Author Archives: bmk5371

Why this matters

I am going to go off-topic in this last blog and talk about why climate change does matter and much more importantly especially to our generation. The effects of climate change have yet to hit drastically. However, according to the scientists there is very little doubt that the effects of climate change will take hold in the years to come. In fact that there is little doubt that if the current pace is kept there will be severe consequences not even twenty years down the road.

Although it seems that climate change is always getting talked about in the media and even on the world stage there seems to be very little action taken in order to combat it. Take for example what many people called an historic climate agreement between the United States and China, negotiated at APEC, which calls for only small reductions in the increases of carbon dioxide emissions. If this is supposed to be considered an historic deal on climate change then how low can our standards be for progress. If we do not demand more then how can we expect to enact real change on the very important and pressing issue of climate change? If we continue to congratulate the most basic of agreements, how can we expect to gain a truly transformational deal that is needed to affect the change that is necessary?

I would argue that we have been too complacent with such an important issue and that has hurt the speed in which green policies have been enacted. In fact in my mind there is no doubt that in order to create real change we have to do it at the voting booth. I know that many people, especially in my generation, has found apathy in politics because it always seems like the people matter less than the lobbyists, but it is still the very best way to create change in the direction the country is going. I say this because there will always be a better candidate by no means a perfect one but a better one that will enact the policies that will help solve the fundamental problems surrounding big issues like climate change. For our generation we need to use our voice to affect change on the big issues, like climate change, that will affect us the most by far.

This is an important point because many people voting or enacting policy today feel that climate change is so far removed from them and they will never have to deal with the consequences of their action, so therefore why bother. This is of course ridiculous because although climate change’s effects are weaker now than what they will be there is no doubt that there are negative consequences going on right now. For example, the drought in California, which is slowing the agricultural sector of the economy, showcases the very real negative effects of climate change. However, the line of thinking that this problem is not going to be mine therefore I am going to do nothing about it is unfortunately much more prevalent than we think and it has been the main roadblock in policy progression on the issue of climate change.

This is a problem in progressing climate change policy but it can easily be overcome by showing not only the environmental and moral reasons to advocate for climate change policy, but more effectively articulate the economic reasons why good policy on energy and agriculture will help put more money in the everyday person. The reason why we should argue more on the economic benefits of climate change is that there are many people out there who are unwillingly to pay any economic cost in order to stop the effects of climate change. However, there is nobody out there who would argue against an economic benefit and if that goes hand in hand with reversing the effects of climate change then it becomes a win-win.

We have already seen this strategy succeed when Ronald Regan (by no means a liberal environmentalist) got the international community to enact policies that would help protect by arguing the economic case if we did not take this policy prescription. Overall, there is no doubt in my mind that the costs of not taking action are huge, so I suggest that we understand that this debate if not won will have huge consequences in the future. A video about the effects of climate change,, check it out.

How cows are so important to climate change

Cows on average release about 70 to 120kg of methane a year, which like carbon dioxide is considered a greenhouse gas. I know many of you are thinking that cow farts cannot be the pressing issue that climate policy makers and scientists have to deal with surely there are more pressing topics like renewable energy and energy efficiency in general. However, there are many inconvenient facts about cow farts that make it a much higher priority than one may want to concede.

For example, methane has 23 times more negative effects than carbon dioxide and cows alone account for 2.8 metric tons of methane a year. Unfortunately because cow farts are such a non-serious topic there is very little serious attention and solutions offered to solve the problem. In fact in Japan there was a study done to see how much a kg of different meats contributed to kg of carbon dioxide produced to make it. I will leave the link here,, but I think it is interesting that a kg beef produces over 34.6 kg of carbon dioxide. Considering all the tailgates just here at Penn State those are some dangerous numbers.

However, my main concern is that apathy will take hold and no solutions will be offered to the very complex problem of feeding the entire world and at the same time curbing carbon emissions by improving the environmental quality of our agricultural processes. However, there lots of push back against the latter of these two issues because many people have argued, and justifiably so, that feeding the hungriest people in the world is much more important than tackling the climate changing effects of our current agricultural practices. This is hard to counter when part of your argument is centered around the fact that too many cows are farting too much. This is also hard to counter considering the terrible and just flat out awful lives people who do not have access to clean and sanitary food have.

However, I simply do not believe that this is an either or scenario rather I think that this could be a win-win scenario, if policies are enacted correctly. The problem that many farmers are facing is that green technology for farming does not have enough research into it and therefore farmers who engage in the practice of green farming will see a reduction in their profits and not an increase. This is a problem for two reasons one is that if the private sector does not get behind a green farming movement then there will never be a change in how agricultural practices are carried out. The next reason is that green technology can be the next great technological revolution that saves hundreds of millions of people by making food cheaper and more accessible.

