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erikjohnson61y
Esteemed Advisor

Re: interesting article

Your link is broken.  Here is the article: https://www.quantamagazine.org/a-soil-science-revolution-upends-plans-to-fight-climate-change-202107...    

Interesting article, but brings up some questions:

1 - In theory, earth originally had a nitrogen/CO2 atmosphere, and over a loooong period of time cyanobacteria converted most of the CO2 to O2. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/origin-of-oxygen-in-atmosphere/  Where did all that carbon go?  Can we put cyanobacteria to work again?

2 - Topsoil weighs about 75#/ft^3, soil organic matter is the top 6 inches, say there's 250 million acres of row crops in the US, that's 4x10^14 pounds of topsoil under cultivation in the US. Reliable estimates are difficult, but I think it's believed that the prairie sod topsoil was 6-10% OM before busting, and now it's 2-5% after a century of cultivation. If we take the middle of those numbers for a SWAG, 8% - 3.5% = 4.5% by mass loss of carbon in the US topsoil, which would be 9 billion tons of carbon, or 33 billion tons of CO2 released (net) from cultivation. So if we could build soil OM back up to the original levels with better farming practices, we might sequester a similar amount. That would be great for crop production as OM has all kinds of great benefits, but unfortunately that's less than 2 years of CO2 output from burning coal, oil, & gas.

3 - Between the lines, the article basically says that the climate models are based on extreme simplifications because of the complexity of the biosphere, and on top of that one of the major assumptions turns out to be wrong. Whether it's over-hyping to get the public's attention or bad data into a bad algorithm, climate doom continues to elude us.

4 - My personal take is that CO2 is a weak greenhouse gas present in small quantities. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas, also present in small quantities. Water vapor is a weak greenhouse gas present in large quantities (which is why deserts have extreme temperature swings). This article only reinforces that belief. We should focus primarily on reducing methane emissions/escapes for climate reasons, and begin a *smart* transition to electricity for  transportation once we have eliminated coal from the generation mix. Switching to EV's that are powered by coal plants is a step backwards.  First priority should be the grid and batteries. Start building the grid now that can handle the increased load of cars, trucks, and trains that run on electricity. We have built two wind farms here near me, and there is more wind capacity, but no more grid capacity. Develop batteries that can recharge in about the same time that a fuel stop/bio-break can be done on a highway trip. Then you can start to transition the car fleet. Electrify the main lines on the railways. Locomotives are already diesel-electric - let them pull the juice from overhead lines and switch back to diesel for branch lines where electrification doesn't make economic sense. The transition can be done smartly if you put engineers in charge of planning instead of useless Czars like Lurch Kerry.

(sorry for the length of this - raining and snowing today so not much else to do! Waiting for spring to arrive...)

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