Environmental Questions and Answers for Petrol Fans (by Diego Fdez-Sevilla, PhD.)
I like engineering, wherever I see it. May be I like it because I see it everywhere. So, even though I am a Biologist, and not an engineer, I would like to make an attempt to address a question which I have seen too many times unresolved, from an engineering point of view. And any one can add their corrections if they feel like it.
Doesn’t more CO2 mean more plant Growth?
NO. Same as more fuel in the tank of your car does not mean your engine goes faster. Similarly, more fuel getting into your engine does not enhance its performance unless you increase also the amount of oxygen (or Nitro if you like) which is required for the fuel to burn and trigger the internal explosion. Furthermore, if you increase the combustion rate (or power) in your engine, you better strengthen accordingly the engine heads and block to support the increase in the stress that the materials have to support. Furthermore, you will need to increase the performance of the cooling system and oil lubrication, because more explosions will produce more friction and heat. And overall, Don’t Let Your Engine Outpace Your Chassis and Break Power.
So, in the same manner, plants use CO2 as engines use petrol. And face the same limitations. CO2 is just one element. Increasing its concentration will make available the potential for enhancing photosynthesis, which demands an increase in the performance of the whole “metabolism” (internal combustion) sustaining the process. That means, the plant requires, for instance, more water (equivalent to oxygen in combustion, H2O combines with CO2 to make molecules, “sugars”, CnHnOn chains) and use them as bricks building the material from which plants are made. But plants, like humans do not survive only with oxygen and water (CO2 and water in the case of plants), they also need other elements, essential nutrients. And, similarly as with the performance of an engine, the access to all those elements and the processes managing their interaction have to be in balance in order to make it work consistently. If you build a greenhouse over a terrain and you try to grow any plant based on only CO2 and Temperature, you will not go far. If you want for your greenhouse to be profitable you will have to invest in infrastructure to monitor and control air temperature, humidity and CO2 as well as constant supply of nutrients to equilibrate the demands from boosting the metabolism of your plants. Otherwise, they will grow showing anomalies in their development. The same as if you want to change the engine in your car by one more powerful, you will have to adjust the whole car, and your wallet, to the new demands.
(Some related reading from others:
- Reduce greenhouse costs. Source
- Comparison and Cost Analysis of Growing Hops in a Greenhouse versus and Outside Environment. Source.)
From there on you can make your own assessments. It does not matter if you are a lawyer working as a waiter or as a minister in any government, if you see the analogy, you will easily understand why there are different plants in different parts of the world or just in different parts of your surroundings. Like different cars are made to perform in different surfaces and terrains, different plants are also designed to perform in different conditions. If those conditions change, it adds more stress in their design.
Do plants overheat from stress?
Yes. They will take more water from the soils in order to refresh their internal parts and increase evapotranspiration. If there is not enough water in the soils, they will collapse.
Will they get stressed if there is more CO2 but not other supplies?
Yes, if only CO2 is increased, it will demand more H2O from soils and the atmosphere as well as more nutrients to keep upgrading the machinery from the increasing performance demanded for all the collateral systems (vascular system, roots system, foliage system, structural growth, …).
Doesn’t more plant Growth mean capture of more CO2?
Only if it happens in equilibrium with the rest of the ecosystem. IF plant growth overtakes nutrients and water supplies it will collapse and not even reach maturity. Plant growth, like an engine, can consume more CO2 equally to as an engine can consume more fuel, but it does not mean it will do it more efficiently.
Doesn’t capture of more CO2 mean less available CO2?
At some extent yes, but, the same as consuming more fuel means less available fuel. How much CO2 is required to be consumed by plants in order to feel the difference? It all depends on how much CO2 is available and how much is captured, and retained, by plants. If plants capture CO2 but they do not retain it cause they die and release their Carbon material due to decomposition or combustion, we will not feel the difference in the equation.
How many cubic miles of just “Peat” and equivalent captured CO2 is there on the earth that have been there for thousands of years? Doesn’t that mean there will be a natural balancing point? What is that balance point?
Time. If there is not enough time to counterbalance the rate of emissions of CO2 with the time of permanence of CO2 inactive in a fixed form, the concentration of CO2 will keep high.
