Posted by & filed under Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Biology, Soil Composition, Soil Conservation, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Soil Rehabilitation, Water Contaminaton & Loss.


Carbon deficient soil at left, carbon rich soil at right.
It’s not difficult, but it could make all the difference.

If I were to compare industrial, monocrop agriculture with permaculture or organic biological agricultural methodologies, and then boil my observations down to their base differences, I would describe them thus:

  • Industrial agriculture focusses on feeding the plant
  • Permaculture and organic biological agriculture focus on feeding the soil

For the industrialists, if they have a big green flush of foliage, in their mind they’ve succeeded. Whether the plant is healthy, or tasty, or whether the soil is being depleted, eroded, polluted and salinated in the process of growing it, is of secondary importance. The industrial system is about standardisation, transportability, externalised costs and instant gratification — or instant profits. Such plants normally have nutrient imbalances, and trace mineral deficiencies, that make them prone to pest and disease attack and make them less healthy for animals and humans. In addition, industrial agriculture turns our vast agricultural lands into carbon sources. Nitrogen fertiliser inputs systematically ‘burn up’ carbon rich humus, sending it into the atmosphere to act as a greenhouse gas rather than the foundation of soil fertility it was meant to be. Indeed, this form of farming should not be called agriculture at all, as ‘culture’ means to refine or foster, to bring about an improved state. Industrial agriculture does quite the opposite.

But, for the land steward who wishes to farm not just for today, but dependably for many generations to come, and who wants to bestow land fertility and physical health upon his/her children, farming becomes less about extraction than it is about wise management. The focus of the conscientious land steward must necessarily become the soil, from which the plant is just the fruit. Healthy soils with a diversity of organic matter and soil life produce plants with more dry matter (or "more strawberry in the strawberry") instead of water — giving them a longer shelf life and providing us with higher quality nutrition.

But, as I’ve shared before (here and here for example), the benefits of sustainable agricultural practices go well beyond our plates and our farms. Soil-focussed agricultural systems employ, instead of destroy, the vast armies of microorganisms that work unseen and underappreciated beneath our feet. Fungi and bacteria are far better at feeding our plants than any agribusiness factory (and they do it for free) but what they do is also a critical factor in maintaining balance within the entire biosphere. These are Gaia’s helpers. Their work benefits not just cabbages and cauliflowers — but also the climate. Microorganisms break down organic matter until it becomes humus — the final stage of decomposition and an extremely carbon rich material. Humus is highly stable, being able to retain its carbon content for centuries.

Next to the oceans, our soils are the largest potential carbon sink on the planet, and yet, due to mismanagement of our land, our oceans are now reaching CO2 saturation point as atmospheric CO2 levels are extreme and still rising.

These facts are almost wholly overlooked by the mainstream media, politicians and industry in climate discussions. The latter (industry) of course have a vested interest in not discussing the topic, and they have major influence, or control over, the former (media and politics). What needs to be trumpeted far and wide is that climate change is as much, or even more, about deforestation and soil mismanagement than it is about smoke stacks and tailpipes.

On this topic, I’d like to share an excellent website that has brought together a huge amount of excellent evidence, gathered from research made over several decades, on the ability of our soils, if we were to transition them to sustainable farming methods, to ameliorate our situation, and to actually reverse climate change. This occurs simply by letting nature work — in rapidly pulling CO2 out of our atmosphere and storing it back where it belongs.

In more than 30 long range farm trials held in Australia, the US and Europe, carbon sequestration rates varied between 0.2 tonnes – 3.0 tonnes carbon per hectare/ year which equals 0.7 tonnes – 11.0 tonnes CO2 equivalent per hectare/year (CO2-e). The amount of carbon sequestered depends on farming methods, soil type, climate and crop varieties. In comparative tests, organic systems accumulated a 12% increase in soil carbon and biodynamic systems accumulated a 16% increase. Increasing carbon sequestration is dependent on continuous bio-agricultural processes. if after sequestering carbon into the soil, we were to return to current conventional farming methods the carbon would gradually be released back into the atmosphere.

Over the long term conventional chemical based farming has been shown to decrease soil carbon. In research by the Rodale Institute it was found that “the application of soluble nitrogen fertilizers stimulates more rapid and complete decay of organic matter, sending carbon into the atmosphere instead of retaining it in the soil as the organic systems do.”

Analysis of the US’s oldest continuous cropping test plots in Illinois showed that, contrary to long-held beliefs, nitrogen fertilization does not build up soil organic matter. Some Midwestern soils that in the 1950s were composed of up to 20 percent carbon are now between 1- and 2-percent carbon. – bio-agriculture.org

The site also has an excellent carbon calculator that allows you to gauge the climate impact, or value, of various speeds of transition to soil-focussed agricultural methods.

Check out the site, familiarise yourself with the concept and the facts, and be sure to let others know. There’s a lot more to sustainable agriculture than just what immediately meets the palate. We need to farm like our lives depend on it — because, actually, they do.

