Earlier this year, the U.N. issued a warning about famine, pointing out that war is compounding the problems of climate disruption and famine, adding that the “main costs to farmers are fertilizers and energy”. The U.N. statement follows many news media reports about the rising cost of living.
How can these problems best be addressed? Two sets of feebates can best accomplish agriculture reform and a rapid transition to clean, renewable energy, as has been discussed in many earlier posts and as is discussed in more detail below.
Instead of adding chemical nitrogen fertilizers – typically produced with natural gas – in annually-planted monocultures, it’s better to have a diversity of vegetation including a variety of perennial plants such as legumes and trees. Furthermore, pyrolyzing biowaste should be encouraged, as this reduces fire hazards and produces biochar that can be added to soil to sequester carbon and to increase nutrients and water in the soil.
Legumes include beans, peas, peanuts, lentils, lupins, mesquite, carob, tamarind, alfalfa, and clover. Legumes can naturally fix nitrogen to the soil, thus reducing the need for nitrogen fertiliser and in turn reducing the associated emissions, including nitrous oxide. Adding nitrogen fertilizer can also cause the formation of dead zones in lakes and oceans. Dead zones occur when the water gets too many nutrients, such as phosphorus and nitrogen.
In too many cases, chemical nitrogen fertilizers are added unnecessarily. The intent may be to help the plants grow, e.g. when leaves of plants turn yellow or when there is little growth. But it may actually be that the plants get too little water because the roots of the plants were damaged or too short, or that there was too little shade and too much sun. Excessive nitrogen fertilization and irrigation can then result in a lot of green leaves, but this growth can come at the expense of good food.
Instead, with a good mix of vegetation, there’s little or no need to add chemical nitrogen fertilizer, since nitrogen-fixing plants such as legumes can help fast-growing plants get the necessary nitrogen, while the fast-growing plants provide shade for the legumes and the soil. Next to providing shade, the tall, sturdy stalks of plants such as corn can give the vines of beans something to attach themselves to. Fast-growing pants can provide a lot of shade to other plants and to the soil, thus keeping the soil moist, while also preventing the infiltration and growth of weeds and while also deterring pests with their spiny leaves.
Trees can lower surface temperatures by providing shade and by holding colder air under their canopy, thus avoiding extreme temperatures that could also cause the soil to get too dry. The roots of trees prevent erosion and guide rainwater to reach greater depth, thus avoiding that the soil gets too wet in case of heavy rain. Trees then pump water up from deep in the ground with their roots and much of the water comes out again through leaves (evapotranspiration), which stimulates rainfall. Furthermore, trees release pheromones (that attract pollinators) and other aerosols such as terpenes. Trees are typically narrower at the top and wider below, and through their shape and by standing up high they can guide the wind upward, while water vapor released from leaves also helps lift these aerosols into the air. Raindrops forming around these aerosols will further stimulate the formation of lower cloud decks that provide shade, that reflect sunlight back into space and that produce more rainfall locally.
Important in this regard is the transition to a vegan-organic diet. This can dramatically reduce the need for land and water, while additionally reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A good mix and variety of vegetation can help each of the plants through symbiotic interaction grow an abundance of vegan-organic food locally in a sustainable way.
People can improve the landscape by removing biowaste from the forest floor to reduce fire hazards. Most of the biowaste can be pyrolyzed and returned to the soil in the form of biochar, which additionally reduces fire hazards, as it increases soil fertility and thus makes vegetation more healthy, while it also increases the soil’s capability to retain moisture.
Reducing the Cost of Energy and the Cost of Conflict
Currently, much fossil fuel is transported by ship. International shipping emissions are not included in national totals of greenhouse gas emissions, despite the huge part of international shipping in global trade, carrying 70% of that trade by value and more than 80% by volume. Near the coast, batteries are increasingly powering shipping, but in international waters, shipping is almost entirely powered by fossil fuel, mainly bunker oil. Some 43% of maritime transport is busy merely moving fuel across the globe, so terminating fuel usage on land could in itself almost halve international shipping emissions. In addition to the commercial emissions caused by shipping of fuel, there are also military emissions that are excluded in national totals, such as international use by the military of bunker fuels and jet fuel, greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption of bases abroad and the manufacture of equipment used by the military abroad. A large part of the military is busy securing and protecting global supply lines for fossil fuel, while burning huge amounts of fuel in the process. A 2019 analysis found that the US military’s global supply chain and heavy reliance on carbon-based fuels make it the largest institutional consumer of oil and one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters, more than many countries worldwide. Disputes over possession of fossil fuel are behind many international conflicts. Instead, nations can each cater for their power needs more independently and securely by transitioning to clean, renewable energy. A large part of a nation’s infrastructure is used to transport fuel domestically, including trucks driving on roads and highways, while also using tunnels and bridges, parking places and stations for refuelling, while additionally fuel is transported by trains, planes and vessels that need ports, railways stations and tracks, and a lot of fossil fuel is burned in the process of transporting the fuel and constructing and maintaining these facilities.
