Tag Archives: Adaptation

Waste could fertilise food cost cuts

Scientists are developing a way to squeeze the last vestiges of value from renewable energy processes by combining their waste products to produce eco-friendly fertilisers that could help slow food price rises. LONDON, 30 August 2014 − Researchers in the UK think they may have found a way to produce fertilisers that should cut farmers’ costs and at the same time boost some types of renewable energy. Their scheme, which involves using waste material from anaerobic digesters and ash from burnt biomass, would also cut fossil fuel use and save natural resources. The team, based at the Environment Centre at the University of Lancaster, says their fertiliser would help to slow the rise in food prices. And they believe it would work worldwide. The three-year project has received more than £850,000 (US$1.4 m) in funding from the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council. Research, due to start this year, will take place in labs at the university and in field trials. The project, which includes several partners working with the university, aims to produce a sustainable, environmentally-friendlier source of soil conditioner and crop fertiliser.

Potential

It builds on research originally conducted by one of the partners, Stopford Energy and Environment Ltd consultancy, which investigated using a mixture of digestates − the waste left over after material has been through an anaerobic digester − and ash, from burnt biomass, as an alternative to existing fertilisers. Most fertilisers now in use, such as phosphorous-based and nitrate-based products, are made using energy-intensive methods that involve the consumption of oil and gas. Phosphate-based fertiliser relies as well on the mining of phosphate, a finite and unsustainable resource, and on a production process using various toxic chemicals. There are already projects in several countries − including the UK − that use waste from digesters to make fertiliser. But Professor Kirk Semple, of the Lancaster Environment Centre, who leads the project, said: “It is the mixing of anaerobic digestate with biomass ash that is important. . . This would reduce pressure on natural resources and develop a new market for problematic by-products of the bio-energy industry. “Although the project is based here in the UK, we believe there is exciting potential to produce a sustainable alternative to existing fertiliser use across the globe.”

Nutrients

A successful digestate-ash fertiliser would reduce costs and provide additional income to biomass and anaerobic digestion operators. The Lancaster team says this could make these forms of renewable energy − which could meet more than 15% of UK energy demand by 2020 − more appealing to investors, as at the moment ash has to be expensively dumped in landfills. They say it could help to improve food security and reduce costs to farmers as production of the new fertiliser would not be linked to the global price of oil and gas. Previous studies by Stopford show that biomass ash and digestate can be useful nutrient sources for crops in conditions which lack them. Professor Semple told the Climate News Network that he and his colleagues were working to ensure that the new fertiliser was entirely safe. He said: “Part of the grant will be used to chemically analyse the materials, individually and together, for metals and potentially other chemicals.” He says commercial-scale production of a successful digestate-ash fertiliser “is some way off”. But he adds: “This project offers the first detailed interrogation of this type of soil amendment. If successful, we would then look to develop this for the commercial sector.” − Climate News Network

Scientists are developing a way to squeeze the last vestiges of value from renewable energy processes by combining their waste products to produce eco-friendly fertilisers that could help slow food price rises. LONDON, 30 August 2014 − Researchers in the UK think they may have found a way to produce fertilisers that should cut farmers’ costs and at the same time boost some types of renewable energy. Their scheme, which involves using waste material from anaerobic digesters and ash from burnt biomass, would also cut fossil fuel use and save natural resources. The team, based at the Environment Centre at the University of Lancaster, says their fertiliser would help to slow the rise in food prices. And they believe it would work worldwide. The three-year project has received more than £850,000 (US$1.4 m) in funding from the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council. Research, due to start this year, will take place in labs at the university and in field trials. The project, which includes several partners working with the university, aims to produce a sustainable, environmentally-friendlier source of soil conditioner and crop fertiliser.

Potential

It builds on research originally conducted by one of the partners, Stopford Energy and Environment Ltd consultancy, which investigated using a mixture of digestates − the waste left over after material has been through an anaerobic digester − and ash, from burnt biomass, as an alternative to existing fertilisers. Most fertilisers now in use, such as phosphorous-based and nitrate-based products, are made using energy-intensive methods that involve the consumption of oil and gas. Phosphate-based fertiliser relies as well on the mining of phosphate, a finite and unsustainable resource, and on a production process using various toxic chemicals. There are already projects in several countries − including the UK − that use waste from digesters to make fertiliser. But Professor Kirk Semple, of the Lancaster Environment Centre, who leads the project, said: “It is the mixing of anaerobic digestate with biomass ash that is important. . . This would reduce pressure on natural resources and develop a new market for problematic by-products of the bio-energy industry. “Although the project is based here in the UK, we believe there is exciting potential to produce a sustainable alternative to existing fertiliser use across the globe.”

