Human activities have fundamentally altered our landscape, and the outcome has been degradation of the earth's natural processes and cycles. Conservation practices are used to restore the natural hydrology and ecosystems in a patchwork of promise across the landscape. Can these conservation practices also help to capture carbon in the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gases and helping to combat climate change?
The answer is all too familiar - it depends. Practices like turning marginal cropland into restored wetlands does increase the permanent land cover and can encourage the growth of woody plants, but wetlands also emit methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. This 2019 report by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources finds "... Drainage of wetlands and conversion to cropland can release significant amounts of long-stored carbon through organic matter decomposition. However, wetlands also emit methane, making it difficult to assess their role relative to GHG emissions. Methane emissions are highest in wetlands that are permanently or frequently inundated, while less frequently inundated wetland types such as wet meadows appear to sequester more GHGs (green house gases) than they emit. "
Similarly, the role of other conservation measures - for example cover crops - has to be carefully considered before values for carbon capture are assigned. This UMRR blog post from December, 2020, outlines a growing experiment in development of a carbon market in Minnesota. Now, the budget proposed by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz for the Board of Water and Soil Resources includes funding for expansion of carbon markets in Minnesota - see page 46 here.
Let's be clear here. Conservation practices are a good thing. LWV UMRR strongly agrees that cover crops and reduced tillage are vital climate adaptation and resilience measures, providing undeniable benefits to soil health and farm resilience. Improved soil health, keeping water on the land, and restoring habitat will have benefits broadly, including making our landscapes more resilient to the added stresses of our changing climate. Our concern is that cover crops and no-till may play a minimal role in sequestering carbon. LWV UMRR is joining with other environmental organizations in Minnesota in requesting that more consideration be given to scientific data on carbon capture before the state more strongly commits to including cover crops and no-till as eligible practices in a carbon market.
Watch the LWV UMRR Blog for continued reporting on this issue.
The problems of water quality are shared by rural and urban Minnesotans. The solutions have to be shared, too.
The need to reduce the amount of pollutants that go in to the river unites both agricultural and industrial interests. To help to bridge the ag-urban divide and unite interests, forums have been organized to bring people together. The second annual forum was held on December 16, 2020.
According to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's post on the conference, ""The key issue initially fueling the conferences centers on the question, how can the urban and rural agriculture worlds work together to address water quality and other environmental issues? Cities face daunting costs for wastewater treatment. Agriculture dominates the rural landscape, and has a major impact on water quality. What if both worked together?
While environmental quality is the goal, getting there is all about the economy. And climate change.
Leif Fixen of The Nature Conservancy promoted the Ecosystem Service Marketplace Consortium (ESMC), which is developing the processes and technology that would pay farmers for “carbon credits” — a measure of capturing carbon to help mitigate global warming." Click the picture below for more information on this pilot project.
The first Ag-Urban Partnership Forum was held on November 18, 2019 and is documented in a detailed .pdf found at this post on the Minnesota River Data Center website.
Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything…
Well, we now know that we have to do something about the climate, and that we can start by talking about climate change and what it means to our lives, our environment and our children’s future. (Did you notice that we said “climate change”? Yes, climate is different from weather, and we need to both talk about it and do something!)
LWV Upper Mississippi River Region (LWV UMRR) has added a focus on climate change to our action portfolio. We are urging our member Leagues to plan programs on the topic – and have an option to offer with prepared material to do it!
LWV Dane County (Madison, WI) has made climate change their topic for action this year. They are sponsoring four forums (link) that will be available for local Leagues to stream. Materials packets are prepared for each forum so viewers will be able to learn about the topic in advance and have good discussion after the program. These packets are rich with information and geared to help build understanding, not detailed scientific tomes. LWV DC does an excellent job with both the packets and with finding a good range of speakers who bring broad expertise to the subject; this would be a great way for a local League to begin the conversation on climate change. As a bonus, their website features a weekly column titled “Climate Corner”, featuring a medley of resources and information that highlight personal actions, diversity and equity perspectives, and additional learning opportunities, all related to climate change.
The first of the four forums took place on September 4 - you can watch the video here. Titled “Why Climate Change is a Public Health Emergency”, the featured speakers were Ralph Petersen , Ph.D. (UW–Madison Space, Science and Engineering Center), Andrea Kaminski (Board Director and former Executive Director of LWVWI) and Dr. Claire Gervais , M.D., (UW Health Clinics). Looking ahead, LWV DC is planning these additional forums:
• November 6, 2019, focusing on government's role in combatting climate change,
• February 5, 2020, focusing on agriculture as a solution and
• April 1, 2020 focusing on water impacts.
LWV UMRR’s Co-Presidents, Mary and Steve Ploeser, are members of the LWV Dane County committee working on the forum. We are proud to share their work with our member Leagues, and thank them for the commitment to LWV and the environment. – Gretchen Sabel, Communications Director, LWV UMRR
LWV Action on Climate Change: A Call to Arms, with lots of guidance, from Caryl Terrell (LWV Dane Co, WI) at the LWV UMRR Annual Meeting on June 1
The LWV US Tool Kit for Climate Action is an excellent resource for getting started. Take some time to explore this website - the menu on the right has links to a wide array of information, advice and examples.
|LWV Upper Mississippi River Region||