifespan ranges from one to four weeks and its Global Warming Potential (GWP) over a 20-year timeframe, has been calculated to be between a staggering 1,600 to 4,700 times the warming-power of carbon dioxide.

Black Carbon’s warming effect occurs in two ways: (1) In the atmosphere as black particles absorb sunlight and generate heat; and, (2) Particles are deposited on the Earth’s surface, in particular on ice masses where they reduce the ability of the ice to reflect sunlight back into space and cause rapid melting by generating heat from absorbing sunlight.

Professor Jefferson Simões is the director of the Brazilian National Institute for Cryospheric Sciences and a National Delegate to the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). He created the first national laboratory in Brazil dedicated to glaciology and geographical polar research, and recently gave an informative presentation on the presence of Black Carbon in Antarctica and its effect on ice masses at the November 3, 2010 Leaders Preserving Our Future: Pace and Priorities on Climate Change conference in London, UK.

We know that they (Black Carbon particles) are spread from Arctic to Antarctica, elsewhere in the world. They are very tiny particles between 0.01 to 1 microns in the atmosphere.

It stays in the atmosphere just a couple of weeks but is available to disperse at longer ranges. BC, or black carbon, belongs to short-lived pollutants. And then comes the most important point: it’s the second most important contributor to global warming. In fact, the potential of black carbon is estimated to have a 55% of the radiative forcing effect of carbon dioxide.

So, the thing that we have in this picture here is the main places that we have biomass burning at the moment in the year 2009. As you can see, mainly in the subtropical and tropics, not only in South America, but also in Africa and Australia and some countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, and others in Southeast Asia. And, so, we can place the following question, how can this kind of material be transported to Antarctica? It seems a long way.

For the last 10 years, we have changed our idea about the transport of air masses from South America, or from the tropics of South America, to Antarctica. By now we know that cyclonic activity is able to transport materials in a short time, in a week or so, from the main areas of biomass burning, to the south and then mainly to the northernmost part of Antarctica, that is the Antarctica Peninsula.

Professor Simões has been on several research expeditions to the Antarctic Peninsula and has seen significant, worrisome changes.

Over the last 20 years in Antarctica we have observed several modifications in the northernmost part of that continent, that’s known as the Antarctica Peninsula. We observed in the last 20 years the melt of the glaciers, the collapse of the ice shelves, and that more than 20,000 square kilometers of ice shelves of the Antarctic Peninsula have disappeared.

(There have been) migrations of different species further south like some penguins. Grass is appearing on some islands that didn’t have it before. In short, we are observing the further shifting south of the isotherms, of the lines of the same temperature.

Antarctica contains 90% of the world's water glaciers. The rapid melting of these ice masses means serious consequences for those living in coastal areas and on low-lying islands, and also for food security. The World Bank estimates that just a one meter rise in sea level will inundate Asia's rice-growing river deltas. Many islands would disappear, such as Kiribati, the Maldives, and Tuvalu because their highest points are only two meters above sea level.

We’re approaching a number of tipping points very quickly that could involve the melting of the ice sheets and all London New York even Washington DC could be inundated and so forth that goes on irreversibly and of course all sorts of feedback effects particularly within the Arctic, the thawing of the tundra that essentially feeds on itself, a kind of metastatic climate change. And many of these things are likely to happen in the lifetime of many of us right here.

Notable initiatives that have been proposed for mitigating Black Carbon include replacing polluting cook stoves with cleaner, more efficient ones, and installing filters on the exhausts of diesel vehicles. These will play an important role in improving air quality, addressing health concerns and abating a portion of the warming.

However, massive reductions in Black Carbon can be made by addressing open burning of agricultural lands, in particular fires lit to clear forests and control vegetation regrowth for livestock grazing.

It’s clear that, nowadays the greatest part of the deforestation, biomass burning in South America, comes from the expansion of the cash crops and cattle farming. The thing that we are seeing is that the farming frontier is moving further North over the Brazilian Savannah that’s known as Cerrado, towards the Amazon forest.

Halting the warming of the ice masses is an absolute necessity in the challenge to stabilize the climate of our planetary home. What is agriculture’s, in particular livestock farming’s, role in all this?

About half or 47 to 61% to be exact of the Black Carbon in Antarctica is attributable to livestock pasture management.

