The Need for Climate Action on Agriculture and Land

Land is one fourth of Earth's surface and it holds three times as much carbon as the atmosphere does. About 1,600 billion tons of this carbon is in the soil as organic matter and some 540-610 billion tons is in living vegetation. Although the volume of carbon on Earth's surface and in the atmosphere pales in comparison to the many trillions of tons stored deep under the surface as sediments, sedimentary rocks, and fossil fuels, surface carbon is crucial to climate change and life due to its...

Janet L Sawin and William R Moomaw

In 1992, Gussing was a dying town not far from the rusting remains of the Iron Curtain and the capital of one of Austria's poorest districts. Just nine years later, Gussing was energy self-sufficient, producing biodiesel from local rapeseed and used cooking oil, as well as heat and power from the sun, and had a new biomass-steam gasification plant that sold surplus electricity to the national grid. New industries and more than 1,000 jobs flocked to the town. Today, not only do Gussing residents...

Michael Renner Sean Sweeney and Jill Kubit

As climate action grows urgent, some observers warn that economies will suffer as a result. But economic prosperity and employment depend in fundamental ways on a stable climate and healthy ecosystems. Without timely action, many jobs could be lost due to resource depletion, biodiversity loss, the impacts of increasing natural disasters, and other disruptions. Meanwhile, employment that actually contributes to protecting the environment and reducing humanity's carbon footprint offers people a...

Malini Mehra

In 2009, the eyes of the world will be on China, India, and the United States. The threat of climate change is now so great, and dealing with it effectively is so central to the future of national economies, that new scripts are being called for. The role of the United States as the world's single largest polluter in per capita terms remains pivotal. But China and India are now assuming an importance they did not have in 1997, when the world came together in Kyoto to do a deal on climate...

Tao Wang and Jim Watson

International trade has continued to increase in the last few decades as a result of deepening globalization. Relocation of production in the pursuit of comparative advantages has brought economic growth to many regions. Some developing countries have benefited from this trend due to abundant resources or labor supply or both. But the environmental consequences of international trade have been increasingly highlighted. Within discussions about the international targets for and mechanisms to...

Dennis Clare

Black carbon, a component of soot, is a potent climate-forcing aerosol and may be the second-leading cause of global warming after carbon dioxide (CO2). Unlike CO2, however, black carbon remains in the atmosphere for only a few days or weeks. Therefore reducing these emissions will have an almost immediate climate mitigation impact. While substantial reductions of greenhouse gas emissions should remain the anchor of overall climate stabilization efforts, dealing with black carbon may be the...

Measuring Climate Change

Carbon flows among land, sea, and the atmosphere. But human activities since the mid-eighteenth century have changed carbon flows in ways that have lasting implications for the climate. This graphic depicts changes to global carbon flows in the 1990s relative to the preindustrial state.3 Fossil fuel burning and cement production 6.4 GtC Net increase to the atmosphere 3.2 GtC Annual change in billions of tons of carbon (GtC) Changes to global temperature caused by climate change are usually...

Ambika Chawla

In Operation Climate Change, members of a Nigerian indigenous peoples' rights movement attempt to shut down oil flow stations in the Niger Delta. Ecuadorian environmental activists risk their lives to protest construction of an oil pipeline through the Amazonian forest that is home to the native Quichua, Shuar, and Achuar people. More than 200 farmers from 20 countries march in Bali, Indonesia, during a meeting on the U.N. climate convention to demand that food sovereignty be addressed by...

Table 41 Alternatives to Fossil Fuels for Heating and Cooling

Combined heat and power (cogeneration) Passive solar heating Passive cooling Uses a heat source (such as the sun or waste heat from combined heat and power (CHP)) to cool air through an evaporative process small to large-scale Heat derived from the combustion of biomass, such as wood or pellets residential to large-scale Use of a power plant to produce both heat and electricity residential to large-scale Uses optical concentrators to focus the sun to provide higher-temperature heat and steam...