Soil carbon sequestration is a win-win strategy. It mitigates climate change by offsetting anthropogenic emissions; improves the environment, especially the quality of natural waters; enhances soil quality; improves agronomic productivity; and advances food security. It is the low-hanging fruit and a bridge to the future, until carbon-neutral fuel sources and low-carbon economy take effect. – bio-agriculture.org

35 Responses to “Bio-Agriculture – a Solution to Climate Change”

  1. Duane Hennon

    this small change would make this report more receptive to everyone.

    “Soil carbon sequestration is a win-win strategy. …………………………it improves the environment, especially the quality of natural waters; enhances soil quality; improves agronomic productivity; and advances food security. It is the low-hanging fruit and a bridge to the future, until carbon-neutral fuel sources and low-carbon economy take effect. “– bio-agriculture.org

    by bringing up the “dead horse of climate change” you lose over half the people you need to reach. a lot of people are concerned about industrial ag, pollution, food and energy security, etc, BUT do not buy the CO2 greenhouse story. why not just say ” Put carbon in it’s place, the soil.” and leave it at that?

    Reply
  2. Øyvind Holmstad

    “The many international campaigns for the preservation of the Amazon forest may be called successful: the cutting down of trees has slowed down. A negative side-effect however is that the destructive activities have moved south to the Cerrado, where deforestation is occurring three times faster than in the Amazon. The economical logic behind this is the same: huge plantations with monocultures like soy, eucalyptus, sugar cane and corn bring huge profits. The ecological and social consequences are at least as serious as the disappearance of the Amazon.”

    See: http://thinkbiodiversity.org/2010/10/27/the-creeping-destruction-of-brazilian-biodiversity/

    Surely Craig is right, this kind of activity is not culture and hence not agriculture! How can destroying biodiversity be culture?

    Reply
  3. Øyvind Holmstad

    “Cynically enough the plantation of eucalyptus is being called ‘reforestation’ and therefore receives all kinds of international financial support. The fact that a healthy water balance and the original vegetation of the Cerrado are essential for capturing CO2 in a sustainable way, is being forgotten. The Cerrado serves the international community well by capturing a great deal of CO2 due to its size, geology and the biodiversity of the area. Unfortunately the international community does not seem to be aware of this. The Brazilian government finds the Cerrado only useful for short term profit and few are aware of the unfolding ecological disaster.”

    See: http://thinkbiodiversity.org/2010/10/27/the-creeping-destruction-of-brazilian-biodiversity/

    If possible I think PRI should reprint this article at this blog, to raise the awareness of the destruction of the Cerrado by big agriculture business.

    Reply
  4. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    there are some beautiful experiments in which microwave sensors are sent up on balloons into the atmosphere, to measure IR radiation at different altitudes. Microwave experiments and satellite data give a fairly consistent picture that global average temperatures markedly have gone up in the last few decades. These experiments are completely independent of attempts to reconstruct a longer term climate record.

    The science is fairly clear, but in a sense it’s true that CO2 is not the problem. The actual problem that is much bigger than this (because CO2 is – if you want so – a tech problem, and tech problems can be addressed) is that, with quite a lot of people, some actually quite well known psychological self-shielding mechanisms kick in with which their conscious mind blocks itself from having to face the real situation.

    One quite clear indication for this is that the “global warming is a myth” camp produces a lot of opinions and views which among themselves are highly contradictory. But that’s never perceived as a problem – as long as it goes against the idea of AGW, pretty much any idea seems acceptable in that camp – regardless of whether it wildly contradicts other ideas produced by other AGW bashers.

    Now – isn’t that a tell tale sign that something is very seriously wrong there?

    Reply
  5. Duane Hennon

    Craig said:

    “Duane – I’d recommend you read the report I introduce here. How you can think such altering of natural systems/cycles cannot impact climate is beyond me.”

    My main point is that “global warming, climate change and CO2″ are a major stumbling block to reach people. Do you want to people to do things that will curb environmental destruction and climate change OR argue over “what might happen” and do nothing ?

    I’ve had this discussion on other sites where “the enlightened” insist that “global warming” must be stressed, even to the point of losing people who are trying to help improve things.

    Doing all these things for the sake of the environment and ourselves is hard to argue against. Cutting down rain forests for monoculture is bad. that’s hard to argue against.

    But the number of CO2s in the atmosphere gives your opponents plenty of ammunition to deflect the discussion away from habitat destruction and into the abstract.

    Concentrate on the benefits of having carbon in the soil and planting trees, as we’ve seen in some video here, has an effect of the local climate. do this enough places and all these “locals” become global. Permaculture not ” computer climate prediction models” should be what’s discussed

    Reply
  6. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    I don’t think it’s a good idea to not talk about big problems just for the reason that some people would rather prefer to stay in a cozy delusion bubble. The only conceivable outcome of this can be a “yeah Permaculture but please keep it limited to things that don’t bring about any major change in how business gets done” attitude.

    One can have either Permaculture or delusion, and it always should be made very clear that the two don’t mix at all.

