You’ve heard about the recent report warning that global climate change is occurring at rates faster than originally anticipated?

The gist is that researchers are surprised by the significant difference between capping global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius (above pre-industrial temperatures) and capping it at 2 degrees. They discovered that that half a degree makes all the difference between really bad results and catastrophic ones. The Paris Agreement of Nov. 4, 2016 had settled on the range of 1.5 to 2 degrees C. The IPCC is urging that we stick to the lower part of that range. Presently, the planet is thought to be 1C hotter than pre-industrial levels.

Professor Kirsten Zickfeld, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University.

Professor Kirsten Zickfeld, Associate Professor, Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University.

The authors of that UN report, the 48th one of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), include climate change specialists, scientists, from around the world, including a Canadian-based researcher who co-authored this report.

Professor Kirsten Zickfeld, Associate Professor at the Department of Geography at Simon Fraser, investigates whether reversibility of human-induced climate change is possible. Zickfeld is trying to learn more about the carbon cycle response to carbon dioxide removal (CDR). Turns out there is scant research on the interaction between artificial CDR and the carbon cycle. Zickfeld’s expertise includes developing climate change models and her interest is to gain some understanding of the interplay between CDR and carbon cycles to improve the performance of such models. With her research, we may be in a better position to target efforts to stem or reverse climate change and improve efficiency of CDR.

By the way, her research groups are looking for smart graduate students in MSc, PhD and there is also a position for a Post-doc beginning this November. More information here.

I’m reading the IPCC report summary now and dipping into sections of the full report as part of the research for the upcoming Future Food Salon 3. The Guardian Newspaper has a good summary with helpful graphics detailing the differences between capping temperature rise at 1.5 degrees compared with 2.0. Coral, sadly, dies off at either temperature increase, in fact, it’s already been happening and Netflix has a doc on this worth watching. Possibly 10% of corals will survive if the lower of the two temperatures is achieved. That’s as good as gets. As a ten year old and later as an adult I’ve been fortunate to have had the chance to snorkel on coral reefs in the Caribbean. It was an exhilarating experience: I felt like I was flying in another world—where animals swam right up to my face, where manta rays seemingly flew past and hammerheads glided by while schools of brightly coloured fish darted to the left and then to the right and yet never touched me. The dying off of the corals might be the least of our worries, though, if we let temperatures rise more than another half degree.

Food production is deeply implicated since clearing forests for agriculture is an environmental double whammy: removing carbon sinks (trees breathe in carbon dioxide) and replacing them with net carbon producers, often modern industrial agriculture. With its inputs (fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides), soil depletion and concentrated wastes including ozone-depleting methane, today’s agriculture is a significant culprit. It’s not just production but also packaging (distribution) as plastics, often wrapping the foods we eat, are clogging up oceans, breaking down in all the worst sorts of ways and generally killing marine life and more. Food waste is another big factor with methane, a by-product of rotting food, being a much more toxic greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. Eating locally produced, organic food, wasting nothing, insisting on plastic-free wrapping help—more is needed, and we’ll be exploring options in upcoming posts.

The IPCC report outlines four routes to achieving a 1.5C cap. They have laid out the science for these different options. What they have not done and what is beyond their capacity is providing a plan to galvanize the political will to make this happen. Will.

Carbon negative everything seems to be the route to success. Riding a bike is better than driving a car. Riding a bike with a dynamo that charges your phone while you pedal is better than just riding a bike. And so it goes. Getting a handle on how to calibrate carbon negative activity on a small scale would be helpful. It seems clear that we have to maximize CDR in everything we do, whether we are the head of state or an elementary school student. What impact CDR actually has on reversing climate change remains to be seen. It does, however, seem clear that CDR is crucial to our efforts to remain under 1.5C change, and thereby avoid the most devastating versions of the climate changes ahead.


photo: Professor Kirsten Zickfeld, Simon Fraser faculty headshot.

About the blog…

So, the blog is back. Philosopher of Food (aka Food Theory Applied) was a blog I wrote some years ago on a now defunct site called Posterous. Here it is resurrected; this is the first post in the new series. I’m going to focus on topics to do with our upcoming Future Food Salon 3: Voyage to Anthropocene. Drop me a line to let me know what you think or if you have suggestions for topics you’d like to see covered.