[hepr-vn] Don't Burn the Crops
vern.weitzel at gmail.com
Thu May 28 04:39:12 EST 2009
Perhaps a negative argument to swidden farming, which many have considered
a sustainable solution in the past. Any comments?
Don't Burn the Crops
— By Julia Whitty | Tue May 26, 2009 5:44 PM PST
Want a quick recipe for reducing Arctic ice melt fast? Stop burning northern
hemisphere farmlands and pasturelands.
New research finds that large-scale agricultural burning in Russia, Kazakhstan,
China, the US, Canada, and the Ukraine is melting Arctic ice.
The big contributor: Spring burning, when farmers torch crop residues and brush
to clear new land for crops and livestock. The black carbon soot produced by
these fires flows north, warms the surrounding air, and absorbs solar energy
when it falls on ice and snow.
How bad is the problem? Springtime burning may account for 30 percent of Arctic
warming to date.
The good news is there's an easy fix. Targeting these burns gets us a genuinely
fast reduction in temperature over the Arctic. Plus we know how to control these
pollutants right now. Just stop burning. Right now. Before the melting ice
rewires the oceanic currents delivering us the climate we're used to.
The research is part of POLARCAT, an international effort to track the transport
of pollutants into the Arctic from lower latitudes. Researchers were surprised
to find 50 smoke plumes that analysis of satellite images revealed came from
agricultural fires in Northern Kazakhstan and Southern Russia and from forest
fires in Southern Siberia. The emissions from these fires far outweighed those
from fossil fuels.
"These fires weren't part of our standard predictions, they weren't in our
models," says Daniel Jacob, a professor of atmospheric chemistry and
environmental engineering at Harvard.
Although global warming is largely the result of excess accumulation of carbon
dioxide, the Arctic is highly sensitive to short-lived pollutants like black
carbon. Forest fires, agricultural burning, primitive cookstoves, and diesel
fuel are the primary sources of black carbon.
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