The Value of Biosphere Earth, pt. 8: Virtuous Global Cooling

We have the opportunity to reduce global temperatures .5C, maybe more, if get serious about protecting and regrowing other life.

Background image source: Net Radiation, NASA, 2021.
This graphic referenced in paragraph three, “Hot Plants Cool the Earth”. Click to enlarge.

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We Have a Huge Problem. There are no known technologies to cool Earth’s lands, oceans, or atmosphere. Technology can reduce future warming emissions. Technology might one day absorb meaningful amounts of past emissions, but Technology cannot cool the Earth. According to ClimateClock.net we have just under 11 years before the world crosses the catastrophic warming threshold of 1.5C, with current emissions reduction goals, and less than 15 years if we achieve the goal of net zero emissions by 2050. In other words, in today’s best-case scenario humanity is on course for breaching catastrophic warming in the year 2036 and Earth is headed to well over 2C warming by 2050. At 2C warming our food system is predicted to collapse. We have to reverse planetary warming, not just reduce greenhouse emissions, immediately. How?

We Have a Huge Solution. Nature can cool the climate. Stewardship and restoration of Biosphere Earth can stop and reverse the warming of Earth’s climate. How much? About half a degree Celsius (-0.5C) by the end of this century (that’s a lot). What’s fascinating about the millions of wild species on Earth today is the fact that their lives work together to self-regulate local to global climate conditions in ecosystems. While Science doesn’t fully understand how global temperature works it has identified that Life co-regulates the climate. For example, removing vegetation from land ecosystems can raise local temperatures more than greenhouse warming. Science also shows that protecting and regrowing robust, wild, land vegetation in warm climates such as the Tropics absorbs greenhouse gasses super-fast and creates virtuous local to global cooling.

Hot Plants Cool the Earth. There are numerous potential strategies for biospheric cooling of Earth’s climate, all centered on restoration of native ecosystems. This brief will summarize what is likely the biggest bang for the buck: cooling services provided by native vegetation in warm climates. The diagram at the beginning of this paper shows the vegetation on lands in warm climates A) absorbs and stores greenhouse gasses at massive scale and B) buffers against extreme heat. Native tropical forests, for example, are typically more than 8°Fahrenheit cooler than deforested tropical lands. Plant and soil organisms in warm ecosystems cycle the moisture they contain amongst themselves, which C) cools local air and maintains temperate, local microclimate. This life-based moisture circulation also D) sends moisture downwind through the atmosphere, further expanding the total area of land ecosystems generating services A, B and C, and strengthening warm lands’ capacity for generating low cloud cover. Low clouds E) reflect solar heat back to Space, generate additional rainfall for the lands, and can shade and further cool the region. Thus, F) the greater the amount of native land vegetation in warm climates, the cooler the Earth.

The Two Ways Hot Plants Cool Earth (at varying scales)
1. Emissions Reduction
2. Physical Cooling

Detail:

1. Emissions Reduction

  • Avoiding Emissions from Destruction. Keeping warm land ecosystems intact avoids massive greenhouse emissions release from ecosystem clearing.

2. Physical Cooling

  • Keeping the Hottest Parts of the Planet Cool. Intact, warm land ecosystems reduce solar heat gain where it’s most intense on Earth.

Abundance is the Answer. We should be racing to protect, regrow and rewild Earth’s warm, land ecosystems today. A new economics needs to be built to steward, rescue, regrow, and reconnect wildernesses and native, vegetative abundance in warm climates in perpetuity. The world needs dependable ways to reduce emissions that restore and keep temperate global climate conditions. Naturally vegetated ecosystems are the only realistic option.

Maturity is key. Leaf density, vegetation density, water volume capacity, hydraulic diversity, emissions absorption capacity, carbon storage capacity, biotic self-regulation, biogeochemical balancing, heat management capacity, and more are most robust and globally beneficial in well-established, old growth ecosystems.

Vegetation = Precipitation. On lands, vegetation density increases rainfall, particularly in warm climates. Rich soil and plant ecosystems are self-irrigating, creating 60 to 80% of rainfall over lands, worldwide.

On lands, vegetation density increases rainfall [From Keys, et al, 2029].

Self-Regulation is a Silver Bullet. All organisms seek to create optimal living conditions. Land vegetation self-regulates its environment to optimize physical conditions however and whenever it can. People today want a comprehensive solution to climate change. Nothing makes more sense than prioritizing, land-based wilderness protection and restoration in warm climates for all of the reasons stated here. Furthermore, once established the life in any ecosystem will continue to compound value in carbon retention, moisture circulation, and climate maintenance capacity for decades to centuries. We cannot control or build this. We can nurture it, protect it, and allow it to restabilize at grand scale.

Virtuous Global Cooling. The Biospheric Carbon Sink is more than capable of stopping catastrophic climate change this decade and reversing it this century. Because we are already living in a climate catastrophe Tech today should first focus on protecting and restoring ecosystem integrity. Aerial irrigation to prevent droughting and regenerative agricultural practices are two top priorities for continuation of the human economy’s life-support system, Biosphere Earth. Rescuing and restoring Biosphere Earth, currently less than 3% intact on lands, can not only exceed the greenhouse gas reduction requirements this decade for avoiding catastrophic warming but will self-cool the planet in the process.

Thanks for reading.

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Scientific Citations

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Chris Searles is founder/director of BioIntegrity (biointegrity.net) and cofounder/exec. editor of AllCreation.org (allcreation.org).