The History of the Carbon Cycle Sits in Ancient Wetlands

forest and river

Scientists have unearthed and pieced together evidence on more than 1,000 ancient wetland sites from across the globe, that are presently covered by fields, forests and lakes. Although vanished from the Earth’s surface, these buried sites could explain some of the differences between global carbon cycle models and real-life observations.

Cliffs, quarries, road construction, and scientific sampling have revealed carbon-rich wetland deposits buried under other kinds of soils and sediments. Many wetlands are characterized by thick deposits of undecomposed plant material (or peat), which is often preserved, resulting in a record of wetland presence. The buried wetlands frequently included coastal marshes that had been flooded by sea level rise, and wetlands that had been buried by glaciers, flooding, or wind-deposited sediments.

The researchers compiled the information about these buried wetland deposits, including where they were found, when they formed, and why they were buried.
 
“We were really surprised when we started to combine our data from different sites around the world. What we thought would be only a few sites turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. When we started to look for more examples from previous studies, we identified more than 1,000 buried wetland sites across the globe,” Dr Claire Treat from the University of Eastern Finland says.
 

The study was led by Dr Treat at the University of Eastern Finland and by Dr Thomas Kleinen at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany.

Buried wetland sites were found from high Arctic islands of Canada and Siberia to tropical Africa and Indonesia, to Southern South America and New Zealand. Some formed less than 1,000 years ago, while others formed during the warm climate period between the two latest glaciations more than 100,000 years ago.

Using these records of wetland presence since the beginning of the last interglacial, 130,000 years ago, the researchers found that wetlands in northern latitudes responded to changes in climate. Wetlands formed when the climate was warmer, and many wetlands were buried during periods of glacial advance and cooling temperatures. When it was cold, few new wetlands formed until the climate warmed again. Some of these buried peat sediments remain until today. These new findings of widespread buried peats suggest that, on the whole, peat burial can result in the slow transfer of carbon from the atmosphere to land, ultimately offsetting a small part of climate warming in the past.

“The fact that these peats are buried and stay on land is  basically like a leak in what we usually consider a closed system of how carbon moves around the earth, from the atmosphere to the land and oceans. This new finding isn’t represented in our models of the global carbon cycle, and may help to explain some behaviour that differs between models and observations,” Dr Treat from the University of Eastern Finland says.

The results also suggest that present-day wetlands may continue to offset rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations as the climate warms if they remain undisturbed by drainage and wildfires.

Press Release from the University of Eastern Finland.

Economists: Let’s all Work Less

happy workers in a factory

We all work too much. Indeed, millennials are the hardest working generation due to structural effects of poor policy from preceding generations (like the 2008 crash and encouraging rent seeking behaviour). Both the boomers and Gen X earned more for their work than millennials, so what’s the point of current working culture of itself isn’t working? It’s high time that we rethink productivity in relation to wages and time. Economists are on board, plus there are a litany of other reasons to work fewer hours.

Working fewer hours was once seen as an essential indicator of economic and social progress. I explore this history in my book Whatever Happened to the Leisure Society?

It’s time to put reduced working hours back on the political and industrial agenda.

There are strong arguments for working fewer hours. Some are economic. Others are about environmental sustainability. Yet others have to do with equity and equality.

Read more.

Canada’s Supreme Court Rules Companies Have to Pay for Environmental Damage

industryIt might seem obvious that companies should pay for damaging property, but that wasn’t the case for years. Up to now companies in Canada were able to extract resources from land (poisoning entire ecosystems) and leave the cleanup costs to be covered by the government. Privatize the profits and socialize the costs. The Supreme Court ruled that if a company goes bankrupt then environmental expenses have to be covered before creditors get their money back.

Hopefully this discourages banks from loaning to companies that pillage and flee.

The top court ruled 5-2 to overturn the earlier ruling. In doing that, it said bankruptcy is not a licence to ignore environmental regulations, and there is no inherent conflict between federal bankruptcy laws and provincial environmental regulations.

“This is good news for landowners, taxpayers and the environment,” said Keith Wilson, a lawyer who represents landowners with oil and natural gas wells on their properties. Among his clients are those with wells sitting idle on their land for decades.

“The concept of polluter pays is alive and well in Canada.”

Read more.

Living a Zero-Waste Life is Getting Easier

beans

Zero waste living seems like an impossibility given the amount of packaging everything is put in. Ordering a small item can lead to 10x the packaging of the item itself. The use of packaging seem so out of control that we can’t avoid it. We can.

Back in 2010 a UK based family created only one bin of trash throughout the year. In 2012 we looked at a town in Japan that already practices zero waste living. In the years since it’s actually gotten easier to practice a zero waste lifestelyl. Stores are popping up that are reducing their waste to save costs and the environment by providing customers with alternatives to recent packaging trends.

For most zero-waste shops, the pitch is simple: Customers arrive with their own packaging materials — jars, tote bags, whatever, or buy one of the jars on sale at the store, weigh them, and then subtract the weight of the receptacle from the weight of the goods added to get the final price. That way, nothing ends up in a landfill, at least on the customer’s end.


For the business itself, however, things are more complicated. Owners, who are responsible for the shipment of all products, are tasked with finding ways to reduce the carbon footprint and waste of the complicated process of shipping goods, and some goods are more high-maintenance than others.

Read more.

Wrap Experiences Instead of Objects

Finding the perfect physical gift for someone can be hard so don’t do it. Instead you can gift someone an experience through UnWrapIt. A friend of mine (clearly I’m biased) created the company to make it easier to gift experiences to one another. The goal is to reduce the amount of shipping of goods while providing more meaningful gifts. It’s a very neat service which also works with traditional gift giving.

“We had someone from Sioux Lookout build a scavenger hunt for a family member in Newfoundland. It had him going around St. John’s to eventually reveal what the gift was: dinner at his favourite restaurant,” says UnWrapIt founder Peter Deitz.

“A lot of people reported anxiety about picking out the right kind of gift,” he says. Other stressful factors included the actual wrapping of the gift and, if ordered by mail, worrying if the gift would arrive on time — a pressing concern this year given Canada Post’s cancellation of its holiday delivery guarantees.

The flexibility of experience gifts can minimize that stress. By gifting dinner at a restaurant of the recipient’s choice, instead of a meal at a specific location, “They won’t worry about whether they picked out the right restaurant,” Deitz says.

Read more.

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