Greenhouse Emissions of Agriculture

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 6:25 AM GMT on July 27, 2013

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Greenhouse Emissions of Agriculture

In the last blog there was a comment by peregrinepickle on the emissions from agriculture. It started:

“It sounds like they may be putting the cart before the workhorse with this study. A 2010 survey of the literature found that too few studies on GHG emissions and the impact of various alternative farming practices have been done in US agricultural regions, including the Great plains Ironically, more research is being done in this vein in China. So it seems premature to appeal to US farmers re: willingness to adopt certain practices before knowing exactly where you are going with it.

Agriculture, compared to other sources, is not a huge contributor to GHGs, relative to the contributions by industry, transportation, and utilities. In the US farming is responsible for 6% of the overall emissions of the six major GHGs. However, farming does contribute about 25% of all CH4 emissions in the US, which is major, as this gas is 21-33 times more potent in warming potential than CO2.”

Back in April and May I wrote two entries on the emissions from agriculture (first entry, second entry). These two entries highlighted both the complexity of calculating the greenhouse emissions related to agriculture as well as suggested some of the controversy associated with the calculation. The controversy is especially high in the calculation associated with livestock.

The amount of direct fossil fuel emissions from use of fuels in machinery and pumps for agriculture is modest, as stated in peregrinepickle’s comment. Those numbers are based on a 2010 inventory by the Environmental Protection Agency. Here is a link to the chapter that details the agricultural inventory. The greenhouse gas emissions compiled in the chapter on agriculture are for greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide, especially methane and nitrous oxide. For the EPA inventory, the carbon dioxide associated with agriculture is accounted for in the energy inventory. Additional emissions and removal of greenhouse gasses are calculated with land use, land change and forestry. The national forests are part of the Department of Agriculture.

The accounting with soils and forests influences, greatly, the budget of emissions associated with agriculture. Based on soil management agriculture can remove and store substantial amounts of greenhouse gases. In the U.S. agriculture is a mature and extensive enterprise, and we are not aggressively converting forest to agricultural land. In fact, the amount of forest is increasing and, therefore, can be accounted as an agricultural removal of carbon dioxide. This fact of increasing forest land is not the case in much of the world. World-wide, deforestation as forest is converted to agricultural use, especially rangeland, accounts for much of the carbon footprint of agriculture. Phil Robertson in an article to appear in the Encyclopedia of Agriculture estimates the total greenhouse gas footprint of agriculture is between 26 and 36 percent (thank you Professor Robertson). This range seems soundly based in the synthesis of research, and the number I would quote based on the current state of knowledge.

As detailed in Livestock’s Long Shadow and stated in the entirety of peregrinepickle’s comment, the impact of agriculture reaches far beyond the relevance to climate change. Notably there are impacts on water quality and land quality, and, in my opinion, the impact of nitrogen (fertilizer) pollution is one of the most under appreciated sources of environmental degradation. Management of this whole portfolio of environmental impacts is one of the special challenges of the agricultural sector of human activities.

The mix of greenhouse gas emissions, the details of the practice of land use, the role of biological processes, and the potential to remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and store them in soil and biomass characterize the climate impact of agriculture. Agriculture is also vulnerable to climate change. Since agriculture is a highly competitive, market-dependent undertaking, market response to weather and climate can amplify weather-related impacts. Agriculture becomes more entangled with the climate problem, when we consider the possibility of biofuels to replace some of our fossil fuels. This complexity complicates the accounting of climate impacts, but also offers some of our best opportunities to improve our management of the environment. Agriculture is no doubt an important player in our management of climate change, and notably absent in President Obama recent speech on climate change.

A primary source of agricultural information is Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. An often cited document is the 2006 documentLivestock’s Long Shadow. There has been much criticism of this report, especially in its calculation of the emissions of the transportation sector. The original authors did modify their specific statements about transportation. As noted in an earlier blog in this series, there is substantial controversy about the impact of agriculture. Therefore, I end here with a set of reference materials that I have used.

EPA National Greenhouse Gas Emissions Data

PDF of Agriculture Chapter of EPA Inventory of Emissions

Agriculture’s Role in Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Chapter 8: Working Group 3: IPCC 2007

Energy Efficiency of Conventional, Organic and Alternative Cropping …

Livestock and Climate Change

and to appear

Soil Greenhouse Gas Emissions and their Mitigation, G. Philip Robertson, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station and the Department of Plant, Soil and Microbial Sciences, Michigan State University, Hickory Corners, MI 49060

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Quoting 309. spathy:
Marginally better. Particularly if power plant emissions from old power plants were better enforced.