However, this will only work if certain policies are taken to incentivize green growth in the agricultural field by making going green not just popular but also profitable. The first of these policies would be to incentivize green farmers with tax credits in order to get the agricultural wizards on board with the green movement. The next step would be to incentivize green energy companies by to invest research and development into the agricultural field.

This is being done to a certain degree by the Obama administration who has invested into different green energy projects throughout his administration by using his all of the above energy policy that has produced quality energy jobs. The combination of these policies would help to partner both the farmer and the private sector as partners in a green farming movement. This partnership will not only promote solid job growth but it would also finally help incentivize private industry to get behind quality climate change policies.

However, this is not enough we are going to need increased research into the green agricultural field. This would be perfect for our own country because we have the best university system in the world and some of the brightest minds in the world researching there. Although there is always research going on at our colleges there can always be an increase and there are few issues that are more important to invest research dollars in than the effects of cow farts on the climate

Here is an article on climate changing cow farts,, check it out.

How climate change is affecting agriculture right now

In the scientific American there was an interesting article about Australian farmers being the one of the first groups to feel the negative consequences of global warming ( The article referenced the fact that Australia over the past century has had temperatures rise about one degree, which does not sound like much until we dig into the details. Farmers depend on a relatively stable climate throughout the entire farming season in order to properly grow certain types of crops.

Now obviously the everyday weather for a week changes radically but the weather average for an entire cropping season year in and year out tends to stay about the same. However, with massive changes in the climate outlook for an entire season changing crops will start to become unprofitable and will eventually stop being grown entirely. In the case of Australia when crops that require long periods of rain like walnuts and peanuts do not receive the amount of rain they need then they will simply stop being grown and produced.

Now many of you may think that if Australia stops growing some nuts no big deal other countries with better climates can make up the difference and even if some nuts stop being grown entirely it’s no big deal. To those people I say that baseball games will never be the same without peanuts, how dare you and that in many countries around the world food is not presented as a choice but rather a necessity. For example Australia exports 48 billion dollars worth of food to the rest of the world each year. That is about sixty percent of their entire agricultural production, which is a incredibly high percentage to devote entirely to exports. If production of certain products were to fall and then Australia in order to meet the needs of its own domestic demand restricted the number of exports or rather just shifted to become a stronger importer of its crops then a huge number of people would be completely out of food. If that were to happen not only would plenty of people die but many of the poorest people in the world would be seeing a huge increase in one of their most basic expenses because as supply goes down and demand stays the same price goes up.

This would only be the beginning because agriculture is one of the most unstable industries in the world today simply because the instability of the climate prevents a secure environment for growth and investment. That means that as the trend of increasing temperatures continues and more and more crops begin to die out private sector investment and ingenuity will disappear from the field. This is probably one of the worst things that could possibly happen because although we think the local grocery store has an infinite amount of food that is simply not the case. In fact, for many people around the world today they depend on foreign exports and aid to have a good meal. If global warming decreases overall food production at the same time that our global population is growing dramatically increasing food demand, there would be huge problems. This would create huge food shortages and increase the prices for average consumers dramatically.

The ironic part about this is that agriculture itself is impacting the amount of carbon emissions produced and global warming in general dramatically. According to the World Future Council, fourteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by agricultural practices and another eighteen percent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by deforestation, which is primarily caused to gain more land for agriculture. If you look at this logically it seems very simple that the agriculture industry will take action on its own to combat the one thing that could destroy their entire field, but it is never that simple.

Since there are market forces at work trying more expensive clean energy agricultural practices would hurt the companies or small farmer’s short-term bottom line and therefore these practices are never implemented. So we have the rare but very real case where agricultural industry is actively participating in its own self-destruction. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy that continues because when the market dictates that going green would hurt the bottom line of the industry nobody does because they would fall behind the competition.Then when the problem of global warming gets worse and agriculture yields start to fall it becomes even more imperative to make your practices more cost-effective rather than green. The cycle will simply continue like this unless the government steps in and puts in place standards and incentives to guide the industry to greener practices. I think it is imperative that we stop this cycle and introduce greener standards in the agricultural field, but what do you think?

Deliberation on Energy

For the deliberation that I went to it was in the New Leaf initiative on the Tuesday before break and it was about the energy future in both Pennsylvania and the world in general. They split the debate into three topics the first was fossil fuels, the next was nuclear, and the final one was renewable resources. There were only about seven people there so we did not break down into separate groups but rather discussed with everybody about what we thought about each energy option in both the short and the long term.

For the first topic of fossil fuels the deliberators went through the fact that it currently right now it is a huge benefit economically but has a huge cost to the environment not only in the long term but also in the short term. For example the practice of fracking has dramatically impacted the surrounding communities with not only poisoned drinking water but in some cases flammable drinking water which to me is incredibly scary. That is why the discussion focused on how we can move away from fossil fuels and force the companies who use the practices of fracking to pay for their environmental damage. The solution that was proposed was taxing the fracking companies in Pennsylvania, which have been untaxed under Tom Corbett, and then taking that money to develop research and tax incentives for environmentally safe energy practices.