    Bluntly, the problem that got us into this precarious situation is a lot about human psychology – as a species we like to abuse our conscious mind to find excuses that allow us to self-justify our actions even if they are fairly damaging. So, we stand at crossroads here. Either – we confront this widespread attitude and work towards systematically educating people about well known psychological mechanisms that can negatively affect judgment, in order to overcome this key issue and take society to a higher level of understanding of itself and the world around it. Or – we choose the nice and cozy way of permitting self-deception as a coping strategy when facing reality would just be inconvenient and raise serious questions about our conduct. My contention is that, in the latter case, we are screwed on general grounds. Even if we manage to get specific problem X and specific problem Y resolved (say, CFCs and the ozone layer, or SO2 emissions, or deforestation, etc.), at some point a major problem would come up where our inability to face reality (that gave rise to the problem in the first place) will do us in.

    Quite possibly, CO2 is such a problem. Personally, I don’t think that it will lead to the extinction of us as a species, but it will quite likely turn out to give us a new perspective on what a serious problem actually looks like that is quite different from everything we ever had experienced in our recent history during the Holocene.

    So, if you want to solve problems at the root, and Permaculture is all about digging down to the root and working where it really makes a difference rather than adding another layer of palliative, then there is no way around confronting the problem of self-deception head-on. Be well prepared though, for it is very difficult to deal with an enemy who has an outpost in your own head.

    Reply
  7. JBob

    Do low application rates of N fertilizer have the same effect on pasture as opposed to annual row crop rotations? Going largely by what I’ve read from Gary Zimmer’s “The Biological Farmer” (http://www.amazon.com/Biological-Farmer-Complete-Sustainable-Profitable/dp/0911311629), I have been fertilizing my pastures with 20 to 40 lbs/acre of ammonium sulfate a few times per year. This very low rate won’t harm earthworms or other microbes according to all I’ve read. The increase is growth and dramatic and earthworm castings on the surface seem to continue to multiply over time.

    I hadn’t heard of the Mulvaney et al. 2007 paper http://www.fixingourfood.com/pdffiles/Khan_J_Env_Quality_20071.pdf and I plan to read it more thoroughly soon.

    Reply
  8. Duane Hennon

    I do not want to hijack this thread away from its intended subject.
    Putting organic material (carbon) into the soil is good. Humus is good.

    as far as “global warming and climate change”

    i just watched “Sherlock” on PBS

    at a murder scene, Dr. Watson says “it must be suicide, a man is found in a room, locked from the inside. It’s the only explanation that fits the facts.”

    “Wrong”, says Holmes,”it’s one possible explanation of some of the facts”

    To think that a computer program using one variable (CO2) can predict the climate twenty years from now demonstrates another failing of human psychology – hubris, something we can do without

    Reply
  9. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    by the same token, if I pushed you out of the top platform of a high rise building, that wouldn’t be murder, for aerodynamics is an extremely complicated issue and we basically have no clue how to solve the Navier-Stokes equations (there’s a Millenium Prize for that!), so anything could happen, and claiming that this would invariably have been the key cause of your death certainly would be hubris – as the physics/modeling actually is “way too complicated”?

    Reply
  10. Craig Mackintosh

    Thanks for saving me time Thomas.

    Duane – I’ve had this conversation too often to continue it again here, but my summary of the issue is that where I live there’s no question about the climate changing. People are wondering how to address it. I refuse to do an injustice to the people today who are dealing with droughts, floods, extreme weather, new pest species they’ve never had to deal with before, etc., by pandering to the few around the world who haven’t yet woken up to smell the roses.

    Be sure, feedback loops will ensure climate crises come to a neighbourhood near you soon enough. In the meantime, please just humour me.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  11. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    regardless of Craig’s last comment, I’d still like to hear an answer to my question – would such a case be regarded as murder?

    Reply
  12. Duane Hennon

    Craig,

    it’s not about “is the climate changing”, it is always changing. the question is “what is causing it?”. land use changes the local climate. restoring the land , usually brings back the climate. is the world getting hotter? maybe, but is it changes in the Sun, the galaxy (the other planets are also warming) or something else?

    my view is that we should work to improve the environment so that it has the resilience to handle any change, whether it’s warming or cooling. this i believe is also your goal, isn’t it? wouldn’t restoring the land, finding alternate fuels, “reduce, reuse recycle” also reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere? wouldn’t it also lead to a bigger reduction if more people did these things?

    Thom,

    “by the same token, if I pushed you out of the top platform of a high rise building, that wouldn’t be murder, for aerodynamics is an extremely complicated issue and we basically have no clue how to solve the Navier-Stokes equations (there’s a Millenium Prize for that!), so anything could happen, and claiming that this would invariably have been the key cause of your death certainly would be hubris – as the physics/modeling actually is “way too complicated”?

    one fine point. “so anything can happen” is not true. you lack of understanding does not give the universe free reign to do “anything it wants”, rules are still followed
    Of course it would be murder.experimental tests would show that gravity wins

    my point was that “belief in the completeness” of a computer program isn’t good science

    Reply
  13. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    so, we agree that waving hands and mumbling “ah well the physics is complicated” definitely is not a way to dodge responsibility.

    Now, ad
    “my point was that ‘belief in the completeness’ of a computer program isn’t good science”

    well, yes, that’s right, but it’s news to me that climate modeling actually were about “the belief in the completeness of a computer program”. I don’t know who you picked up that idea from, but it’s pretty clear that whoever said that first has no clue whatsoever what computational modeling of physical systems is about. Yes, I am a computational modeling professional, and no, I don’t work on any problems involving the atmosphere. But I kind-of have an idea what my physics colleagues working in that field are doing.

