August 8, 2016

"A relatively small amount of peat is mined to burn as fuel, to improve backyard gardens or to add smokiness to Scotch."

"But most of it stays where it is, and because it accumulates carbon over such a long time, it contains more carbon than is in all the world’s trees and plants, and nearly as much as the atmosphere does."

The problem is if it burns, which can happen, especially if it dries out, which might happen through global warming.
The world has already had vast releases of carbon from peat, in Indonesia. Last year, bogs that had been drained for agriculture, and were drier because of El NiƱo-related warmth, burned for months, creating a haze visible from space and causing widespread health problems. At their peak in September and October, the fires released more carbon per day than was emitted by the European Union.
But most of the peatlands — which are "about 3 percent of the earth’s land surface" — are in "northern latitudes in Canada, Alaska, Europe and Russia."

43 comments:

robinintn said...

But would it emit more than Man-Bear-Pig, with his multiple homes, constant jetting about, and compliant masseuses? Okay, that last one may not have a huge carbon footprint.

Unknown said...

I was always told peat was an endangered thing, and that I shouldn't use it for my garden because horrors, we'll run out!

Now we find out that it has more carbon than the EU? PishPosh, I say!

Will liberals ever be caught telling the truth, any time?

I grant the few times when they talk about how they want to execute everyone who disagrees with them, but that's seldom.

--Vance

Fernandinande said...

I was just reading in 1491 about Amerindians regularly burning huge chunks of N. America, to convert forests into mostly grassland for better hunting.

mockturtle said...

A pox on global warming warnings!

mockturtle said...

I was just reading in 1491 about Amerindians regularly burning huge chunks of N. America, to convert forests into mostly grassland for better hunting.

Lewis & Clark observed this on their voyage, as well.

Hagar said...

Sounds like valley girls on the loose.

Literally tons of carbon there? And it can burn like a cigarette for months?
No sheet, Sherlock?

Achilles said...

"At their peak in September and October, the fires released more carbon per day than was emitted by the European Union."

There are volcanoes that accomplish similar feats. Not to mention methane. But if you want to put massive unelected bureaucracies in control of fossil fuels and the economic engine of the world you make up whatever stories you can.

Rob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

Conscious of the need to harvest the carbon-emitting, planet-threatening peat, I drink Lagavulin, which is peaty and smoky and downright delicious.

Curious George said...

"Rob said...
Conscious of the need to harvest the carbon-emitting, planet-threatening peat, I drink Lagavulin, which is peaty and smoky and downright delicious."

I drink Glenlivet 12 to Save the Planet. One glorious sip at a time.

Josephbleau said...

Nye, tis the 12 year old Oban that makes best use of hand cut peat and the Laphroaig.

tim in vermont said...

I am still trying to figure out why the methane "time bomb" didn't go off and the polar bears didn't go extinct a half a million years ago when the planet was 2 degrees C warmer for thousands of years...

So wake me up when they explain that.

tim in vermont said...

1491 is a great read. But alas, it does not fit the narrative.

chuck said...

Without looking at the link, just reading the excerpt, I guessed the NY Times on account of the offhand climate remark. It is not just about Trump that the media are going nuts, these days they are raving lunatics about pretty much everything.

n.n said...

Carbon sequestration. They already have a population control protocol accumulating carbon for nearly one hundred years and catastrophically for nearly half a century.

Fernandinande said...

tim in vermont said...
I am still trying to figure out why the methane "time bomb" didn't go off and the polar bears didn't go extinct a half a million years ago when the planet was 2 degrees C warmer for thousands of years...


They didn't go extinct because they didn't exist half a million years ago.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Last year, bogs that had been drained for agriculture...

We could send 'em some of our corn, 'cept we need it here to make ethanol so we can save the planet, doncha know.

Jay Vogt said...

. . . . . . Josephbleau said..."Nye, tis the 12 year old Oban that makes best use of hand cut peat and the Laphroaig".

It's still Cuervo Tradicional season here for another couple of weeks, but when the autumn evening requires more warmth than chill, we'll break out the Laphroaig, and it's worth whatever carbon they released to distill it.

Brad Cohen of the BBC probably came closest when he described drinking Laphroaig as, "like fighting a peat bog monster that is on fire, but suddenly you both pause, look in one another’s eyes and kiss.”

Owen said...

