Exposing Environmental Big Lies
This is chapter 9 of my book, A Natural Language, which exposes the environmental narrative as propaganda and puts bottom-up solutions in front of the actual problem.
Water vapor deserves some attention at this point because it is a greenhouse gas. So much more water vapor is in the air that, depending on viewpoint, its effects magnify or dwarf that of carbon dioxide. Water vapor is part of why climate skeptics have long questioned that carbon dioxide is in the driver seat, or that man-made climate change is even a thing. Water evaporation tied to poor land stewardship could prove them right and wrong at the same time, by making carbon dioxide and water vapor two parts of the same story.
The hypothetical pathway is straightforward. Soil emissions produce carbon dioxide as we lose topsoil. Less topsoil harms soil’s ability to soak up water. This promotes more topsoil loss from water runoffs. Bare soil in plantations and open bodies of water (especially shallow ones from water runoffs with no cover to block out the sun) go on to produce water vapor. That results in more water vapor in the atmosphere, which is what NASA readings show. The result is climate change, or more precisely global desertification. This would relegate carbon dioxide to being an indicator of topsoil loss and elevate water vapor as a key contributor to climate change.
The Colorado river helps convey the amount of water that farmers are using each year. Its water flow is so enormous when snow is melting — in the whereabouts of 2,800 cubic meters (100,000 cubic feet) per second — that it dug the Grand Canyon. Yet so much of that water ends up in places like California, where the water evaporates in the Central Valley, and other nearby desert settlements that the Colorado river seldom reaches the Pacific Ocean. That is just one river.
This hypothetical pathway would put clouds squarely in the driver’s seat. As anyone who has experienced the chill of a morning fog giving way to a sunny afternoon will know intuitively, clouds have different effects on local weather conditions depending on their type and elevation. Clouds form around aerosol particles in the air. There are more of those in a society that is burning coal, but very important ones are actually higher up in the atmosphere and come from space. The magnetic field tied to solar activity and our whereabouts in the Milky Way influence how much clouds are present. Both of these contribute to climate variability. Clouds in the driver’s seat could also help explain the inconsistencies between carbon dioxide concentration and temperature records. The first could simply be tied to desertification and rehydration processes. Continental drift that changes wind patterns and ocean currents would also be influencing the second.
These soil and water vapor hypotheses also give rise to new potential explanations for the unequivocal rise in temperature of the past few decades. The current explanations revolve around rising fossil fuel consumption in China, and changes in the aerosol composition of the atmosphere. In particular sulfur dioxide after clean air regulations forced corporations to emit less of the stuff, and lower chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) after an international agreement to protect the ozone layer banned them. More sunlight energy hitting bare soils means more trapped energy and more water vapor. But then, less acid rain from less sulfur dioxide points to less soil damage. It therefore begs an intriguing new question: could anything else have been occurring?
One theory is that aircrafts have been spraying aerosols in the skies since the 1990s. Research has been looking into using stratospheric releases to modify the weather since around then. Research into geo-engineering to mitigate the effects of climate change also exists. The US military has a long history of conducting sketchy research, like spraying bioweapons over US cities or studying nuclear fallout on Pacific islanders. A few looks at the sky are enough to observe that some aircrafts leave contrails that take longer to dissipate than the few minutes you’d expect. This is all in plain sight, so at minimum municipalities ought to be monitoring rainwater and asking hard questions. At the same time, spraying enough aerosols in the skies to move the climate needle seems unlikely, unless the goal is to terrify the public by creating droughts and floods. Actually causing the temperature rises that are being observed this way would require water vapor up there to begin with in order to form the right types of clouds, or toxins that damage soil enough to get the water vapor up there.
If new sources of soil damage are indeed part of the problem, it seems more likely that toxins would be sprayed in greater quantities closer to the ground. There’s no shortage of biocides and fertilizers to pick from as potential sources of problems. The first are just chemical weapons that masquerade as beneficial products. The infamous Zyklon B, for instance, was a pesticide whose derivatives enjoyed a long life after Auschwitz. The others are mineral salts invariably laced with toxins like heavy metals. In addition, extracting these salts can revolve around letting brine sit in evaporation ponds that would fill with alga, were it not for the biocides that miners put in them. The question is not if what you buy at the grocery store is toxic, but how much. The problem is such that the European Union sometimes has to increase its cadmium limits to keep food on shelves legal. Two agrochemicals stand out for taking off in the 1990s: neonicotinoids and glyphosate. Roundup resistant seeds took off around then. Glyphosate is tied to more water use. This may just be coincidences, mind you, but what a story it would be if IG Farben’s ultimate legacy was climate change. The workaround is trivial either way: add soil cover.
A more likely explanation is that industrial farming has been expanding in developing countries. Trade treaties contribute to this in a particularly egregious way. In short, the World Trade Organization (WTO) rules forbid farm subsidies unless they were in place before joining. Western countries are the only ones with farm subsidies as a result of this. They invariably push to export their food when negotiating treaties. WTO rules then prevent poor countries from protecting their farmers, even as subsidized western farmers are competing them out of business. Local farmers end up selling their lands and migrating to cities (or rich countries). One result is corporate plantations that grow cash crops for exports using biocides so hideously toxic that developed countries have all banned them. Poor countries full of malleable wage slaves that depend on imported food are another. Charities that patch up the misery with one hand while accepting funding from those who fuel the misery with the other hand are yet another. It’s an appalling situation that benefits only interests that need wage slaves to work in mines, plantations, and factories.
Farm subsidies and other administrative hurdles create counter-productive incentives in rich countries, too. One issue is that governments control what constitutes a farm field, and incentivize farmers to remove trees that could soak up soil emissions tied to tilling, salting, spraying, harvesting, or overgrazing. Rules tied to health and traceability that make it prohibitively expensive to raise animals outside of industrial facilities are another issue. The latter create methane emissions concentrated over feedlots, manure run offs that destroy rivers and coastal areas, and dystopian living conditions for the animals. Farmers could have the animals regenerate landscapes instead. Municipal regulations are yet another problem. Those make the situation worse by banning swales, roof catchments that harvest rainwater, backyard chickens, and other activities that could help create more food autonomy in urban areas. Cities and towns end up depending on industrial food, with all of the associated environmental, health, and wage slavery ramifications.
Areas that combine industrial logging and farming in a one-two punch would deserve an especially close look to narrow down the warming of recent years. Latin America in particular exhibits an inflection point in fertilizer usage from the 1990s. On the ground, the Amazon and other forests are getting logged (often illegally, at that) and farmers are moving in. Some of these areas have so-called Indian black earth, or Terra Preta. It’s a deep, rich, dark soil that is full of carbon. The recipe that locals used to make it is not yet clear, but it involves biochar (for more water retention and microbiology habitat), fermentation (a yeasty anaerobic decomposition), and time. Farmers rip it, salt it, spray it, and raze it, harvest after harvest. That is not ideal. It comes on top of the habitat loss from deforestation, the wide open fields from monoculture plantations, and the rainfall ramifications of those two.
Summary | Next: Holistic Management.