    Reply
  14. Duane Hennon

    “well, yes, that’s right, but it’s news to me that climate modeling actually were about “the belief in the completeness of a computer program”. I don’t know who you picked up that idea from, but it’s pretty clear that whoever said that first has no clue whatsoever what computational modeling of physical systems is about.”

    If people didn’t “believe in the completeness of the model” they should be open to alternative solutions to the problem. But since “the science is settled” you do the math.

    the term is mine. pointing out the problems and limitations of models is a hobby of mine.

    Reply
  15. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    believe it or not – they are. But as always: up to a point. If an idea contradicts the data too strongly, no one will believe you – that’s what science is about. The scientific process may not always be perfect, but the principle is sound.

    There is a book which was quite popular in the 50s, a New York Times bestseller, by Immanuel Velikovsky, “worlds in collision”. The author claimed that within the last 20000 years or so, there would have been major re-arrangements going on in the solar system, and incidentally, these would be related to mythological events – i.e. they encoded some memory of actual astrophysical reality. Now, in that case it was quite easy to see for anybody with just cursory familiarity with classical physics that Velikovsky’s analysis was utter nonsense. Still, it had received considerable popularity.

    First question: Do you agree with me that Velikovsky’s analysis was as outright ridiculous as every astronomer saw it, and that he was not able to see that himself as the self-assessment of his knowledge of astronomy was highly distorted – perhaps due to the Dunning-Kruger effect?

    Second question: you implicitly mentioned changes in solar activity earlier (other planets warming). What specific data do you have to support that claim? Let’s take a look at numbers.

    Reply
  16. Duane Hennon

    Thom,

    http://www.livescience.com/environment/070312_solarsys_warming.html
    Sun Blamed for Warming of Earth and Other Worlds

    why bring up Velikovsky? I’m talking about the current “mythological model” claiming predictive powers of seeing 20 years into the future. do these models claim to know all the forces and have them in the proper relationship to do this?

    my point is that the “warmers” do not accept any other scenarios so they must believe the model is complete and true.

    I do not believe the models are complete or true, so they should not be the basis of doing everything or stuck into every article about doing something positive for the environment

    Reply
  17. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    Why bring up Velikovsky? There is a very good reason for that. Essentially, it’s all about the question how one personally deals with finding out that one adopted a belief which turned out to be untenable.

    The appropriate reaction in such a situation is to sit back and ponder the question “how could that happen – evidently my strategies for assessing what I accept as plausible turned out to be wrong, how can I improve on them so that I avoid this problem in the future?”

    Velikovsky is an example for a person not being able to do that sort of introspection. When he was shown to be wrong, he just came up with the next funny idea why his “theory” nevertheless was not disproven. That’s a game that can be played at infinitum – as George Orwell put it so nicely: “We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.”

    So, there isn’t be any point in having a discussion about a very specific physics issue (actually, any physics issue – but here, this specifically is about solar output and global warming) unless there is an agreement that whoever will turn out to be wrong is supposed to do a deep self-assessment what made him accept an untenable belief – rather than just coming up with another egregious excuse for sticking to the previous idea.

    If we can agree on this, we can discuss physics, because no matter what we will find when looking into this, we will together quite likely make progress towards a more accurate picture.

    With people who don’t agree on the importance of an appropriate response in the form of a deep self-assessment what went wrong whenever someone made up their mind about something that turned out to be an untenable belief, and how to improve judgment so that the problem is avoided in the future, it is impossible to have any scientific discussion. That actually should be self-evident. But unfortunately, as science has done so badly when it comes to communicating to the public how it works and what it is about, it unfortunately is not. In particular, in some parts of society there seems to be a culturally established belief that it would be OK to always rebut any scientific objection by just spinning another wild hypothesis. This is fairly ubiquitous – you won’t be able to have a scientific discussion about evolution with a creationist, and you won’t be able to have a scientific discussion with a staunch believer in perpetual motion machines about thermodynamics.

    So – how is it? Do you accept this basic point that in order to make progress towards a deeper understanding of the scientific issue in question, then having identified an untenable claim must give the claimant reason to re-asses what caused their judgement to go wrong?

    If so, we can discuss science. If not, we can’t.

    Reply
  18. Duane Hennon

    “So – how is it? Do you accept this basic point that in order to make progress towards a deeper understanding of the scientific issue in question, then having identified an untenable claim must give the claimant reason to re-asses what caused their judgement to go wrong?

    If so, we can discuss science. If not, we can’t.”

    yes, i agree

    now the “scientific issue at question”
    Do you think the current climate models are complete enough, ie, have identified the forces and placed them in their proper relationship to claim that they can predict “climate change” 20 years in the future, based upon the change in one parameter (CO2)?

    Reply
  19. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    excellent – so we can now talk proper science.

    Concerning the completeness of models, there is a general point to keep in mind: a model always is an approximation of reality that serves a specific purpose, and the “art” of physics modeling (be it computational or not) is all about making up one’s mind what the important influences are and what can be ignored.

