The Simple Math of Climate Change

Global warming & climate change is a simple balance between the increase in greenhouse gas emissions and the ability of natural processes to absorb them.

Global Temperature Change = Green House Gas Emissions - ( Natural Plant Life - Agricultural Land Use )

  • As Quantity of Green House Gases increases, global temperatures rise.

  • As Natural Plant Life increases, CO2 is absorbed and global warming decreases.

  • As Agricultural Land Use increases at the expense of Natural Plant Life, less CO2 is absorbed and global temperatures increase.

Increases in CO2 in the atmosphere help promote plant life growth to quickly absorb excess CO2 and return our planet’s climate into balance. As agricultural land use expands, natural pant life areas are converted into agricultural land through the destruction of natural vegetation.

Agricultural land takes up about 37% of earth’s surface. Since growing seasons last only a few months and crops are harvested just at the peak of their CO2 absorption capabilities, agricultural land absorbs CO2 only a small part of each year. This simple fact creates a large decrease in CO2 absorption capability compared to land with natural vegetation which absorbs CO2 year round.

While the contribution of agricultural equipment to CO2 and equivalent emissions is currently less than 10% of the total worldwide CO2 emissions (see chart), its contribution to the reduction of natural vegetation has not been accounted for.

Since 1960, both green house emissions and reduction in natural plant life due to expansion of agricultural land are both upsetting the energy balance of our ecosystems in the direction of global warming as shown below:

Can Precision Agriculture solve global warming?

Precision agriculture has been around for years, though no one knew how to name it. Since the invention of the personal weather station with a tipping-bucket rain gauge by RainWise Inc, farmers have had access to somewhat accurate local meteorological data, yet not many knew how to take full advantage of it. With the advances in computing power, agricultural equipment and data processing techniques, higher precision data becomes more valuable to take full advantage of the possible increases in farming efficiency. This, in combination with the looming Internet-of-Things technological revolution, has lead to the reinvention of the personal weather station as a professional quality instrument by BARANI DESIGN Technologies. Its MeteoHelix micro-weather stations are able to produce meteorological data of higher quality than most current climatological networks (3), in excess of World Meteorological Organization requirements, for a fraction of the price of the most popular RainWise and Davis personal weather stations.

Since farming is highly dependent on weather, farming decision making is dependent on good meteorological data quality. New farming efficiency gains through high-quality meteorological and soil data can significantly increase crop yields. If sensor and data affordability is maintained not at the expense of data quality with the goal of reversing global warning, as with the MeteoHelix weather stations, increases in crop yields will allow for a reduction in global agricultural land use. Reduction in global agricultural land use leading to expansion of natural vegetation areas will offset higher CO2 emissions even while our world population and emissions expand. The climate change equation will be moved closer to balance again.

Climate change for profit

Growing market volume of weather derivatives (million USD) in Japan. Source: Compiled by the author, based on Yamada, 2010, SEE article references.

Growing market volume of weather derivatives (million USD) in Japan. Source: Compiled by the author, based on Yamada, 2010, SEE article references.

Record of global average temperatures as compiled by the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. (2006) Figure originally prepared by Robert A. Rohde.

Record of global average temperatures as compiled by the NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. (2006) Figure originally prepared by Robert A. Rohde.

Foreign investment in weather networks such as TAMHO & Smart Agric is proof of the value of meteorological data, not only in Africa, but all over the world. Weather related economic risks create financial opportunities on a scale of tens of billions of dollars globally. Weather insurance companies and weather risk management is thriving as weather derivatives have become a traded commodity in the field of weather risk management.

Managing weather risk

As natural vegetation yields to farm land expansion, reduction in rain water catchment makes not only our economies more susceptible to weather risk, but contributes to global warming, thus fueling the growth of weather derivatives which benefit from global warming and its related weather volatility. The good news is that both vegetation and water catchment can be managed and recaptured by supporting natural processes. Accurate monitoring of critical micro-climates on which natural processes rely to balance and slow global warming, first requires high-quality and high-density meteorological networks with superb long-term stability of measurement, whose data can be traded to create funding for climate stabilization projects.

Plan of action for climate change

Quality weather data complemented by detailed action plans will permit timely reaction to destabilizing effects of erosion of natural processes and to reverse micro-climate changes from human-machine interaction with the environment. Many countries, in an effort to manage water and mitigate future drinking water risk, have begun forming such action plans, many of which include two tiered networks of large and small meteorological and hydrological weather stations like the MeteoHelix.

Meteorological capacity building for profit

Africa, Central & South America, South Asia and Oceana countries require their own meteorological networks. Secondary/tertiary weather networks such as TAHMO and Smart Agric, and their benefits, remain mostly in the hands of foreigners. Such networks need not be an a red expenditure in their meteorological departments’ budgets but an opportunity for meteorological departments to become self-sustainable enterprises. Income from risk mitigation and weather insurance can also mean saving of lives, crops, livestock and local economies.

REFERENCES:

Prabhakar, S.V. R. K. & Srinivasa Rao, Gattineni & Fukuda, Koji & Hayashi, Shinano. (2013). Promoting Risk Insurance in the Asia-Pacific Region: Lessons from the Ground for the Future Climate Regime under UNFCCC. Climate Change Adaptation in Practice: From strategy development to implementation. 10.1002/9781118548165.ch22.

Available from: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Growing-market-volume-of-weather-derivatives-million-USD-in-Japan-Source-Compiled-by_fig2_261296609 [accessed 24 Apr, 2019]

MeteoShield Professional on the peaks of Africa

MeteoShield Professional, the patented helical design of a solar radiation shield for atmospheric air temperature sensors is making inroads on the African continent. It was installed at the GAW station on Mt. Kenya as part of the WMO Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW) project by the Kenya Meteorological Department. Mount Keya is the highest mountain in Kenya and the second-highest peak in all of Africa right after Mt. Kilimanjaro.

Helical MeteoShield Professional on Mt. Kenya GAW station.

Helical MeteoShield Professional on Mt. Kenya GAW station.