Friday, September 09, 2005

The Dirt Truth

Earlier in the day, I spent some time with some of the NOLA evacuees. One group was on the Main street of town. They were young, in clean T shirts and clearly looking lost. They looked like those tourists you see who had just come in from the sticks to see our famous capitol that was made with pink granite.

I asked them how they were being treated over in the Convention Center.

"Pretty good", one said. "Not so bad" said another.

"Say, could you tell us what bus to take to get to the Wallmart?
Someone told us it was number 14."

Actually, I don't know where a Wallmart is. And for sure, I don't know what Bus takes you there.

You want to go the Wallmart?, I said repetitively, and stupidly.

I should have been more helpful. I just wasn't. But I was friendly.

Later, I heard some well heeled evacuees talking at the downtown multi-stared hotel pool. They were sharing war stories about getting to the airport on Sunday after realizing on Saturday night that they probably should get take this storm seriously. They had to take the old River road because I 10 was completely backed up. The would have missed their flight otherwise.

Gosh, they were almost inconvenienced.

Her car is still at the airport though...somewhere.

I talked with another woman whose father in law was the human resource director for the a large luxury hotel in the Quarter. He is now in Las Colinas at the Omni there. She said that he was looking for the 400 employees who had worked in the Hotel, trying to find them to give them the opportunity to relocate, or accept severage packages.

I talked to someone else whose brother went back into NOLA on Monday evening after the storm had passed but before the levees broke. He was stranded and needed to be rescued.

I talked with another person about the people I know but have not heard from. We had worked together on forming a climate change group to educate the southern states on the need to recognize just how devastating climate change would be in the South. This was 10 years ago. After three years, even Ted Turner's Foundation stopped funding it.

Which leads me to this story.

Scientists have known for many years that as the temperatures in the north warmed, the frozen tundra line would begin to move north and that as it thawed, massive amounts of methane and CO2 would be be released into the biosphere. This stored carbon, if released, would greatly increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.

But I had never considered the effects of warming soils in general, and how that increased warmth might create more energetic and prolific bacteria. Here is the story:

British Soil Losing Carbon,
Climate Change Likely a Major Factor, Study Finds
By MICHAEL McDONOUGH The Associated Press
Sep. 7, 2005

Rising temperatures resulting from climate change are likely causing soil in England and Wales to lose large amounts of carbon, possibly further contributing to the greenhouse gas effect, according to a new British study which suggests the same trend could be affecting other countries.

Soils store vast amounts of carbon more than twice as much as in vegetation or the atmosphere. The amount of carbon in the soil is constant if the amount entering from dead vegetation wood, leaves and roots is equal to the amount being lost as soil microbes decompose the vegetation, releasing carbon dioxide.

But research published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature found a disturbance in this natural balance. It estimated that British soil is losing 13 million tons of carbon a year equivalent to 8.2 percent of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions in 2004.

The study, funded by the British government, found that the carbon losses affected all types of soil.

"The fact that the losses appear to be happening ... irrespective of land use suggests a link to climate change," the report said, adding that over the 25-year survey period the mean temperature in England and Wales had risen by 0.5 C (0.9 F).

"Microbes in the soil are more active at warmer temperatures. As temperatures rise, the turnover of soil carbon goes up," said report co-author Guy Kirk from the National Soil Resources Institute at Cranfield University north of London.

Their study suggested that while the increased global growth in vegetation is absorbing some of the carbon dioxide released by human activity, this is being offset by the loss of carbon from the soil.

"The input side is going up because of carbon dioxide emissions, but the output is going up because of temperature rises," Kirk told The Associated Press in a phone interview.

"The rate of loss is exceeding the rate of input. Past predictions had said this would happen in 10 to 50 years' time, but this study shows it is happening much faster. It is happening already in England and Wales," he said.

In a commentary published in Nature, E. Detlef Schulze and Annette Freibauer of the Max-Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry questioned whether global warming was the reason.

"According to our current understanding of the sensitivity of soil respiration to warming, increased temperature alone seems to be too weak a driver," they wrote, adding that changes in rainfall may have a stronger effect on carbon-rich soils.

The British government-funded study was based on research that began 25 years ago. "

If the hypothesis in this story is true,

We will see more and more carbon coming into the atmosphere,

faster and faster.

If warming soils combined with added moisture,

become more active in releasing carbon,

Then humankind is going to have to focus on adaptation,

because the horse will be out of the barn.

We are in store for a wild ride.

And it's getting real already.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

another good post OZ. MS

7:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love the way the pictures enhance the storyline, sometimes obliquely, but almost always beautifully.

7:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great picture, moving, evocative...

And now, my favorite quote of the morning: "Here, then, is the new American motto, as reimagined by BushCo: Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and we'll let them die in a filthy and decrepit storm-ravaged American football stadium while our president languishes on vacation and ponders his oil futures and fondly remembers his good ol' days of getting drunk at Mardi Gras before going AWOL from the military. God bless America."
Mark Morford,, Notes and Errata column, Sept. 9, 2005

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The science is getting more real every day. It will take a miracle.

10:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No miracles left. We will have to face the coming of armagedon together or apart. As someone I talked to yesterday in far away rural Texas said, "Lock and load."

6:10 AM  

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