Only marginally. Ok do you think new legislation should only be marginally enforced.
And if your best hope for legislation was passed would you only feel marginally satisfied.?

Really?


This statement makes no sense.
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Quoting 299. Snowlover123:
Pretty big forecast bust for those forecasting large losses from the Cyclone. It appears, as expected, that the cyclone slowed the melt rate down considerably.


LOL. Have you *seen* the Arctic sea ice the last couple of days? (Trick question. No one has.) And the worst part is the most interesting places have tended to be cloudiest the last couple of days. The numbers you are citing are at this point little more than model output. They may well be right...or not.

Storms don't melt ice, silly. This time of the year water melts ice. Storms churn up the water and break the ice into smaller pieces. It is those pieces that then melt.



Think that that's gonna last through the melt season? lol
Member Since: October 30, 2005 Posts: 7 Comments: 5469
It's not fluff spathy. Legislators can investigate but they cannot enforce. That's a basic part of the Constitution. Really basic. It's separation of powers.
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spathy's questions in #293

How well are your representatives in the countless over-site committees making sure the law and regulation is enforced?

Enforcement is a function of the executive branch. Our representatives have no enforcement role.

How well do you think the existing rules, regulations,legislation is being adhered to?

B-

Follow that train of thought and answer how much good will further legislation and regulatory mandate do?


Depends on the legislation.

How much cleaner ,more environmentally responsible, how much more (add proper adjective) would we be if we just adhered to the mile high stacks of legislation and the atmospheric stack levels of regulatory mandates?

Marginally better. Particularly if power plant emissions from old power plants were better enforced.
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The Onion (parody site) Predicts Real Life: Republicans Block NASA's Asteroid Plan

President Obama's plan to have NASA lasso an asteroid, tow it toward Earth, place it into the moon's orbit, and claim the space rock for the United States of America has hit a congressional snag. The New York Times reports:

NASA wants to launch an unmanned spacecraft in 2018 that would capture a small asteroid - maybe 7 to 10 yards wide - haul it closer to Earth, then send astronauts up to examine it, in 2021 or beyond.

But the space agency has encountered a stubborn technical problem: Congressional Republicans...[T]he science committee in the Republican-controlled House voted to bar NASA from pursuing that faraway rock. In a straight party vote - 22 Republicans for, 17 Democrats against - the committee laid out a road map for NASA for the next three years that brushed aside the asteroid capture plan, the centerpiece of the Obama administration's agenda for space exploration. The plan, instead, included new marching orders, telling NASA to send astronauts back to the Moon, set up a base there and then aim for Mars (and to do so with less money than requested).

Not only would the asteroid-lasso initiative have astronauts travel to the space rock to conduct mining operations and test technology for missions to Mars - it would allow NASA to research strategies for deflecting future, potentially world-ending asteroids.

MotherJones.com (7/31/2013)

Original parody - The Onion "Satire or Prediction?" (2/2/2011)
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Quoting 299. Snowlover123:
Pretty big forecast bust for those forecasting large losses from the Cyclone. It appears, as expected, that the cyclone slowed the melt rate down considerably.



That was a weak cyclone. A stronger one is forming now.

Member Since: January 2, 2006 Posts: 127 Comments: 20401
Quoting 299. Snowlover123:
Pretty big forecast bust for those forecasting large losses from the Cyclone. It appears, as expected, that the cyclone slowed the melt rate down considerably.



Well, at least that is a bit of good news. Do you have any more good news for us?
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Pretty big forecast bust for those forecasting large losses from the Cyclone. It appears, as expected, that the cyclone slowed the melt rate down considerably.

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Alberta Tar Sands Blowout Threatens Boreal Forest, Wasn't Disclosed Until Months Later

Tar sands oil has been spilling in Alberta’s boreal forests for months, and according to a government scientist, neither industry nor government knows how to stop it. Four "oil blowouts" left 34 tons of vegetation covered in oil, dozens of animals dead, and two-foot-high coats of oil on tree trunks.

So far, cleanup efforts have removed 26,000 barrels of bitumen mixed with surface water - at least 4,500 barrels of pure bitumen in total. The impacts on groundwater are unknown.

The spills are located at Canadian Natural Resources, Ltd.’s Primrose bitumen emulsion site in Cold Lake, Alberta. Two of the underground spills began in May, but the Alberta Energy Regulator kept the information silent for nine weeks. A third spill, reported on June 8, is believed to have been leaking for months. None of the previous three spills were reported to the public until the fourth spill on July 18.

First reported in the Toronto Star (with photos) and Mother Jones, the information was leaked by a Canadian government scientist who wished to remain anonymous for fear of losing his job.