So this scary peat started to burn because of human changes in land use. Possible secondary cause was drier peat because of warmer air --but often warmer air is more humid and/or heat drives the hydrological cycle. So where exactly does CO2 fit into this story? If humans are to blame, it's for screwing with the peat bogs, not for emitting CO2.

If this story were part of an indictment of anthropogenic CO2, it would be scored somewhere between "incompetent; failed to prove the charge" and "deliberately misleading."

DanTheMan said...

So, I have to give up my Suburban so Indonesians can burn more peat?

LYNNDH said...

Save the Peat for Single Malt!!!

mockturtle said...

Oh, for peat's sake!

holdfast said...

Please. If you want max peat you have to have the Ardbeg.

Owen said...

Mockturtle: one pun to a customer. No repeats.

Quaestor said...

Fernandinand wrote: They [polar bears] didn't go extinct because they didn't exist half a million years ago.

There's no evidence to support that claim. The oldest known polar bear fossil is about 130,000 years old, however, that's a long way from pinning down their divergence from brown bears, which happened in the Pleistocene sometime between 130,000 ybp and 2,200,000 ypb.

Polar bear fossils are pretty rare for two reasons: Firstly the systematics among arctic bears are very close. Unless you have a good jaw it's hard to tell just what ursine remains you have. Secondly, polar bears had lived much of their evolutionary lifespan in regions subject to glacial scouring, which tends to make fossils both rare and difficult to date.

Quaestor said...

On the subject of peat. Henry Fountain evidently misunderstands the role of peat in whiskey production. Peat isn't used to "add smokiness to Scotch". It's used to germinate to barley. Barley is soaked in water until the grains just begin to swell. Then the waterlogged barley is dried gently and slowly with air warmed by peat fires, which naturally includes some smoke. The soaking and heating causes the scutellum to release enzymes into the endosperm, the part of the grain containing starch granules, which transforms the the starches into sugars, mainly maltose. It's the fermentation of the maltose which produces the alcohol. The smokiness is a byproduct of the process.

Jonathan Graehl said...

and a huge bubble of methane might bubble up from the abyss

ALWAYS something scary sounding that might make it WORSE THAN EXPECTED BEFORE

we'll be fine

Pianoman said...

I thought the current Newspeak word for this was "climate change".

When did "global warming" become popular again?

It's so hard to keep up.

tim in vermont said...

Researchers from Pennsylvania State University have completed the most extensive genomic study of polar bears to date. By comparing its DNA to that of brown and black bears, the team calculated that polar bears arose between 4 and 5 million years ago, making them far older than anyone had suspected. And their genes carry the imprints of repeated interbreeding with brown bears during much of that history.

The team also started documenting the genetic changes that allowed polar bears to adapt to life in the cold. “Our data gives us ... a first look at what makes a polar bear a polar bear,” said co-author Charlotte Lindqvist.

Back in 2010, Lindqvist and her colleagues were telling a different story. Based on an analysis of the polar bear’s mitochondrial DNA, they deduced that the polar bear lineage sat within the brown bear family tree, and established itself between 111,000 and 166,000 years ago. Fossils supported this idea, with the oldest polar bear specimen—a Norwegian jawbone collected in 2008—dating to 110,000–130,000 years ago.


Then this is cute:

This [previous estimate had] suggested that polar bears adapted to Arctic life with astonishing speed. But Frank Hailer and Axel Janke from the Biodiversity and Climate Research Center in Frankfurt found evidence of more relaxed evolution.

Yeah, it seems like lots of scientific conclusions based on climate models strain credulity.

tim in vermont said...

On further research, it seems like there has been more a more recent estimate of when polar bears and brown bears diverged, though defining what "diverged" means seems pretty problematic, in any event, with species that can easily interbreed, and still do.

So I read the new study in Cell

Our remarkably recent divergence time estimate of only ca. 479–343 kya, coupled with stable isotope analysis of an ancient jawbone from Svalbard that indicates that polar bears were adapted to a marine diet and life in the High Arctic by at least 110 kya (Lindqvist et al., 2010), provides us with an unprecedented timeframe for rapid evolution. Assuming an average generation time of 11.35 years (Cronin et al., 2009, De Barba et al., 2010), the distinct adaptations of polar bears may have evolved in less than 20,500 generations; this is truly exceptional for a large mammal. In this limited amount of time, polar bears became uniquely adapted to the extremities of life out on the Arctic sea ice, enabling them to inhabit some of the world’s harshest climates and most inhospitable conditions.

http://www.cell.com/cell/fulltext/S0092-8674(14)00488-7

But that's the conclusion they needed to arrive at to protect their narrative, so that's what it is, but let's go with it...