Which also begs the question, “Why are we converting naturally captured CO2 in plant life into free CO2 molecules by burning instead of taking free CO2 and converting them into fuel?
That is a good question. It would just keep the concentrations equivalent to the energy used. Which it would open a new question. How much energy is efficiently used from emitting CO2? 50% maybe? Nope.
Only about 14%–30% of the energy from the fuel you put in a conventional vehicle is used to move it down the road. The rest of the energy is lost to engine and driveline inefficiencies or used to power accessories. (EPA). In gasoline-powered vehicles, most of the fuel’s energy is lost in the engine, primarily as heat. Smaller amounts of energy are lost through engine friction, pumping air into and out of the engine, and combustion inefficiency.
So I keep my futuristics hopes in enhancing the efficiency of transferring the most of the energy harvested from any source into work.
Don´t take me wrong. I love driving anything mechanical. I would love to have the opportunity of driving any powerful vehicle in any terrain and surface, ships in the oceans and I always had fascination for helicopters (I would love to learn to pilot those). But I just don´t mind if the power comes from electrolysis of water. What I care about is the waste produced from the release and transference of energy to make work.
I am a methodologists, I study the best methodology enabling us to understand and perform in any activity with an aim. The bigger concern for me is not the colour of the result, but the purity of it. In climatic assessments I don’t have a side. I just look at the methodology applied and search for the coherence behind when contrasted with the discussion that the results generate.
And this post is just aimed to simplify with an analogy what it concerns to CO2 and plants when grow in a greenhouse maintained by nobody.
I have already explained my assessment over the North hemisphere as part of a process in expansion from mid-latitudes. Now, through the Southern winter, we can see also anomalies in tempt entering Antarctica. I can only repeat what I have said in previous assessments in atmospheric developments. The mixing ratio is increasing and it is not going to follow the same pattern through time.
Managing uncertainty in soil carbon feedbacks to climate change
Mark A. Bradford, William R. Wieder, Gordon B. Bonan, Noah Fierer, Peter A. Raymond &Thomas W. Crowther (Source)
Planetary warming may be exacerbated if it accelerates loss of soil carbon to the atmosphere. This carbon-cycle–climate feedback is included in climate projections. Yet, despite ancillary data supporting a positive feedback, there is limited evidence for soil carbon loss under warming. The low confidence engendered in feedback projections is reduced further by the common representation in models of an outdated knowledge of soil carbon turnover. ‘Model-knowledge integration’ — representing in models an advanced understanding of soil carbon stabilization — is the first step to build confidence. This will inform experiments that further increase confidence by resolving competing mechanisms that most influence projected soil-carbon stocks. Improving feedback projections is an imperative for establishing greenhouse gas emission targets that limit climate change.
Geosciences Column: The World’s soils are under threat. By Laura Roberts-Artal July 22, 2016. (Source)
An increasing global population means that we are more dependant than ever on soils.
Soils are crucial to securing our future supplies of water, food, as well as aiding adaptation to climate change and sustaining the planet’s biosphere; yet with the decrease in human labour dedicated to working the land, never have we been more out of touch with the vital importance of this natural resource.
Now, the first-ever comprehensive State of the World’s Soil Resources Report (SWRS), compiled by the Intergovernmental Technical Panel on Soils (ITPS), aims to shine a light on this essential non-renewable resource. The report outlines the current state of soils, globally, and what the major threats facing it are. These and other key findings of the report are summarised in a recent paper of the EGU’s open access Soil Journal.
The current outlook
Overall, the report deemed that the world’s soils are in fair to very poor condition, with regional variations. The future doesn’t look bright: current projections indicate that the present situation will worsen unless governments, organisations and individuals come together to take concerted action.
Many of the drivers which contribute to soil changes are associated with population growth and the need to provide resources for the industrialisation and food security of growing societies. Climate change presents a significant challenge too, with factors such as increasing temperatures resulting in higher evaporation rates from soils and therefore affecting groundwater recharge rates, coming into play.
The three main threats to soils
Soil condition is threatened by a number of factors including compaction (which reduces large pore spaces between soil grains and restricts the flow of air and water into and through the soil), acidification, contamination, sealing (which results from the covering of soil through building of houses, roads and other urban development), waterlogging, salinization and losses of soil organic carbon (SOC).