San Francisco, CA (PRWEB) August 31, 2006
Thanks to Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature, the world's eighth-largest economy and 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) has boldly jumped to the forefront of the international climate change battle. California's new Global Warming Solutions Act pledges to reduce the state's GHG emissions by a startling 25% by 2020, targeting an annual reduction of over 125 million tons.
Although some critics claim such mandatory reductions could harm the state financially, a closer reading of the legislation reveals a hidden win-win-win solution for the climate, economy and natural environment, too. Specifically, the new law supports atmospheric CO2 reductions via eco-restoration projects like growing new forests and other forms of plant life.
San Francisco Bay area eco-restoration firm, Planktos Inc., has been working to deliver ocean and forest restoration as the most beneficial, cost-effective and largest volume answer to both global warming and the equally severe CO2 crises in the sea. The company will soon be launching a pilot series of commercial scale phytoplankton restoration projects to revive failing ocean life and produce millions of tons of tradable low cost GHG emission offset credits (aka "carbon credits") to finance the work. Restoring these tiny ocean plants, that the company calls the ocean forest, to 1980 levels of health and activity will generate billions of tons of CO2 sequestering biomass and feed the entire marine ecosystem from the bottom up. Our plummeting populations of fish, whales and sea birds might well rejoice that California's climate change solutions may now help rescue them, too.
The Case for Ecosystem Restoration
1) Troubled Waters: While the public and politicians have finally focused upon the approach of global warming, they continue to ignore our greatest CO2 threat, the here and now calamity of accelerating oceanic collapse. The CO2-driven acidification and iron starvation of the seas are decimating the phytoplankton on which all life depends. These tiny marine plants generate most of our oxygen, remove more than half our CO2, and are the foundation of the entire marine food pyramid. Plankton desperately need trace micronutrients, especially iron, to grow and photosynthesize, and have traditionally received it in wind-borne dust from arid regions of the world. Modern agriculture and high CO2 levels have increased drylands groundcover to such a degree that 35% less iron rich dust is reaching the sea than two decades ago. This has already caused a 25% drop in plankton life in the hardest hit regions of the North Pacific, and a 6-9% dieoff worldwide. The knock-on effects are immediate and lethal, starving fisheries, great whales, millions of sea birds, etc. The climatic effects are equally formidable. Compared to 1980 baselines, plankton photosynthesis is now pulling down 3 billion fewer tons of CO2 each year, an amount equivalent to about half of our annual manmade CO2 emissions worldwide. In other words, simply restoring plankton populations to the strength they enjoyed a few decades ago would remove four to five times more CO2 from the atmosphere than universal compliance with the Kyoto Protocol, and generate gigatons of fish and whale food in the bargain.
2) Disappearing Forests: According to UN studies, we have now lost nearly half of the Earth's natural forests, most of them within the last 30 years. Although a few are being replanted--often with "tree farms" or worse, the pace is entirely too slow and the overall impacts on biodiversity, wildlife habitat, water supplies and the global carbon cycle remain pernicious and immense. While large-scale mixed-growth forest restoration in protected reserves seems to offer so many ecological and climatic benefits, this approach has at times been disdained or opposed by both high tech geoengineering advocates and source reduction purists.
3) The Real Meaning of GHG Mitigation Plans like California's new law and the Kyoto Protocol. Critics accurately observe that even universal compliance with California's Global Warming Solutions Act or the Kyoto Protocol would do little to solve the true enormity of CO2's global threats. Happily, the real value of such reforms lies not in their minimalist reduction targets, but in their creation of well funded markets for CO2 reductions that generously incentivize innovations for climate redress. Robust Kyoto-spawned markets overseas are already stimulating immense creativity, and even promise major funding to address the sea and forest crises, which would likely remain unheeded if not for their new found "carbon credit" value.
According to Russ George, founder and CEO of Planktos, Inc, a pioneer in the eco-restoration field, "Whether source reduction and/or techno-wizardry can cool the atmosphere a little or a lot, neither hybrid cars nor underground CO2 injection, have any lasting environmental merit beyond the direct greenhouse gas reduction involved. Ecosystem restoration, in contrast, not only reduces atmospheric CO2; it simultaneously regenerates the most vital ecologies on Earth. Now thanks to California's leadership, it can also soon perform this healing in a profitably self-funding way."
"Our wounded planet desperately needs ecosystem restoration first and foremost," says Mr. George. "It is the most important triage decision of our day. Its large effect and low cost also deliver us from the Scylla and Charybdis dilemma of choosing between environmental or economic apocalypse, and we can begin making a big difference right away. Of course, eco-restoration cannot solve the whole climate problem, and conservation and source reductions also have key roles to play. Indeed all approaches are urgently welcomed now because we clearly need the large CO2 reductions California's legislation prescribes both to heal the climate and rescue the seas."
For more information on the science and economics of environmental restoration, please see the Planktos website at http://www.planktos.com. Planktos is dedicated to marine and terrestrial ecosystem renewal, and is a subsidiary of Solar Energy Limited which trades on the NASDAQ as (OTCBB:SLRE).
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