According to the scientist,

"Everybody (at the company and in government) is freaking out about this. We don’t understand what happened. Nobody really understands how to stop it from leaking, or if they do they haven’t put the measures into place."

More at CrooksandLiars.com
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Spathy, an excellent word to bring to the discussion.

Comity

Click 'edit' and put comity in find for this page.
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Quoting 288. yoboi:


I don't think the goverment wants to be " energy independent" look where they want to bring the keystone pipeline se texas....this Sir is all about exporting and making money....I don't buy the BS that it's to lower gas prices for Americans that the repubs are saying.....


Exactly right. Did you know we haven't built a new refinery capable of distilling over 100,000 barrels a day since 1977. You would think if we were serious about energy independence we would want to have the ability to produce and refine our own oil. The reality is we lease the land rights to companies who in turn pay us money and a tiny fraction of oil (sometimes). We then buy back the oil on the open market. You are 100% correct, this is all about exporting and making money.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3388
Quoting 287. BaltimoreBrian:


Magry their best efforts!


Well said, my friend.
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Quoting 286. Naga5000:


I think regulators in the energy sector are just as in bed with the energy companies as the financial, and insurance sectors.

According to the AP in 2010 we had over 27,000 capped wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone not being used. Link With fracking, we are contaminating drinking water supplies. "The researchers analyzed 141 drinking water wells (combining data from a previous study of 60 sampled wells in 2011) from the Alluvium, Catskill, and Lock Haven aquifers and a few drinking water wells from the Genesee Formation in Otsego County of New York. Methane was detected in 82 percent of drinking water samples for homes within a kilometer (0.62 miles or 1,093 yards) of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells. " Link

I think our drive for the buzz term "energy independence" has made us skip safety steps and take risks. Those risks are completely not necessary, but here we are. All energy production has risks and consequence, but I would rather look to renewable resources than finite, damaging resources.


Latest study (published last week) regarding potential well water contamination related to fracking in Texas: Link
Member Since: June 26, 2013 Posts: 0 Comments: 1817
288. yoboi
Quoting 286. Naga5000:


I think regulators in the energy sector are just as in bed with the energy companies as the financial, and insurance sectors.

According to the AP in 2010 we had over 27,000 capped wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone not being used. Link With fracking, we are contaminating drinking water supplies. "The researchers analyzed 141 drinking water wells (combining data from a previous study of 60 sampled wells in 2011) from the Alluvium, Catskill, and Lock Haven aquifers and a few drinking water wells from the Genesee Formation in Otsego County of New York. Methane was detected in 82 percent of drinking water samples for homes within a kilometer (0.62 miles or 1,093 yards) of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells. " Link

I think our drive for the buzz term "energy independence" has made us skip safety steps and take risks. Those risks are completely not necessary, but here we are. All energy production has risks and consequence, but I would rather look to renewable resources than finite, damaging resources.


I don't think the goverment wants to be " energy independent" look where they want to bring the keystone pipeline se texas....this Sir is all about exporting and making money....I don't buy the BS that it's to lower gas prices for Americans that the repubs are saying.....
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting 277. Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Yes, but nothing bothers you, Brian. :)


Magry their best efforts!
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Quoting 284. yoboi:



I know that in sw louisiana and se texas they are spending billions to start exporting natural gas....I met a guy this past weekend at a funeral and we got to talking he is from houston and owns a fracking company and some of the stories he was telling......long story short how there are so many people fracking and don't have a clue to what they are doing....Do you think inspectors from the EPA can be bought off?????


I think regulators in the energy sector are just as in bed with the energy companies as the financial, and insurance sectors.

According to the AP in 2010 we had over 27,000 capped wells in the Gulf of Mexico alone not being used. Link With fracking, we are contaminating drinking water supplies. "The researchers analyzed 141 drinking water wells (combining data from a previous study of 60 sampled wells in 2011) from the Alluvium, Catskill, and Lock Haven aquifers and a few drinking water wells from the Genesee Formation in Otsego County of New York. Methane was detected in 82 percent of drinking water samples for homes within a kilometer (0.62 miles or 1,093 yards) of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, wells. " Link

I think our drive for the buzz term "energy independence" has made us skip safety steps and take risks. Those risks are completely not necessary, but here we are. All energy production has risks and consequence, but I would rather look to renewable resources than finite, damaging resources.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3388
285. yoboi
Quoting 282. Naga5000:


Personally, I think the green energy sector should make it's main platform a statement of the obvious. Regardless of belief in global warming, the simple fact is oil, natural gas, coal, and other fuels in the ground are finite. There is a limited supply and we are going through it. Sun, wind, water will be always be there, if not we have bigger issues than energy production. I've stated here for a long time that a slow weening off of fossil fuels is needed starting now. The big energy producers are quite aware of this fact all ready, but would rather wait as long as they can to introduce smarter, greener programs and plans to maximize profits.