    That of course depends entirely on the question. Before the construction of a high rise building starts, there of course have to be mechanical models that allow us to make up our mind about what it will do if it is exposed to wind, say. The same holds for every airplane, every bridge, every ship, but equally well for every tyre, for that matter. Now, none of these models are “complete” – in the sense that they all are a truncation of reality. In every such truncation, there will be some neglected physical effect that gives the largest contribution to the deviation from reality. In the computational physics modeling of nanotech materials I do professionally, the biggest deviation between our models and reality perhaps comes from our computational models not involving any temperature effects. But the important point always is: do these truncated approximations work well enough so that we can answer the specific questions we are most interested in, a la “how thick does the wire have to be? How large an electric current do we need? Does the shape of the wire’s cross-section matter for this application?”

    A model does not consist of just a bunch of formulas or computer code that spits out some numbers. The most important component of any physics model always is the physical expertise that tells us what the model can be used for. I take it you have played a bit with resistors at school. The model for their electrical performance you will have seen is Ohm’s model for electrical resistance. Essentially, this says: twice the voltage across the resistor will give us twice the current. Now, what they most likely didn’t tell you back then (but IMO should have) is where the limits of applicability of that particular model are. It’s fine if for your particular problem, resistances only have to be accurate to 10% or so, and if you keep in mind that for these electronic component resistors, the product of voltage times current for each individual resistor never exceeds 1/4 Watt. (That’s what they can handle according to manufacturer’s specs.)

    So, of course, climate models are “incomplete”, but so are the models of resistance used by the circuit designers who built your computer, or the materials models used by the designers of your home. Are these (resistance/materials/etc.) models – crude as they are – good enough to use them as quantitative tools to design computers, houses, etc.? In the hands of a trained expert with the appropriate judgement skills, they are.

    So, I take it, the key issue when it comes to climate modeling is: are these models – which are in some sense crude approximations, just as all models of physics are – good enough to allow us to answer relevant questions which we have about climate?

    Now, even though I am working on computational modeling (also educating students about modeling), I always emphasize the importance of making up one’s mind about expected orders of magnitude first via something physicists call a back-of-the-envelope calculation. If you have a current of 1 ampere through a wire with a complicated cross-section that has a banana-shaped constriction, you can expect that a detailed calculation (“simulation” if you want so) will give you local current densities of 1A/[banana cross section] and below. Now, this is a very simplistic example, but the general principle can be applied for many different things. If you stand in Paris and shoot a cannonball north to hit a target 100 miles away, would the impact points calculated when taking earth’s rotation into account or not taking it into account deviate by some 10 meters, some 100 meters, a few miles, or some ten miles? That’s the sort of question physicists learn to answer fairly well using very crude models.

    Now, coming back to CO2, the first very crude model for the impact of major changes in atmospheric CO2 concentration on the climate which I am aware of was presented by Svante Arrhenius in 1896. (That’s actually also online at http://onramp.nsdl.org/eserv/onramp:17357/n4.Arrhenius1896.pdf) Using quite crude models and a few observations, Arrhenius came to the conclusion that if we just doubled atmospheric CO2 and kept everything else as it is, global mean temperature would increase by something like 5 K. Given the nature of such calculations and the quality of his data, this is understood to mean that he thinks that the rough magnitude of the effect he expects is anywhere above 1 K and below 10 K.

    Now, he put crude data into a crude model, did not know about some spectroscopic details, and got a quite crude answer. Pretty much all physicists today still agree, using fairly similar reasoning as he did, that CO2 doubling would lead to an average temperature increase between 1K and 10K. But by now, we also think we know a few things a bit better and can say with some confidence that a response to CO2 doubling as high as 10K seems pretty much impossible.

    Now of course there are other influences as well. In space, incoming sunlight is ~ 1.36 kW per square meter. As the surface of a ball is four times the surface of an equatorial cross section, that means that every square meter on earth receives on average ~340 Watts of incoming solar radiation. At an equilibrium temperature of ~300K, a shift of 1K is 1/300. Outgoing radiation must of course match incoming radiation, and as radiation increases with the fourth power of temperature, and (1+1/300)^4 is roughly 1+4/300, a 1 K temperature increase of a black body at 300K corresponds to roughly an 1.3% shift in outgoing radiation, or about 4.4 W/m^2. So, if the sun (say) were to cause an 1K climate shift, it would have to become about 1% brighter. We know that the sun gets brighter as it ages at a current rate of about 10% per (US-)billion of years, but its output does not fluctuate at the 1% level. Rather, the ~340 W mentioned earlier have been fluctuating quite regularly by about 0.075% or so in an 11-year cycle. So, we can expect these changes in solar output to contribute perhaps a variation of 0.1 K to global temperatures. Changes in solar output hence certainly won’t give us a 1 K change during the next 100 years, that’s excluded.

    Reply
  20. Duane Hennon

    hi Thomas,
    sorry for the delay but i’ve been taking advantage of a beautiful week of “Indian summer” here to work outside.