Nutrients

A successful digestate-ash fertiliser would reduce costs and provide additional income to biomass and anaerobic digestion operators. The Lancaster team says this could make these forms of renewable energy − which could meet more than 15% of UK energy demand by 2020 − more appealing to investors, as at the moment ash has to be expensively dumped in landfills. They say it could help to improve food security and reduce costs to farmers as production of the new fertiliser would not be linked to the global price of oil and gas. Previous studies by Stopford show that biomass ash and digestate can be useful nutrient sources for crops in conditions which lack them. Professor Semple told the Climate News Network that he and his colleagues were working to ensure that the new fertiliser was entirely safe. He said: “Part of the grant will be used to chemically analyse the materials, individually and together, for metals and potentially other chemicals.” He says commercial-scale production of a successful digestate-ash fertiliser “is some way off”. But he adds: “This project offers the first detailed interrogation of this type of soil amendment. If successful, we would then look to develop this for the commercial sector.” − Climate News Network

Climate hotspots imperil parts of Africa

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Three distinct parts of Africa which are likely to face the most severe impacts of climate change have been identified by researchers in Germany. LONDON, 6 May –  We know that the effects of climate change are going to be felt unequally around the world. How useful it would be to know where the greatest risks will occur. Now, for what they say is the first time, scientists in Germany have identified three African regions which they think should prepare for multiple problems in about 20 years’ time. They are in north-east Africa, central Africa and the south-east of the continent. The scientists, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), report their findings in a study published online in the journal Global Change Biology. The lead author, Christoph Müller, says: “We tried to identify the places where climate change really hurts most.” The three regions expected to be among those most at risk in a couple of decades are parts of Sudan and Ethiopia; the countries surrounding Lake Victoria in central Africa; and the continent’s south-eastern corner, especially parts of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. They are expected to see more severe dry seasons and reduced plant growth, with flooding near Lake Victoria. The three are the sub-Saharan Africa regions where by 2100 there will be a high likelihood of possibly severe climatic impacts affecting countries with relatively high populations and high poverty rates.

Good news too

The authors say that overlapping impacts of climate change – drought, for example, floods, declining crop yields or ecosystem damage – create “hotspots of risk”. They believe their approach builds a more comprehensive picture of risk. Till now, they say, most studies have addressed only one aspect of climate change impacts at a time, even though multiple stresses amplify vulnerability. As well as identifying hotspots, they say their composite picture explicitly addresses the issue of uncertainty. They acknowledge there will be uncertainties in assessing the impacts. But they think these can in fact inform development strategies, allowing an assessment of the impacts’ likelihood and potential severity, and a choice of ways to adapt. And they say there is a clear upside to their work. “The good news is that large countries such as Nigeria and the tropical forests of the Congo region are likely to be much less affected,” Müller said. “It’s all about risks,” says Hermann Lotze-Campen, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Climate Impacts and Vulnerability. “We have to live with uncertainties: we don’t have perfect data about future impacts of climate change, but computer simulations can help to understand likelihoods and possible impacts.”

Ways to adapt

Likely impacts, such as more intensive spells of drought in the southern Sahel, clearly demand the development of coping strategies for farmers and pastoralists, the study says, even if it remains uncertain how intense this change will be. It recommends possible ways of adapting to risks. These include improved access to international agricultural markets, for instance, allowing herders to sell cattle before droughts, and insurance systems to balance increased variability in crop yields from one year to another, or water storage systems such as underground cisterns. “This study provides the people on the ground with information they can hopefully use to then decide what to do,” says Lotze-Campen. “A continental scenario analysis like this can never be a blueprint for adaptation, as it lacks local expertise. Yet it can help to decide where best to put limited resources in countries most affected by climate change.” – Climate News Network