MIS 11 was a warm period, which spanned ca. 424–374 kya. It was the longest interglacial in half a million years (Dickson et al., 2009) and lasted almost 50 kyr (de Vernal and Hillaire-Marcel, 2008). The period was associated with a substantial decrease in Greenland ice-sheet volume DNA from the basal part of the Dye 3 ice core from southern central Greenland (Willerslev et al., 2007) and abundant spruce pollen from the shore off southwest Greenland (de Vernal and Hillaire-Marcel, 2008) both suggest that boreal coniferous forest developed at least over southern Greenland. Such a prolonged interglacial could have enabled an ancestral brown bear population to colonize northern latitudes that were previously uninhabitable for the species, setting the stage for future allopatric speciation, as subsequent climatic and environmental change caused population isolation

So basically they are arguing that climate change, not created by humans, that resulted in Greenland being far warmer than it is today, led to the creation of the polar bear species. Under this scenario, polar bears are doomed in any case because the planet, through the vast majority of its five billion years, has been far warmer than the most recent five million year blip of ice ages and glaciation.

But how did they survive the Holocene optimum? The time when it was far warmer at high lattitudes than it is today, for a couple thousand years? Why is there no genetic bottleneck there? Who knows, who cares? Asking such questions only makes you question the narrative that has been so painstakingly constructed.

tim in vermont said...

Why hasn't the peat time bomb gone off yet?

The current decadal average surface temperature (2001–2010) at the GISP2 site is −29.9°C. The record indicates that warmer temperatures were the norm in the earlier part of the past 4000 years, including century-long intervals nearly 1°C warmer than the present decade (2001–2010). Therefore, we conclude that the current decadal mean temperature in Greenland has not exceeded the envelope of natural variability over the past 4000 years, a period that seems to include part of the Holocene Thermal Maximum.

Just so many strains on my credulity.

tim in vermont said...

Another thing, all of this carbon that trees have sequestered in peat, coal, etc, etc. They probably brought on this period of glaciation we are in now by reducing the CO2 content of the atmosphere, and, had we let them continue uninterupted, there is a good chance that the trees would have sequestered enough CO2 to starve themselves and once again turn the planet into a snowball.

The trees' use of the limited supply of CO2 in the atmosphere was always unsustainable. <<-- Not a joke either.

Mark said...

Pianoman, it was Frank Luntz and the Republican messaging system which inserted the less scary term climate change.

Perhaps the pushback is now in effect.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2003/mar/04/usnews.climatechange

chrisnavin.com said...

If you were Wade Boggs, wouldn't you have the urge to name at least one son Pete?

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

Peat bogs are, apparently, valuable to scientists because decomposition is arrested by the pH and they can find all sorts of ancient stuff like pollen and bodies and spading forks and even the odd rototiller.

Darrell said...

Peat is the first stage in the coalification process. So for Lefties, getting rid of peat is like abortion.

jameswhy said...

If you like peaty malts, and I do, you can't beat Bowmore ( also from Islay). Try it. Very smooth.

Rusty said...

tim in vermont said...
"1491 is a great read. But alas, it does not fit the narrative."
A good read,
Amazing the amount of shit our native American betters were up to.

Rusty said...

Eric the Fruit Bat said...
"Peat bogs are, apparently, valuable to scientists because decomposition is arrested by the pH and they can find all sorts of ancient stuff like pollen and bodies and spading forks and even the odd rototiller."

Not to mention the odd pre-historic pensioner what was trussed up and tossed in the bog. Apparently it wasn't for sport.

Michael The Magnificent said...

Except for helium which is light enough that it floats off into space, the occasional spaceship we send out into outer space, nuclear reactions, and the occasional meteor, the number of atoms of each element (including carbon) on Earth remain more or less the same.

The molecules those atoms are arranged in change from time to time, but other than that, we are not creating any new carbon atoms, only releasing them back into the atmosphere where they once were.