Until recently Mr. Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop worked as a principal scientist with a remote sensing science team responsible for mapping tree clearing via satellite imagery in Queensland, Australia. Now Mr. Wedderburn-Bisshop is Senior Scientist for the World Preservation Foundation and recently gave a presentation at a December 8, 2010 conference entitled Black Carbon and Short-Lived GHG (Greenhouse Gas) Mitigation held in Cancún, Mexico.

Seventy percent of global agricultural land is used for livestock. Much of the trees cleared and feed crops undergo repeated burning. So it’s a source of many things. It’s a source of methane. It’s a source of soil carbon loss. And of course, fire. This is a map here of the world’s deforestation. You know what’s happening in South America. You know Sub-Saharan Africa. You know that Indonesia and Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are being deforested at a large rate.

This is, two 10-day periods taken from the last few months. You can see that the world is burning, South America, Africa, in different places, different times, Southeast Asia, Australia is burning, and some up in Russia there. Okay, the pattern of fire matches the pattern of deforestation, no surprises. Fire retards the growth and maintains the pasture.

Mr. Wedderburn-Bisshop and his team of researchers made an astounding discovery about animal agriculture’s connection to the melting of West Antarctica.

West Antarctica is the fastest warming place on Earth. The melting there is happening at an alarming rate and they’re discovering much to the surprise of researchers that the Black Carbon is also there in large quantities. Most from South America, some from Africa and some also from India.

The Black Carbon is most concentrated in the Antarctic Peninsula and Western Antarctica, both of which are warming at rates far exceeding the global average. If we attribute the Black Carbon in the same proportion as the deforestation, remember that 80% of Amazon deforestation is for grazing and livestock feed, and in Africa 70% of the burning of the open fires are for livestock farming, for pasture maintenance.

We see that when we add the South American and African proportions, about half or 47 to 61% to be exact of the Black Carbon in Antarctica is attributable to livestock pasture management. This suggests that grazing practices are the most significant Black Carbon contributors to Antarctic melting.

The shorter-lived agents are the ones that we must address if we’re going to reduce the warming of this planet in the short term, which is all we’ve got.

The impact of livestock production is enormous. First of all we have the direct emissions of methane from the enteric fermentation, the largest part of all methane production on the planet. Secondly we have deforestation, which takes away the CO2 directly, and the burning to maintain that pasture, it also produces Black Carbon and CO2 directly. Now after you take away the forest the soil carbon also depletes, long term.

So the other effect is that livestock produce quite a bit of tropospheric ozone, and that’s produced mainly by methane production. So if we reduce the methane production we can control the ozone, the tropospheric ozone production, which is a major warmer. This is producing 20% of the warming of carbon dioxide. So if you add all those together the impact of livestock production is enormous.

Deeply concerned about the state of our planet, Supreme Master Ching Hai on many occasions has highlighted the urgent need to limit Black Carbon emissions and that ending livestock raising is the most effective solution to dramatically lessen levels of soot and reverse climate change.

NASA scientists are paying increasing attention to another very serious source of global warming - that is, black carbon. It is 4,000-plus times more heat-trapping than CO2.

The majority of the black carbon particles in Antarctica are coming from where? South American rainforests that are burned for the livestock industry. Now we’re going somewhere! We must urgently address methane and black carbon, both outcomes of the meat industry, immediately we have to tackle it. I pray all wise leaders will halt the lethal meat practice, which is the main force driving us to the point of no return right now.

Our heartfelt thanks, Professor Jefferson Simões, John Topping, Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop, and Supreme Master Ching Hai for alerting the public to the tremendous dangers posed by Black Carbon and your steadfast advocacy for significantly reducing soot emissions right away.

It is clearly evident that animal agriculture is an enormously detrimental practice for countless reasons and must be halted now so that we can heal and restore planet Earth to her natural order. May humankind quickly awaken and adopt the nature-supporting and life-affirming organic vegan diet.

For more details about the organizations today’s guests represent, please visit the following websites
Professor Jefferson Simões of the Brazilian National Institute for Cryospheric Sciences (Part of the Brazilian Ministry of Science and Technology)
John C. Topping of the Climate Institute
Gerard Wedderburn-Bisshop of the World Preservation Foundation

Thank you for joining us today on Planet Earth: Our Loving Home. Enlightening Entertainment is next, following Noteworthy News. Through noble and wise stewardship may our world soon return to its natural harmony and equilibrium.

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