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Three distinct parts of Africa which are likely to face the most severe impacts of climate change have been identified by researchers in Germany. LONDON, 6 May –  We know that the effects of climate change are going to be felt unequally around the world. How useful it would be to know where the greatest risks will occur. Now, for what they say is the first time, scientists in Germany have identified three African regions which they think should prepare for multiple problems in about 20 years’ time. They are in north-east Africa, central Africa and the south-east of the continent. The scientists, from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), report their findings in a study published online in the journal Global Change Biology. The lead author, Christoph Müller, says: “We tried to identify the places where climate change really hurts most.” The three regions expected to be among those most at risk in a couple of decades are parts of Sudan and Ethiopia; the countries surrounding Lake Victoria in central Africa; and the continent’s south-eastern corner, especially parts of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. They are expected to see more severe dry seasons and reduced plant growth, with flooding near Lake Victoria. The three are the sub-Saharan Africa regions where by 2100 there will be a high likelihood of possibly severe climatic impacts affecting countries with relatively high populations and high poverty rates.

Good news too

The authors say that overlapping impacts of climate change – drought, for example, floods, declining crop yields or ecosystem damage – create “hotspots of risk”. They believe their approach builds a more comprehensive picture of risk. Till now, they say, most studies have addressed only one aspect of climate change impacts at a time, even though multiple stresses amplify vulnerability. As well as identifying hotspots, they say their composite picture explicitly addresses the issue of uncertainty. They acknowledge there will be uncertainties in assessing the impacts. But they think these can in fact inform development strategies, allowing an assessment of the impacts’ likelihood and potential severity, and a choice of ways to adapt. And they say there is a clear upside to their work. “The good news is that large countries such as Nigeria and the tropical forests of the Congo region are likely to be much less affected,” Müller said. “It’s all about risks,” says Hermann Lotze-Campen, co-chair of PIK’s research domain Climate Impacts and Vulnerability. “We have to live with uncertainties: we don’t have perfect data about future impacts of climate change, but computer simulations can help to understand likelihoods and possible impacts.”

Ways to adapt

Likely impacts, such as more intensive spells of drought in the southern Sahel, clearly demand the development of coping strategies for farmers and pastoralists, the study says, even if it remains uncertain how intense this change will be. It recommends possible ways of adapting to risks. These include improved access to international agricultural markets, for instance, allowing herders to sell cattle before droughts, and insurance systems to balance increased variability in crop yields from one year to another, or water storage systems such as underground cisterns. “This study provides the people on the ground with information they can hopefully use to then decide what to do,” says Lotze-Campen. “A continental scenario analysis like this can never be a blueprint for adaptation, as it lacks local expertise. Yet it can help to decide where best to put limited resources in countries most affected by climate change.” – Climate News Network

Livestock diet ‘can cut GHG emissions’

Limiting changes in the way we use land may be a better way slowing the contribution of livestock to climate change than reducing meat consumption, an international research team says. LONDON, 25 February – Here’s a way to make cattle emit lower volumes of methane through their digestive tracts: give the beasts a higher-quality diet. That way, you get more stock on less grassland, get improved yields per hectare and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “There is a lot of discussion about the reduction of meat in the diet as a way to reduce emissions,” says Petr Havlik of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. “But our results show that targeting the production side of agriculture is a much more efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” This will provoke some argument, and in any case seems counter-intuitive. Campaigners have been arguing for decades that livestock farming is in many though not all regions an inefficient way to produce nourishment: grain, pulses, fruits and vegetables deliver greater outputs of calories and proteins at much lower overall costs in water, energy and emissions. Farm animals are responsible for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions and, as the poorer nations develop, demand for meat and dairy protein tends to rise, so emissions are expected to increase.

Production economics

Volume for volume, methane or natural gas is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and researchers in Europe and the US have begun to consider ways of reducing or at least limiting methane discharges from either or both ends of billions of the planet’s grazing animals. But Havlink and colleagues from Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, Europe and the US think the answer lies in the changing economics of production. Livestock provide a third of the protein in human diets: in the developing world oxen, donkeys and buffalos also deliver haulage, manure and regular income. Around 30% of the global land area is used to rear livestock. Between 1980 and 2000, 83% of the expansion of agricultural land in the tropics was at the expense of the tropical forests. A lot of this space is devoted to cattle, sheep and goats. Increasing quantities of maize and soya are also being converted to animal feed. So the problem is not likely to go away. As land prices rise, there is pressure to stock more animals and buy in high-density fodder, to increase yield and to deliver quicker returns. So the new research proposes that both the increase in the cost of land, and the still-rising yields per hectare from croplands, will lead to richer diets for animals: this in turn would pay off in greater returns for the farmers, higher yields for people and – because livestock diets would be lower in cellulose and richer in energy – lower emissions of methane from the flatulent animals.

