Thursday 22 June 2023

Rewater peatlands to mitigate climate change update

Update: see a follow-on post to fire maps in the news here.

In my Story Map Portfolio, step past the first five on climate issues, and the next seven on East Anglia environs affected by climate emergency, to my last and most comprehensive one: Fenlands Challenge - below and fully here - was submitted to a UN Sustainable Development Goals call for story maps; it lays out opportunities and challenges in rewatering peatlands as the most effective way to counter greenhouse gas effects on climate warming. 

This was recently vindicated in the news by this Guardian article, Rewetting England’s lowland peat could help meet emissions target, says study. They then temper it with the subtitle: Thinktank suggests projects could deliver one-fifth of savings needed from farming, but agriculture experts cast doubt on idea. Also in the Guardian, Wet Farming is ongoing in addition to what was detailed in the story map. But the subtitle and the article stresses the tension between farming and climate change mitigation.

A discussion list by EarthQuakers - a Cambridge Quakers environmental group -   brought out this fabulous resource on the environmental impact of dairy milk vs. alternatives: Dairy vs. plant-based milk: what are the environmental impacts? 

Yet while the graphs are clear, there remain questions I voiced in that thread: 

Global land use classification at 5-50 m resolution only under 5 years old [as mentioned in story map above]. Historic data is at 100-250 m. resolution & won't track crop fields. It's OK for deforestation [see Anecdote below] and general ecology, but not for agricultural apps. IOW there's neither historic data nor normalisation, so graphs look good but... So while what's said from  lab perspective is correct, is it corroborated on normative historic global datasets?

 The issue in tracking environmental impact is the availability and applicability of historic data to map trends and effects over time. That is a key object in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) discussed throughout this blog.

Anecdote: ERTS now called Landsat 1 was one of the first satellites to help map the global ecological environs in the seventies. In Soviet Siberia, forest defoliation plumes became clearly visible for the first time... And combined with wind data from the Nimbus meteorological predecessor (same link), coal plants and nuclear power stations were pinpointed at the upwind apex of said defoliation plumes! This created a diplomatic stir, which resulted even in post-Soviet Russia in the interdiction of high-resolution satellite imagery over Siberia - if you were abroad of course you could use them, but not if you did business in Russia - how do I know this? Early this millennium I visited yearly in Moscow (fall) and Tyumen W Siberia (spring) as a GIS industry manager. But also in eighties Calgary, W CAN, there was a charter plane that flew over the pole biweekly to Novosibirsk, as they were closely related environmentally and geologically. In fact one oilfield production company did installation work in exchange for a cut in the oil production, rather than payment with the troublesome Ruble... that was hi-tech barter with the waning Soviet regime!

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