Plant life converts carbon dioxide into carbohydrates (sugar). Yeast is quite efficient at converting those carbohydrates into hydrocarbons, and we thank the Gods for that! And when we burn those hydrocarbons, we release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere where it once was. With more CO2 in the atmosphere, plant life grows faster, which then converts the CO2 back into hydrocarbons, and the cycle repeats.

Even if we could maintain a steady state of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the output of the sun varies over time, as do cosmic rays which alter the cloud cover we get on Earth, neither of which we have any ability to control.

Then there are the oceans, which hold gases in solution. The colder the oceans, the more gases they absorb. The warmer the oceans, the more gases come out of solution and are returned back into the atmosphere. The atmosphere is made up of about 11 different gases in a wide range of concentrations. Some of those gases are heavier than others, so they sink towards the surface of the earth, and some gases are lighter than others, so they float up and into outer space.

Of these gases, the top five by concentration are:
Nitrogen - 78%
Oxygen - 21%
Water vapor - 0-4%
Argon - <1%
Carbon Dioxide - 0.0360%

Of those five, rated by specific gravity (air is 1.0):
Water vapor - 0.6218
Nitrogen - 0.9723
Oxygen - 1.1044
Argon - 1.38
Carbon Dioxide - 1.5189

The higher the specific gravity, the heavier a gas weighs for a given volume.

Carbon dioxide has the highest specific gravity, so it sinks towards earth (and the oceans) relative to the other five gases. As a result, when the oceans cool and thus absorb more gases in solution, they absorb a higher percentage of carbon dioxide than is found generally in the atmosphere. Conversely, when the oceans warm up, they release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere in higher concentrations than is normally found in the atmosphere.

And this is why, when you look closer at the temperature and CO2 concentration graphs that Al Gore likes to show, you see that while temperature and CO2 concentrations are correlated, CO2 concentrations lag temperature. In other words, the globally averaged temperature increases BEFORE the CO2 concentration increases, and the temperature decreases BEFORE the CO2 concentration decreases.

Temperature changes thus cause CO2 concentrations to change, with about an 800 year lag; It takes a long time to heat up or cool down an ocean!

Al Gore has the cause and effect relationship backwards. But then, his only degree is a Bachelor of Arts in Government, so I wouldn't expect him to have the intellectual chops to understand something as complex as science.

mikee said...

I note that the primary cause of the peat bog destruction, draining the bogs for agriculture, has not gotten the attention it deserves here in comments, although the bear speciation, Scotch comparisons and climate questioning is interesting.

Where is the Sierra Club on condemnation of Indonesians for being so inconsiderate of Gaia as to want food to eat?

Michael The Magnificent said...

"Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray's case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the "wet streets cause rain" stories. Paper's full of them.
In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know." ― Michael Crichton

Mr. Fabulous said...

To add to what Magnificent Mike said at 10:02, the oceans have an estimated 50 x the amount of CO2 contained in the atmosphere. Let that sink in for a moment, then consider that there is a constant interaction with the atmosphere at the (very) thin boundary layer between the ocean and atmosphere. Atmospheric gasses constantly go into solution in the ocean, and at the same time, gasses from the ocean are returned to the atmosphere. A number of factors influence this exchange, but perhaps the single most important factor is oceanic temperature.

Put simply, a colder ocean can hold more gas in solution - when it warms up, it releases some of the gasses in solution back into the atmosphere. We're all familiar with this effect - take a cold can (or bottle) of soda pop out of the refrigerator and pop the top. Then take a can of the same pop that has been sitting in your hot garage and pop the top. Notice how the hot pop blows its top (sorry, couldn't resist). That is because the colder pop can have more gas (CO2 in the pop, just as in the atmosphere and the oceans) in solution than the warmer pop, so the gas rushes out in an almost explosive fashion. (Try shaking the warm pop before opening, to really see this effect.)

In his second quote at 12:56, Magnificent Mike provides a classic quote from Michael Crichton. There is some evidence in the temperature record that the climate scientists have reversed cause and effect, as Michael the Magnificent refers to the well-known (and disputed) 800 year lag in the temperature record in his first post. All of this is in line with the fact that the rate that humans are increasing our output of CO2 has increased significantly in recent years, yet the overall rate of increase in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has held reasonably steady: the effect of CO2 discharge (or conversely, the rate at which CO2 in the atmosphere goes back into solution in the oceans) by the oceans swamps all other effects, and the human contribution is negligible in comparison.