Better option

The scientists argue that by 2030 the change to more efficient farming could cut emissions by 736 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. That, they suggest, could happen anyway, because it pays farmers to do such things. If political and economic measures were taken to accelerate such changes – and at the same time reduce the conversion of forest to farmland – then the world could save 3,223 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. The real target in all this is not the livestock, but the change in land use. Stringent climate change policies, were they ever to be enforced or even introduced by the governments of the world, could constrain the food available to a swelling population. The researchers argue that it would be five to 10 times more efficient and effective to reduce the changes in land use – to stop burning and clearing forests to make new grazing land. All this involves complex economic reasoning, and the use of economic metrics such as “total abatement calorie cost” and “marginal abatement costs”, but a global package of measures that included investment, trade and education could reduce total emissions from the farms and cattle sheds by 25%. “From the livestock sector perspective, limiting land use change seems the cheapest option both in terms of the economic cost and in terms of impact on food availability,” says Havlik. – Climate News Network

Limiting changes in the way we use land may be a better way slowing the contribution of livestock to climate change than reducing meat consumption, an international research team says. LONDON, 25 February – Here’s a way to make cattle emit lower volumes of methane through their digestive tracts: give the beasts a higher-quality diet. That way, you get more stock on less grassland, get improved yields per hectare and at the same time reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to new research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “There is a lot of discussion about the reduction of meat in the diet as a way to reduce emissions,” says Petr Havlik of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria. “But our results show that targeting the production side of agriculture is a much more efficient way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” This will provoke some argument, and in any case seems counter-intuitive. Campaigners have been arguing for decades that livestock farming is in many though not all regions an inefficient way to produce nourishment: grain, pulses, fruits and vegetables deliver greater outputs of calories and proteins at much lower overall costs in water, energy and emissions. Farm animals are responsible for 12% of greenhouse gas emissions and, as the poorer nations develop, demand for meat and dairy protein tends to rise, so emissions are expected to increase.

Production economics

Volume for volume, methane or natural gas is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, and researchers in Europe and the US have begun to consider ways of reducing or at least limiting methane discharges from either or both ends of billions of the planet’s grazing animals. But Havlink and colleagues from Africa, the Caribbean, Australia, Europe and the US think the answer lies in the changing economics of production. Livestock provide a third of the protein in human diets: in the developing world oxen, donkeys and buffalos also deliver haulage, manure and regular income. Around 30% of the global land area is used to rear livestock. Between 1980 and 2000, 83% of the expansion of agricultural land in the tropics was at the expense of the tropical forests. A lot of this space is devoted to cattle, sheep and goats. Increasing quantities of maize and soya are also being converted to animal feed. So the problem is not likely to go away. As land prices rise, there is pressure to stock more animals and buy in high-density fodder, to increase yield and to deliver quicker returns. So the new research proposes that both the increase in the cost of land, and the still-rising yields per hectare from croplands, will lead to richer diets for animals: this in turn would pay off in greater returns for the farmers, higher yields for people and – because livestock diets would be lower in cellulose and richer in energy – lower emissions of methane from the flatulent animals.

Better option

The scientists argue that by 2030 the change to more efficient farming could cut emissions by 736 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year. That, they suggest, could happen anyway, because it pays farmers to do such things. If political and economic measures were taken to accelerate such changes – and at the same time reduce the conversion of forest to farmland – then the world could save 3,223 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent a year. The real target in all this is not the livestock, but the change in land use. Stringent climate change policies, were they ever to be enforced or even introduced by the governments of the world, could constrain the food available to a swelling population. The researchers argue that it would be five to 10 times more efficient and effective to reduce the changes in land use – to stop burning and clearing forests to make new grazing land. All this involves complex economic reasoning, and the use of economic metrics such as “total abatement calorie cost” and “marginal abatement costs”, but a global package of measures that included investment, trade and education could reduce total emissions from the farms and cattle sheds by 25%. “From the livestock sector perspective, limiting land use change seems the cheapest option both in terms of the economic cost and in terms of impact on food availability,” says Havlik. – Climate News Network