I think if we want to get the majority behind it you need Drs.....it took time but the Drs beat big tobacco...if they can beat them they can beat big oil...IMO
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
284. yoboi
Quoting 282. Naga5000:


Personally, I think the green energy sector should make it's main platform a statement of the obvious. Regardless of belief in global warming, the simple fact is oil, natural gas, coal, and other fuels in the ground are finite. There is a limited supply and we are going through it. Sun, wind, water will be always be there, if not we have bigger issues than energy production. I've stated here for a long time that a slow weening off of fossil fuels is needed starting now. The big energy producers are quite aware of this fact all ready, but would rather wait as long as they can to introduce smarter, greener programs and plans to maximize profits.



I know that in sw louisiana and se texas they are spending billions to start exporting natural gas....I met a guy this past weekend at a funeral and we got to talking he is from houston and owns a fracking company and some of the stories he was telling......long story short how there are so many people fracking and don't have a clue to what they are doing....Do you think inspectors from the EPA can be bought off?????
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Published on Jul 19, 2013

Many photographs of the Southeast's Smoky Mountains show layers of tall hills, shading to purples and grays in the distance. Tiny particles in the atmosphere help create the effect, which makes for stunning pictures. But human-caused enhancements of those fine particles also contribute to poor air quality in the Southeastern U.S., and may help explain why the region has not warmed like the rest of the nation.

So this summer, scientists from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder, NOAA and colleagues from dozens of other institutions took one of the most detailed looks ever at the natural and manmade emissions that affect air quality in the Southeast, and their movement and chemical transformations within the atmosphere. The mission, called Southeast Nexus or SENEX, should help scientists determine the origin of the fine particles and how they contribute to the haziness in the region and affect regional air quality and temperature trends.

To learn more about the mission's goals, see

http://cires.colorado.edu/news/press/....

SENEX is also part of an even broader Southern Atmosphere Study,

http://www.eol.ucar.edu/projects/sas/.

Thanks to the many agencies and people participating in these important missions. Participants include: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the National Center for Atmospheric Research, the National Science Foundation, the Electric Power Research Institute and dozens of other academic, research and private institutions.

Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 424 Comments: 128314
Quoting 280. yoboi:
From someone who does not yet agree with AGW...I am still learning.....To me the green energy sector should change tactics and talk more about the health risk with burning fossil fuels....The majority of Drs would back this...people trust there life with a Dr....please share any thoughts you have about this....


Personally, I think the green energy sector should make it's main platform a statement of the obvious. Regardless of belief in global warming, the simple fact is oil, natural gas, coal, and other fuels in the ground are finite. There is a limited supply and we are going through it. Sun, wind, water will be always be there, if not we have bigger issues than energy production. I've stated here for a long time that a slow weening off of fossil fuels is needed starting now. The big energy producers are quite aware of this fact all ready, but would rather wait as long as they can to introduce smarter, greener programs and plans to maximize profits.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3388
That's a very good point... People, in general, do care about their health more than the environment.

Happily, if we take care of the environment it helps our health! Talk about a win-win.
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280. yoboi
From someone who does not yet agree with AGW...I am still learning.....To me the green energy sector should change tactics and talk more about the health risk with burning fossil fuels....The majority of Drs would back this...people trust there life with a Dr....please share any thoughts you have about this....
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting 278. yoboi:


If you do not belive in AGW.....I can tell you this all the fossil fuels we are burning is a serious health risk linked to terminal illness......
I wish we could get off fossil fuels,I think it is attributed to a slew of health problems!
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278. yoboi
Quoting 275. overwash12:
Thank you ,Rookie! I'm not trying to troll or cause arguments for entertainment. If all this is true(AGW) Then I would suspect that we are all doomed,but there is always hope for mankind! It seems that we need to change our ways and fast. That is one thing I do agree with.


If you do not belive in AGW.....I can tell you this all the fossil fuels we are burning is a serious health risk linked to terminal illness......
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting 276. BaltimoreBrian:


It didn't bother me at all.