    “Concerning the completeness of models, there is a general point to keep in mind: a model always is an approximation of reality that serves a specific purpose, and the “art” of physics modeling (be it computational or not) is all about making up one’s mind what the important influences are and what can be ignored.”

    I understand models are not reality. But all modelers fall in love with their creations and think they’re real, as is the case with your compatriots doing modeling of economics and astronomy.

    the other problem is admitting to “unknown” influences that can’t be ignored (The model isn’t complete and can’t give you the answer)

    new evidence should require “going back to the beginning” and developing a new model (if I knew this, would I’ve taken that path?) rather than trying to patch your masterpiece. a perfect case is that of “dark” stuff. the model is way off, 90% of the mass of the universe is missing!!!!!. or you model is wrong…..
    but you love your model and so many have Phd’s based upon it….

    here are two recent articles which should cause one to rethink the global warming model

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/nov/11/climate-change-forests-water-amazon

    World’s forests can adapt to climate change, study says

    Water shortages as a result of rising temperatures will not do as much damage as feared, evidence from ancient trees suggests

    Maybe healthy forests are the solution
    ———-
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/40152463#40152463

    Energy bubbles discovered at galaxy’s heart

    the galaxy gets a periodic thumping
    ———
    Otherwise keeping the model and trying to patch it leads to this nonsense

    http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2010/11/olivine-geoengineering/

    Powdering the Equator With Mineral Dust Could Fight Climate Change

    http://www.alternet.org/environment/148587/the_doomsday_machine_and_the_race_to_save_the_world%3A_geoengineering_emerges_as_plan_b_at_the_11th_hour/

    The Doomsday Machine and the Race to Save the World: Geoengineering Emerges as Plan B at the 11th Hour
    How close are we to space sunshades, mountaintop painting, ‘fertilizing’ the oceans with iron, and redirecting hurricanes? Closer than you might imagine.

    Reply
  21. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    I just don’t know what perplexes me more – that Paul La Violette was interviewed by MSNBC on astronomy, or that you evidently take that as serious.

    Just for clarification: La Violette is – among other things – the author of this book:

    http://www.amazon.com/Secrets-Antigravity-Propulsion-Classified-Technology/dp/159143078X

    “Secrets of Antigravity Propulsion: Tesla, UFOs, and Classified Aerospace Technology”

    Here, he talks at length about violations of energy conservation due to his “theory of subquantum kinetics”:

    http://starburstfound.org/downloads/physics/IECEC.pdf

    Essentially, he is one of those modern perpetuum mobile folks – they now instead use the terms “over unity devices” or “free energy devices”, but it’s the same nonsense.

    This nicely brings us back to Velikovsky – rest assured, La Violette’s writings are as much scientific nonsense as Velikovsky’s, for pretty much equivalent reasons.

    Reply
  22. Duane Hennon

    Thomas,

    a brief history of “over unity devices”
    1. a pointed stick
    2. stone tools
    3. fire
    4. levers
    ……
    5. oil wells
    6. planting a garden
    7. permaculture

    now instead of name calling, how about some research

    http://www.eike-klima-energie.eu/uploads/media/SO_Borchert.pdf

    abstract in English

    It was found that the South Pacific Oscillation (SO) is influenced by solar activity, similar to the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Especially during the warming period from 1980 to 2009 the oscillation of solar wind – Index “aa“ – was in good resonance with the delayed South Pacific Oscillation. The same observation was found between the oscillation of cosmic radiation, which is controlled by Forbush– reduction by the magnetic fields of the sun protons of the solar wind and the delayed SO (K=0.8). The consequence of these observations is the postulation that the increase of global temperature in the Southern Hemisphere was caused by solar activity with strong emissions of proton-rays in the Earth ‘s direction during the 22nd and 23rd sunspot-periods, reducing cosmic rays. This led to a reduction of cloudiness, increased solar rays and warming up the lower atmosphere (Svensmark –Effect). As a consequence, dissolved CO2 was continuously emitted by the slowly warming ocean, providing fertilizer for the flora of the world. A relevance of CO2 concerning climate change could not be found. With the end of solar activity in 2006, a cold weather period has also started in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Reply
  23. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    …you are aware what sort of source EIKE actually is?

    Could you please elaborate on in what sense, say, stone tools, are “over unity” devices?

    Reply
  24. Duane Hennon

    Thomas,

    “…you are aware what sort of source EIKE actually is?”

    is it the denier equivalent to the IPCC ?

    “over unity” devices are things the provide more “energy ” than were used to produce them. a stone tool requires X calories of energy to produce. a person using the tool to cut up a deer, expends Y calories. the same person would use Z calories to cut up the deer using his teeth and hands. If X+Y < Z , then the tool is "over unity" as the person has gained (saved) energy.

    over unity devices allow us to tap physical phenomena , otherwise unavailable to us, such as , sails capturing wind power.
    one can argue about the existence of certain phenomena, but don't buy into "over unity is woowoo" arguement

    Reply
  25. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    I take it that, obviously, people who take the research underlying the IPCC report as serious and mostly OK, then either – if they don’t know enough physics to make up their own mind – have been misled by con artists, or if they do know a bit about physics, evidently also are part of the conspiracy, right?