The next topic we went over was the possibility of nuclear energy, the deliberators went over the fact that despite popular belief is one of the most safe and secure forms of producing energy but is also one of the most cost inefficient ways to produce energy and because of this the industry needs huge government intervention in order for the private sector to make a profit doing it. So as the discussion took place the consensus was that we need to invest in research and provide government subsidies in order to promote private companies in this field. I took a position against the typical consensus because I think that the nuclear industry is too far away from being a profitable industry and that wasting government capital which is limited in its nature to prop up an industry that is decades away from any private sector success would be a mistake.

However, I was definitely not in the majority because the typical feeling around the room was that there was no energy area in which the United States should not invest huge amounts of resources into because if we are not on the forefront of innovation in the new energy future we will miss out on tons of investment and jobs. Therefore all energy fields should be at the very least be researched if not subsidized by the government just in case that particular field becomes the future for energy.

For the third and final topic we talked about is renewable energy, the moderators stated the pros of these is that the supply is infinite and that the options are environmentally-friendly, but as of right now the options available cannot account for all of the energy needs that we have and is not as cost efficient as fossil fuels. Despite, the cons the consensus was very clear that we need to move towards renewables in the long term and also most importantly throw government research money and tax incentives for companies in the renewable energy industry to take advantage of to ensure that the switch to renewable energy happens as fast as possible. The another solution proposed was to incentivize individuals through tax credits for things like solar panels in order move the country closer to environmentally-friendly energy independence.

So as we went into the conclusion we went through the overall thoughts from each approach and then tried to draw a conclusion from the entire thing. As we went through the consensus was clear that we needed fossil fuels in the present to address our energy needs currently but we should tax them for environmental damage. We should also take those tax dollars from the companies who produce fossil fuels in order to invest in research and start up companies in both nuclear and renewable energy fields in order to begin a transition to a cleaner and more efficient energy sector that will drive economic growth.

If you want to take a look at Pennsylvania’s energy future read this article,

How agriculture affects climate change

In the climate change debate there has been a hidden topic that rarely gets debated and discussed publically but is arguably one of the most important parts about the debate because about one-third of carbon pollution is created either by agricultural practices or resources. Even though this affects such a huge part of the debate it is rarely talked about in the media or by politicians because it is not the main component the public thinks about when they hear global warming. It is a shame to because there are so many things that need to be done on a global scale in this field in order to make progress. For example one of main contributors to carbon pollution is deforestation and the main place where this is hurting us is in the Amazon rain forest.

Since 1970 the forest has lost 16.1% of its original cover and this led to the release of over 54 million tons of carbon a year. It is hard to imagine how fast this is happening but to put it in context there has been a significant reduction in deforestation in the Amazon rain forest over the past ten years by over seventy percent but scientists agree that this is not good enough. I think this is why the agriculture needs to be put center stage on the climate debate because most of the major economies are getting on board with clean-renewable energy (US, Europe, China, and even India) but very few are making significant changes to their world-wide policy on environmentally friendly agricultural policies. For example here in the states we emit a little under 700 million tons of green house gases just from agricultural practices. However, the worst part about this is that it is not getting better but rather it is actually getting worse according to the EPA (

The main reason for this increase is that the technology surrounding manure management has increased its greenhouse emissions by 55% since 1990. That’s right the systems designed to pick up crap are releasing the crap that is going to kill us into the air. However it is not that the systems themselves have gotten less environmentally friendly, although that is true, the main driver of this increase is the increase in livestock and farm production in general. We have yet to figure out a way to feed our growing population in America and in the world and then at the same time slow down (or stop) carbon emissions for agricultural practices.

This problem however is not being addressed with research or grant money or being asked of the market through increased regulatory standards to help improve the efficiency of our agricultural systems. In fact the main debate in Congress and many developed countries across the world is how much should we subsidize farmers on the world market instead of what we should do about the carbon we are releasing. Hopefully this will change though because at the world climate summit coming up both agriculture and deforestation are on the list of topics that will be discussed but the question becomes can the summit bring about actual action on the issue of agricultural climate pollution.

The answer is probably going to be no because even though all the scientists in the world can warn us about the consequences of our actions it will not change what many countries believe as against their own national interest. This means that if real change is going to happen it is going to have to pushed by the voters otherwise the farm lobby will probably advise against it. However, time is not a luxury that we have so we must start investing in greener agriculture technology now rather than later because it will soon be too late anything about it. The question then becomes how do we make agriculture more efficient with green technology.

I believe we need to look at locally made food as a better way to decrease carbon pollution and then at the same time start regulating certain food producers about their carbon footprint. I think that not only would just be a better way to grow our food with concern to the planet but also it will help local farmers feed their communities and beyond.