News for the Week 2023-07-03

Make a top-level comment for a new story/topic. Discussions about the topic should be in the replies to the top-level comment. That way things stay organized and every main comment as you scroll down is a different piece of news.


  • Comments (15)

    • 2

      Prepper Chat Night is this Friday evening, July 7, on Discord at 6PM Pacific / 9PM Eastern. Join our Discord now at this link so you’ll be ready when the event starts:


      Prepper Chat Nights are on the 1st and 3rd Fridays of every month.

      • 2

        Prepper Chat Night is tonight, July 7, on Discord at 6PM Pacific / 9PM Eastern.


        For anyone who’s privacy-conscious, you don’t need to turn on the camera. (I keep mine off and I’m not the only one.) It’s typically around 4-6 people talking about what we’ve learned and experienced recently. I always learn something new. It’s also a nice social event among people with a common interest in preparedness.

        Just click the link for event details and to sign up for The Prepared’s Discord.

    • 4

      Ran across this article saying that applying this farming technique can help enough with carbon sequestration to hit the 1.5C global warming goal. Anyone here understand well enough to explain if this is legit and how difficult/expensive it would be to make this change?


      • 2

        I have off-the-cuff thoughts, but will confer with my husband first since he is the one who actually follows the science on this stuff currently (I stopped doing so probably 6-7 years ago). Generally, I am VERY skeptical of claims of carbon storage through changes to ag and forestry practices— though it’s clear that the changes being advocated would be GREAT from a broader environmental standpoint, “environmental benefits” shouldn’t be conflated with “climate benefits”, and enthusiasm about the prospect for the latter in natural resource industries have a way of getting out ahead of the science, especially with regard to soil carbon and ag… this is for political/social reasons related to the history of environmental research and advocacy and how it intersects with agricultural in particular in the U.S…. which is one of my favorite rants, but not necessarily germane to the study you referenced, so I’ll withhold for now. 🙂

      • 2

        Okay, conferred with the household expert and he confirmed all of my initial thoughts:

        First, no, changes to ag practices alone will not keep us below 1.5° of warming. I couldn’t find a hyperlink to a paper (so don’t even know how they made these estimates and if it went through peer review) and don’t have time to dig in anyway. (My husband and I did this once on a report that made some big claims about the emissions reductions potential of sustainable forestry in a Western state I won’t name; it took weeks to really understand how they got those numbers, though in the end we were convinced that the numbers they got were wrong.) BUT, that headline is a major red flag to me. 

        As for what seems legit: Reducing the use (and waste) of manufactured fertilizer will reduce GHG emissions just because producing that stuff emits a lot of GHGs, and we do use too much of it. I can get on board with that; it’s just not going to keep us at 1.5° of warming.

        Of course, the researchers aren’t claiming that reduced reliance on manufactured fertilizers will do that; the rest of the climate benefits of ag reform the study is touting would come from enhancing the capacity of agricultural soils to store carbon. And this is exactly the kind of thing where the enthusiasm has been way out ahead of the science for a long time— in large part, I suspect, because of the recent centrality of agriculture to environmental advocacy, environmental research, and public conversation about the environment, and because of the immense appetite for red-blue, urban-rural, enviro-grower collaboration that could deliver win-wins and incremental movement.

        A lot of this is arguably fine at the end of the day, even if the climate benefits are overstated, because there are other environmental and social benefits to ag reform (for nutrient cycling, food safety, rural economic development, etc.), HOWEVER, that all changes the moment modeled or estimated C storage from ag starts getting factored into claims about achieved emissions reductions or compensated as actual avoided emissions through offsets. The moment things like that start happening (and they usually happen almost immediately), we’re on really thin ice unless we’re sure that the storage and avoided emissions (1) are actually happening, (2) wouldn’t have happened anyway (they’re “additional”, in the parlance of the field), and (3) are permanent. (2) and (3) are huge problems with offsets generally (and why a lot of people in the environmental field, including me, don’t support them, and hold an extremely low opinion of entities like the Nature Conservancy that have a history of selling bogus offsets), and I think (1) is a MUCH bigger deal with ag, because there is so much variability across crop systems and soil types (including with regard to the permanence of C storage). It seems like this study/report is basically claiming that they’ve solved that problem with new technology, but I’m guessing they’ve probably just made refinements on models that turn remote sensing data into estimated C storage, and it would take a lot more than “research” by someone who has a financial interest in this being true to convince me that this is solid. 

        Another big problem with ag-based solutions is that rotations are (typically) so short, which makes it easy to change practices on the ground or let good practices lapse or implement good practices incorrectly. At least in forestry (the home turf of problematic offsets), the rotation is really slow, so there is more opportunity to track what’s happening (also, a lot of the C storage is in the wood rather than the soil, which means it’s easier to quantify and permanence is more easily measured or at least estimated). I have seen the good that forest carbon offsets can do for ecosystems and rural communities, but I still think there is no place for offsets of any kind in meeting climate goals, just because the potential for miscalculation is so high and the incentive structure favors optimism rather than accurate measurement.