    Now, on “over-unity”: would you e.g. consider this to be sound:

    http://www.etheric.com/LaVioletteBooks/Book-Secrets.html

    Reply
  26. Duane Hennon

    hi Thom,

    perhaps the believers are too influenced by “experts and models” to question them.

    here’s a opposing view.

    http://democrats.science.house.gov/Media/file/Commdocs/hearings/2010/Energy/17nov/Lindzen_Testimony.pdf

    MIT’s Dr. Richard Lindzen’s 48-page Congressional Testimony: ‘Increase in CO2 will lead to very little warming’ — ‘Data is being analyzed with aim of supporting, rather than testing models’

    Richard S. Lindzen
    Program in Atmospheres, Oceans, and Climate
    Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Testimony:
    House Subcommittee on Science and Technology hearing on A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response
    November 17, 2010

    as far as “gravity models” which is stranger, someone who claims to have discovered the secret of “anti-gravity” or someone who insists they know all about gravity but whose model has 90% of the mass of the universe missing?

    I say if LaViolette can build an anti-gravity machine we should let him and see if it works

    Reply
  27. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    we were very certain that the top quark existed before we discovered it – we just did not know its mass and some of its properties. The situation is very similar with dark matter: these are big bang remnants which just happen not to be charged under both the electromagnetic U(1) and also chromodynamic SU(3) gauge groups – which makes them experimentally very difficult to access. For that reason, we cannot at present experimentally discern between a number of possible cases what dark matter actually could be, but we are still do already know quite a few things about it.

    For that matter, we have not seen the Higgs boson yet either, but we are very certain that the LHC must find something that functionally plays the role of the Higgs field in the Standard Model. The simplest theoretical model we have is the Higgs boson, but there are a few alternatives that may also be possible. Finding nothing is pretty much excluded.

    Now, back to gravity, most of the energy density in the Universe is not even dark matter, but we actually do have measurements and error bars that tell us that there’s a nonzero cosmological constant. Of course, we would like to have better measurements and smaller error bars, and that’s why we keep on sending more sophisticated probes into orbit, such as the Planck satellite, but the general picture – even though details are missing – is a fairly sound one.

    I am not going to try convincing you of anything – from what I’ve seen, I have come to the conclusion that that would be a waste of time. To other readers, I just want to point out that there is a common pattern, that runs along the following lines:

    (1) I don’t like theory X (for whatever reason) and would like to have something I can take as justification to not take it serious.

    (2) I look around the fringes of theory X where error bars are large and see whether there’s some observation Y that looks debatable.

    (3) I exaggerate the problems of theory X to explain observation Y even though X’s claim about Y was not a strong one and call this my reason to consider theory X as invalid.

    This game can be played nicely with any sort of theory. And indeed, for pretty much any theory, you will find people who reason against it like that. How silly this is depends all on how strong the claim of X about Y actually was, but in order to see this, one has to discuss statistics and exclusion plots.

    So, what specific theory of gravity (general relativity?) does actually make how strong a claim about the matter composition of the Universe which you see violated by which astronomic observations specifically, and how good are these observations (error bars)?

    Reply
  28. Duane Hennon

    Thom,

    “(1) I don’t like theory X (for whatever reason) and would like to have something I can take as justification to not take it serious.”

    see Richard S. Lindzen’s response

    “I exaggerate the problems of theory X ….”

    so being off by 90% is OK and there’s no need to recheck basic assumptions?

    here’s a site I find interesting
    http://www.amperefitz.com/why.we.have.gravity.htm

    please remember, Models are ONLY approximations and have limitations. being able to see when the limit (gauge)is exceeded (you start to get crazy answers)is needed.

    Reply
  29. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    Here’s a very fundamental point that might not yet have occurred to you: Gravity acts the same on all masses. By this I mean: you can call two masses as equal if pulling on them with the same force over the same length of time accelerates them to the same velocity. If you have two masses that are equal in this sense, they will also fall with the same acceleration. We did a number of precision experiments on this, and did not even find a deviation at the 1 : 1 million million level. (That’s pretty much as far as the best apparatuses we managed to devise so far could take us. We would like to check with even higher accuracy, but this first requires new developments in precision measurement technology.)

    Now, gravitational theory basically makes claims about how mass curves space-time, how mass moves in curved space-time. It is in itself completely agnostic about what that mass is made of, for all masses react in the same way to gravity. Therefore, gravitational theory will never tell you what that mass is made of. And for that matter, classical mechanics will never tell you where you forgot your car keys either.

    So you are trying to attack a theory (of gravity) by insisting that claiming it would have some sort of serious shortcoming with respect to an issue it actually never made a claim about!

    Concerning the website you listed, here are two challenges:

    (1) The article claims: “Today half the scientists believe gravity acts at the speed of light but not even one astronomical group of any university agrees with this speed.” It hence should be easy for you to find *one* astronomical group at *one* university that did publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal contesting on an experimental basis that gravitational waves move at the speed of light.