Yes, but nothing bothers you, Brian. :)
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Quoting 261. Naga5000:
I think my comment broke the blog. Here are just the links to Miami's sea level rise problem. Link

and Link



It didn't bother me at all.
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Quoting 271. Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Yes, times are changing. What was before is no more and what was not likely before is likely now. You are a good man, overwash12. I have always enjoyed our conversations. You try to reason this all out and I appreciate that. After all, this is what we are all doing. Look at the evidence and take note of what has been observed already. It is very compelling.
Thank you ,Rookie! I'm not trying to troll or cause arguments for entertainment. If all this is true(AGW) Then I would suspect that we are all doomed,but there is always hope for mankind! It seems that we need to change our ways and fast. That is one thing I do agree with.
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Quoting 273. yoboi:



I have always said it is a big scam......but I have been having a closed mind.....I have been doing alot of studying recently with an open mind....I am amazed with how much I am learning....I am sorry to all the people I argued with on here.....Thanks to all that have shown me good information.....


We all learn together, Yoboi. An open mind is the only way to do so. Should I see the evidence that shakes the AGWT to its very foundation then I will acknowledge it and be grateful we were not our own worst enemy.
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273. yoboi
Quoting 268. overwash12:
Yes,I do have an open mind. That's why I believe alot of this is hype. For what reasons ,I really don't know.



I have always said it is a big scam......but I have been having a closed mind.....I have been doing alot of studying recently with an open mind....I am amazed with how much I am learning....I am sorry to all the people I argued with on here.....Thanks to all that have shown me good information.....
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting 269. Naga5000:


I fixed it. I mistakenly hit the "ruin blog" key.


Darn! I thought I busted that key the last time I hit it. lol
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Quoting 263. overwash12:
I respect that,I just feel(no expert here) that all this is being way overplayed. What kind of storms did the U.S. experience 600 to 1000 years ago? I have seen with my own eyes trees stumps exposed on the beach,so we are migrating westward as we speak! On the east coast that is.


Yes, times are changing. What was before is no more and what was not likely before is likely now. You are a good man, overwash12. I have always enjoyed our conversations. You try to reason this all out and I appreciate that. After all, this is what we are all doing. Look at the evidence and take note of what has been observed already. It is very compelling.
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Quoting 265. Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Should that even be close to true then it would serve as a clear indication of how much of an impact we have on the global climate. If only 5% of the warming is due to mankind's action it is evident that this was enough to tip the scales of balance. Imagine what would happen if we increased our efforts and it became 10%. Fun times, huh?
Fun times! Not all weather related either,some politically messed up stuff too! But this is a climate change blog,we will stick to that.
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Quoting 267. Some1Has2BtheRookie:


Naga, I think your post is causing a problem on the blog. Is anyone else noticing this?


I fixed it. I mistakenly hit the "ruin blog" key.
Member Since: June 1, 2010 Posts: 4 Comments: 3388
Quoting 264. yoboi:



Have you ever looked at both sides of the debate with an open mind??????
Yes,I do have an open mind. That's why I believe alot of this is hype. For what reasons ,I really don't know.
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Quoting 261. Naga5000:


Naga, I think your post is causing a problem on the blog. Is anyone else noticing this?

Edit: Never mind. It is working for me now.
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Quoting 262. BaltimoreBrian:


And 0% for greenhouse gas emissions.

To be consistent that means you have to deny all these things:

1. That humans emit CO2 and other greenhouse gases due to fossil fuels.

2. That CO2 and other greenhouse gases are not increasing due to human activity

3. That CO2 and other greenhouse gases do not trap infrared radiation.

Oh,I forgot ! My bad,also greenhouse gases.
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Quoting 255. overwash12:
95% Natural,5% man-made because of deforestation ,pavement jungles,Urban heat islands,pollution.


Should that even be close to true then it would serve as a clear indication of how much of an impact we have on the global climate. If only 5% of the warming is due to mankind's action it is evident that this was enough to tip the scales of balance. Imagine what would happen if we increased our efforts and it became 10%. Fun times, huh?
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264. yoboi
Quoting 255. overwash12:
95% Natural,5% man-made because of deforestation ,pavement jungles,Urban heat islands,pollution.



Have you ever looked at both sides of the debate with an open mind??????
Member Since: August 25, 2010 Posts: 7 Comments: 2337
Quoting 257. Some1Has2BtheRookie:


I don't even know how to address you on this, overwash. You don't think so??? What does it matter what any of us think? Does it change the Laws of Physics? Would it erase what has already been observed?
I respect that,I just feel(no expert here) that all this is being way overplayed. What kind of storms did the U.S. experience 600 to 1000 years ago? I have seen with my own eyes trees stumps exposed on the beach,so we are migrating westward as we speak! On the east coast that is.
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About RickyRood

I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.