        Also, I want to be clear that I don’t think researchers and advocates are knowingly trying to mislead anyone. (Researchers are usually pretty transparent about their assumptions and the limitations of what they’re exploring.) I just think that a lot of people really want to believe in these fixes, the science is really complex, and the advocates who want to believe aren’t necessarily credentialed in the areas that would allow them to understand the science. You can absolutely get a PhD in an ag- or environment-related field without understanding the global carbon budget or the specific kinds of methods that are used to estimate soil carbon storage, and you can certainly get a master’s or have a multi-decade career in advocacy without knowing the details of these things. One of the hard things about climate is that it touches literally everything, and nobody can be an expert in everything, so it’s a bunch of experts in something working together and/or stretching to be generalists.

        … and to that end, I should emphasize that this is not where my training is, either. I did work on forest carbon offset policy briefly a long time ago, and detecting bogus climate solutions is kind of my husband’s superpower, but neither of us have actually researched soil carbon fluxes. So we could be missing something. I’m just saying, this seems wrong, AND it would make sense for it to be wrong based on the kind of stuff that happens in the enviro-climate world all the time. Again, if I have time later I’ll do some further sniffing and maybe I can put some resources on Discord?

      • 2

        “unless we’re sure that the storage and avoided emissions (1) are actually happening, (2) wouldn’t have happened anyway (they’re “additional”, in the parlance of the field), and (3) are permanent.”

        Issue 3 sounds like a deal-breaker to me. The major cause of global warming is moving carbon-rich materials from deep below the surface into the biosphere. Even though we’d prefer that carbon in the form of a tree or rich soil, we know those will convert to CO2 in the next wildfire.

      • 2

        Here are a few good articles on why all this soil-carbon-sequestration-by-changing-agricultural practices stuff should be met with skepticism, along with some notes from me:

        Quanta: A soil-science revolution upends plans to fight climate change – Humus is dead, but the climate community doesn’t really seem to know it?

        World Resources Institute: Regenerative Agriculture: Good for Soil Health, but Limited Potential to Mitigate Climate Change – Some good links to other resources in this one, as well as examples of papers making claims about the capacity of soils to offset emissions that just don’t make sense/aren’t defensible.

        MIT Technology Review: Why We Can’t Count on Carbon Sucking Farms to Slow Climate Change – This one has a good treatment of the variability problem (also a fun account of CarbonPlan taking down Climate Action Reserve— CarbonPlan is good at debunking BS climate solutions and CAR is good at developing them).

        CarbonPlan: Getting Soil Carbon Right – And here is their overview; covers some of the same territory as the above.

        Earther: Soil May Not Be Able to Keep Storing Carbon Dioxide as Emissions Increase – Summary of Nature paper casting doubt on another sanguine assumption in the soil carbon world.

        Anthropocene: The hype behind carbon farming comes down to earth – This one’s pretty succinct and covers a lot of problems with the soil carbon hype.

        CDR Primer: Soil Carbon Sequestration – A more technical overview that isn’t as negative but does introduce the issues and discusses the likely implementation costs (which was one of your original questions).

        Fuss et al.: Negative emissions—Part 2: Costs, potentials and side effects – Covers several negative emissions technologies (NETs), including soil carbon sequestration (SCS). They look at a bunch of other studies and land on 5GtCO2/yr as the annual C storage potential from SCS— far below the 31GtCO2/yr this Guardian article is talking about. Also, the authors note that permanence is a big issue with SCS.

        Paustian et al: Soil C Sequestration as a Biological Negative Emission Strategy – Also lands on 5GtCO2/yr “as an upper limit for global biophysical potential” of soil carbon sequestration, upping the number to 8GtCO2/yr in the best case scenario for development of current frontier technologies. 

        This is all from my husband’s list of resources… there is more, if you want, but I figure this is a good start!

    • 3

      Drought in the central U.S. is the worst since at least 2012, and in some areas, is drawing comparisons to the 1988 drought that devastated corn, wheat and soybean crops.


    • 2

      What 120 Degrees Looks Like in One of Mexico’s Hottest Cities


    • 2

      Earth’s three hottest days on record were all this week: July 3, 4, and 5. (These records start in 1940.)



    • 1

      A fire at a substation caused this area to suffer an extended outage.  I haven’t seen any reporting on the cause of the fire.


    • 2

      A lot of flooding and flash flooding in the news the last few days, both in the U.S. and all over the world.


    • 1
    • 2

      WHO warns about risk of bird flu spreading to people. (We’ve discussed the risk in this forum about 6 months ago. I don’t think the situation has changed much since then, but they do lay out clearly the reasons for concern.)


    • 2

      Cypress becoming island of dead cats due to outbreak of unusually deadly strain of feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). If you have a cat, consider how you will protect your cat from getting infected if/when it spreads to your area.