Water is a new realm for climate action and represents a relatively easy fix, following nature's model
As climate action finally begins in the United States in earnest, leaders face a maze of choices. The data keep coming in, and shifting, and sometimes changing. An example: methane is 25 times more impactful than carbon dioxide, per our EPA. Yet other credible and science-based entities state it’s 67 times more impactful, or 89 times. The fact that methane does not sustain in our atmosphere the same length of time as carbon dioxide does complicate quantifying its impact. We long for the day we can rely on data based on factual, empirical, nonpolitical science.
These are times during which we must shift from dysfunctional patterns into effective patterns. Burning gasoline or diesel is dysfunctional. We know this, and we are initiating transition. With hope that we are not too late. We have allowed thousands of natural gas wells to seep methane directly into our atmosphere, but this is also being addressed, now, after four years of political obfuscation. Agriculture is the slow child. We still let her directly pollute water with nutrients that ultimately perk into our water and kill it. Agriculture is responsible for over 80% of nutrient impaired water, and nutrient impaired water generates 20 plus percent of the greenhouse gas, particularly methane, that we must deal with if we are to turn the tide of climate change.
Water is ripe for transition. Due to simple neglect, it’s been allowed to slip into eutrophic or even hyper-eutrophic condition. To use a human analogy, it’s been fed a diet that leads to obesity. Think sudden cardiac arrest, if not dealt with. Literally, water is dying at pandemic levels across the developed world, wherever orthophosphate and additional fertilizer components are employed. This shows up in the incidence of harmful algae blooms. They are a symptom of this phenomenon. When they happen, water is dying.
If a water body is deep, then instead of relatively moderate carbon dioxide coming off, methane does. This has been proven by the DelSontro study. We have the science. And the volume of methane can be precisely measured and quantified. And today, because of innovation, we have the ability to prevent the anaerobic conditions that will otherwise occur in these settings.
Currently, some five hundred mayors across the U.S. have pledged to achieve carbon neutrality by a specific target date, usually ten years from now. Water will be a simple and inexpensive window of opportunity for these mayors. They will take a huge bite out of their carbon footprint, and they will move towards their commitment of carbon neutrality, as they employ today’s science on their internal waterways. Places like Chicago, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Memphis, Washington D.C., and hundreds more, will be offered means by which to fix their water, with systems that generate revenue.
Cleaning water effectively and for the long term is a function of employing nature’s wetland effect into our infrastructure, not the instant gratification of chemical fixes. We must not force our will into environmental challenges, but instead, design for collaboration with nature, otherwise, results will be simply stupefying in terms of expense. We must collaborate. And it is surprisingly easy, and nature is remarkably receptive.
Today we know how to cycle nutrients into healthy biota. We have the innovation and the design in hand. We can grow fish instead of algae. We are ready and able. And by leveraging today’s innovation into collaboration with nature, we can achieve all of this with systems that pay for themselves.
This is truly a hopeful time. The results, the implications, the outcomes, of moving towards Transition Water, and away from death by suffocation as harmful algae blooms are bio-digested, will renovate the American sportsman. Fish are a marker. When they do well, so does the water they come from. And they do incredibly well when their water is stewarded towards nature’s wetland effect. That’s where we grow fish instead of algae.
Methane production from nutrient impaired water accounts for 20% or more of actual climate changing greenhouse gas. Preventing methane is now easily, cost effectively, achieved. The mayors of progressive U.S. cities are ideally positioned to demonstrate this. What’s missing? An entity, ideally a nonsectarian, science-based nonprofit corporation, to quantify both current GHG emissions by specific waterbodies, and GHG reduction associated with smart, nature-based solutions.
Here’s advance notice… this is developing and will happen over the short term.
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