Furthermore, many forests and much cropland are used to supply biofuel, for use either to power vehicles, for heating or as fuel for power plants. Reducing the use of fuel will therefore also reduce nations getting into conflict with other nations, not only conflict over the possession of fossil fuel and over water to cool power plants, but also conflict over land and water that is used for agriculture and forestry to grow biofuel.
In the video below, Robert Llewellyn interviews Mark Jacobson about The Climate Crisis.
Clean, renewable energy in the form of electricity generated by solar panels and wind turbines is already more economic than using fuel for energy. Shifting to clean energy will thus lower the cost of energy, while people will also be less burdened by the cost of associated conflicts, which is more than the cost of the military and police taking care to avoid conflict, as the cost is even larger than that if conflicts do escalate and cause destruction of infrastructure, damage to soil and ecosystems and loss of lives, health and livelihood for all involved. The comprehensive and effective action proposed by the Climate Plan can terminate the use of fuel and thus also reduce conflict, while additionally reducing the threat of runaway warming, and while additionally providing many environmental benefits and further benefits such as the termination of perceived needs for military forces to police global fuel supply lines and associated infrastructure.
Air Taxis and Urban Redesign can further facilitate the necessary transformation
Air taxis can be an important component of the transformation of the way we travel, live, work and eat.
This doesn’t have to be an instant shift. In existing cities, there already is a strong and growing movement to restrict the use of cars in city centers, and to instead add more walkways and bikeways. In this case, the roads will still be there, it’s just their usage that changes. Another example is pipes. Many cities want to disconnect pipes that now supply natural gas to buildings, as it makes more sense to use electricity instead. The pipes will still be there, they just won’t be used anymore, if at all. Digging up the pipes may make sense, but this may take some effort and time and it’s therefore important that this issue is not used as an excuse to delay the rapid transition to the use of clean energy that is so urgently needed.
It’s important to look at longer-term and more radical redesign. The transition toward greater use of air taxis enables space previously used for roads to instead be used for more walkways and bikeways, as well as for trees, community gardens, etc. This should be incorporated as part of wider and longer-term planning and redesign of urban areas.
In some places, this can lead to a more compact urban design, especially in city centers. After all, a lot of space becomes available as the use of roads for vehicle movements and for parking is reduced in an urban area, and this allows for more compact construction of new buildings and renovation of existing buildings that also reduces the distance between buildings, thus shortening the time it takes for trips by foot or bike in the city center, while there also will be plenty of opportunities for spaces to be created for air taxis to land and take off, e.g. in parks and on top of buildings.
At the same time, air taxis enable trips of up to a few hundred miles to be completed fast, while using little energy and causing little emissions. Furthermore, more remote places can be economically reached by air taxis without a need for roads to lead them to these places or for railway stations to be located nearby. Drone delivery of goods and air taxis can enable more people to live outside urban areas. More people will be able to have goods delivered to their home and to reach urban amenities if and when they want to, and more economically compared to using cars and roads.
The need for land and water to produce food and energy, and the need for land to transport goods and food can be reduced with the transitions to clean energy and to vegan-organic food. These transitions can also reduce the need for infrastructure such as pipes and poles for water supply, sewage, communications and power. Instead, we can have solar panels, microgrids, WiFi, rainwater tanks, biochar units, food forests and community gardens.
The image below illustrates how policies recommended in the Climate Plan can further reduce the need for infrastructure by supporting eVTOL air taxis, while transforming the space thus gained into community gardens, walkways, bikeways, etc.
In conclusion, the situation can best be addressed through action as described in the Climate Plan.
• Climate Plan (page)
• Climate Plan (post)
• Climate Plan (group)
• Air Taxis (group)
• Biochar (group)
• Vegan Organic Food (group)
• Secretary-General Warns of Unprecedented Global Hunger Crisis, with 276 Million Facing Food Insecurity, Calling for Export Recovery, Debt Relief (June 24, 2022)
• Land Use – by Hannah Ritchie and Max Roser
• Low-cost solutions to global warming, air pollution, and energy insecurity for 145 countries – by Mark Jacobson et al.
• Numerous Benefits of 100% Clean, Renewable Energy • Emissions from fuels used for international aviation and maritime transport
• News release: No environmental justice, no positive peace — and vice versa
• Study: A global analysis of interactions between peace and environmental sustainability – by Dahylia Simangan et al.