    (2) “Gravity is the binding of quarks with other quarks (in other atoms) via their spin or spin frequency. In other words the strong force — via phase coherence — is leaking out to other atoms.” – We have a fairly good idea of the masses of atoms, and also the masses of nuclei. In particular, we have measured that the fraction of an atom’s mass that is carried by its electrons is measurably different for different elements. If it really is the quarks that cause gravity, and solitary electrons hence do not respond to gravity, please explain why bodies with very different numbers of quarks per kilogram still all respond to gravity in the same way.

    Reply
  30. Duane Hennon

    Thom,

    here’s Daniel Fitzpatrick’s reply to your questions:

    “Duane,

    If you read my papers and things: http://amperefitz.com/4.decades.htm

    then you will find I’ve already answerd everything you are asking.

    for instance Van Flandern said he was taught at Yale University that
    Gravity had to go almost instantly. In fact EVERY Astronomical school in
    EVERY university teaches this. If your friend doesn’t know this then he
    doesn’t know much.

    Yes, gravity and inertia are precisely the same. They have to be and I’ve
    shown you why. READ!”

    for a discussion of the speed of gravity

    http://metaresearch.org/cosmology/speed_of_gravity.asp

    now getting back to the thread

    1. my point was that injecting ” CO2 is causing global warming” into every article that shows positive environment results isn’t a good idea because many pro-environment people are wary of the terms.

    the thread on Allan Savory Holistic Management – A New Framework For Decision Making, seems to have been forgotten

    if you watch the Vimeo clip of his presentation on the bfi link, part way down the page, he discusses his views of climate change vs CO2 from fossil fuel, and that the solution to climate change is better land management
    http://permaculturenews.org/2010/10/07/holistic-management/#more-4201
    http://challenge.bfi.org/winner_2010

    2, relying on models isn’t a good idea without strict limits defined about where they model fits

    3. model makers fall in love with their models and defend them instead of challenging them. instead of welcoming criticism, they become offended that anyone would question them.

    4. over-unity isn’t a scary mystery.

    5, let’s stick with discussions of global warming

    Reply
  31. Thomas Fischbacher

    Duane,

    ad “let’s stick with discussions of global warming” – I think it is of quite some relevance for this discussion whether your evaluation metric for scientific claims is broken – how could we ever discuss science in that case.

    Ad gravity: the common ground of researchers working on fundamental physics is the most cited piece of work in the field, the Review of Particle Physics, published annually by the Particle Data Group: http://pdg.lbl.gov/

    This contains an extensive list of experiments and constraints on fundamental parameters. If someone thinks they found something that directly contradicts previous ideas/experiments, it is their obligation to make the experiment independently verifiable so that it can be checked against the most accurate experiments that have been done till this date and are collected in the RPP. Concerning the speed of gravity, the article is “Experimental tests of gravitational theory”, by Thibault Damour, on this page:

    http://pdg.lbl.gov/2010/reviews/contents_sports.html

    So, not accepting “read all these papers to find the answer” as an answer to my question about different materials falling with the same acceleration, let me ask again – for a specific answer: If gravity is a residual force effect that comes from the strong force, why is it that bodies with quite a different number of quarks per kilogram experience the same gravitational acceleration?

    Reply
  32. Thomas Fischbacher

    By the way, concerning van Flandern’s article on the subject, http://www.ldolphin.org/vanFlandern/gravityspeed.html, I think he is seriously wrong here (but not just here alone):

    If gravity were a simple force that propagated outward from the Sun at the speed of light, as radiation pressure does, its mostly radial effect would also have a small transverse component because of the motion of the target. Analogous to the Poynting-Robertson effect, the magnitude of that tangential force acting on the Earth would be 0.0001 of the Sun’s radial force, which is the ratio of the Earth’s orbital speed (30 km/s) to the speed of this hypothetical force of gravity moving at light-speed (300,000 km/s). It would act continuously, but would tend to speed the Earth up rather than slow it down because gravity is attractive and radiation pressure is repulsive. Nonetheless, the net effect of such a force would be to double the Earth’s distance from the Sun in 1200 years.

    I do accept that sun moves as earth moves around it, and one has to take the retarded position of the moving sun to find the gravitational acceleration experienced by Earth. However, the amount of sun-movement depends on the ratio of sun mass to earth mass, while the ratio he quotes (30 km/s : 300 000 km/s) actually does not. If earth had the mass of a tennis ball, his ratio would be the same, but sun’s motion in response to earth’s gravitational pull would be unmeasurably small.

    The point where he got it wrong is his assumption that there would have to be force carriers flying out of the sun just like photons, that would then attract earth towards the sun as they hit it. But that’s *not* how gravity works.

    Incidentally, the flaw in his reasoning is standard introductory physics textbook material. The problem is discussed in some detail e.g. in section 7.7 (“What is Gravity?”) in the first volume of the Feynman lectures in physics. (Yes, I just checked.) That undergraduate course was delivered in 1962/63 at Cal Tech. Van Flandern’s article is from 1998.

    Reply
  33. Charles Otway

    Go out and do some permaculture boys. The initial article was a fine entry level piece of information. The diatribe that follows is really a personal argument you should have kept that way, but it was a interesting and humorous read. So thanks. But yes use your energy and brains for good. You both clearly have heaps.

    Reply

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