The Climate problem we have is about 750 billion tons of excess CO2 in the atmosphere. We have 417 parts per million (ppm) of CO2 versus 285 ppm in 1850 before the industrial revolution. 135 times 5.5 billion tons is 742 billion tons. We are also adding about 40 billion tons of CO2 per year from human activity.
China is planning to have over 2 million hectares of greenhouse buildings by 2025 with mechanized-automation of farming. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs issued a guideline to promote the country’s facility-based agricultural planting, outlining goals for infrastructure upgrades and mechanization to boost output and farmers’ income. By 2025, China will maintain over 2 million hectares of facilities, including plastic greenhouses, and achieve above 50 percent mechanization for facility-based planting, a sector of the so-called controlled-environment agriculture (CEA), or protected agriculture.
The world already has about 500,000 hectares of climate-controlled greenhouses. China has 4 million hectares of crude plastic sheeting covering land in partially enclosed conditions. The plastic sheets lie over simple metal poles and crude framing.
Alibaba sells greenhouses for as little as 70 cents per square meter. The bulk, high volume cost to the manufacturer is about 50 cents per square meter. If installation labor costs are 50% of the 2 million hectare project then it would cost about $20 billion for the 2 million hectare project. $40 billion would be sufficient for China to make 40 billion square meters of climate-controlled greenhouses which could produce all vegetables and crops. It would cost $260 billion to make greenhouses for the food production of the entire world. China has 103 million hectares of arable land. China will use an area that is 2% of its farmland to provide half of the crops, vegetables and fruit for 1.4 billion people. Six times this is enough for half of the food needs for everyone on earth.
Indoor climate-controlled agriculture has almost no need for pesticides and uses 7% of the water. This would take up 3-5% of the total land area of open-air farming.
The US has about 900 million acres of farmland and 1.2 billion acres of ranchland.
In 2017, researchers at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) have pieced together a map using Landsat satellite imagery with 30-meter resolution that identifies every plot of land under cultivation around the globe. The map shows that 4.62 billion acres are being farmed globally, which is 15 to 20 percent higher than previous estimates.
The world currently has 9.9 billion acres of forests. U.S. forests cover over 741 million acres.
US forests for producing lumber can generate 40-100 tons per year per acre. If the wood is not burned then it is sequestering carbon.
47.5% of the dry matter of a tree consists of carbon.
China is demonstrating greenhouse farming at a national scale.
Feeding half of the their population from greenhouses. This is more than double the US population.
If the US did the same and half of the farmland is converted to growing trees. This would be 450 million acres. If this could be done globally this would be over 2 billion acres. 450 million acres would be 45 billion tons of wood per year. This would be 22 billion tons of carbon per year.
Trees could be selected either for wood or certain trees have wood that sinks in water. Dense lumber could be placed into the ocean or lakes.
There is an economic analysis of smaller scale greenhouse and vertical farming. The all-in delivered cost of a pound of greens grown in a commercial greenhouse is estimated to be $2.33 per pound. It cost $18.3 million to build 280,000 square feet (2.6 hectares) of commercial greenhouse in the USA. The total cost to grow would be just over $3.0 million per year for 2 million pounds of greens or $1.52 per pound. BrightFarms employs 165 people for the three greenhouses. $1.10 per pound consists of employee costs.
The cost estimates for greenhouses could be brought down to $1 per pound or less with large-scale construction. Below are costs for 2.8 hectare systems in the USA.
There is value to having national food security and not having to depend on imported food. Ten billion to twenty billion dollars per year in indoor farm subsidies closes the cost gap with open-air farming.
China’s controlled environment system will have a lot of automation and lower construction costs because of the massive scale and lower costs in China.
It will be easier to track the growth of new forests on farmland.
Greenhouses built in cities can provide fresher food to restaurants and consumers. The French Laundry is a three-star Michelin restaurant that has its own garden for farm to table food.
We can have better food, fresher food, food grown closer to people, cheaper food, more water (only using 7% of current farming), farms resistant to weather, bugs etc…, no pesticides on food and solve global warming cheaper and faster.
Current proposals are to get the US 4.5 billion tons per year to net zero around 2050 to 2060. The greenhouse – tree plan removes all of the excess CO2 (750 billion tons) and net zeros the world CO2 by 2030 and we get more and cheaper food.
Previous proposals to grow a trillion trees did not identify the proper land to grow the trees. There is also the current problem that existing forests are not properly managed against wildfire. Converting farmland will solve the political and economic aspects of needing farmers to transition to a useful purpose with the rise at scale of greenhouse farming. This method will be over a hundred times cheaper and faster.
Other Background Info
Other proposals to cut greenhouse gas emissions to zero in 40 years.
What is considered a big goal is to halve US climate emissions by 2030. This would be a reduction of about 2.2 billion tons per year. This is hundreds of times less ambitious and more costly than this proposal.
SOURCES- Brian Wang analysis, Agfundernews, USGS, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affair
Written By Brian Wang, Nextbigfuture.com
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
Known for identifying cutting edge technologies, he is currently a Co-Founder of a startup and fundraiser for high potential early-stage companies. He is the Head of Research for Allocations for deep technology investments and an Angel Investor at Space Angels.
A frequent speaker at corporations, he has been a TEDx speaker, a Singularity University speaker and guest at numerous interviews for radio and podcasts. He is open to public speaking and advising engagements.
83 thoughts on “Fixing Global Warming by 2030 – Grow Food In Greenhouses and Trees on Farmland”
Well I guess there are still plenty of research grants from oil companies available to those who will publish the "correct" results
That's your solution to everything.
Start by raising R'lyeh and awakening Great Cthulhu!
Having just finished a tour of the Great Plains, I can attest that you cannot grow large number of trees or even large shrubs in much of that environment. Insufficient water and the soils can range from sandy to a rocky clay mix.
That being said, as large scale commercial greenhouse agribusiness becomes commercially viable, you will see a natural shift in the business model. I also expect that as the middle and lower classes shift food sources from land intensive sources – you'll see the foodies shift from talking about eating local and sustainable food sources to extolling the the benefits of "naturally raised" food. I mean, if everyone is doing it, it's just not cool anymore.
Why choose the 1850 285ppm baseline? If address other AGW contributors like particulates, methane, we could calibrate the indoor farming + afforestation to get CO2 to 350-400ppm and keep it there. Some CO2 necessary for healthy plant growth! if you get down to 285, most of those trees would die.
I have a secret motive in trying to mimic Space conditions, on Earth. This is quite different from Biosphere 2, which was a Mars mimic. B2 was trying to get enuf sunlight to convert CO2 of living animal/humans back into O2 in a closed, energy starved loop. In Space, energy will be abundant, both sunlight and electricity. O2 is a waste product, won't run out, and CO2 can be scrubbed if needed with energy, but plants are growing in the full sun all the time. Water is more avail in Space than recently thot, but still precious and needs recycling. So, I propose greenhouses in the sunlit desert, and solar OR power beam energy to get water. Rain would be a bonus, but NOT a necessity! "What's you gonna do when yur well runs dry?"
Resurrecting Sabre-tooth cats and Andrewsarchus from frozen DNA…
A certain % of water just falls out of the air naturally. If you only need 7% as much as previously you can probably just catch the water running off your greenhouse roofs.
There is very strong evidence that the sun, not co2, is responsible for global warming. That's the sun! You know, that big yellow orb in the sky… It is pretty clear that the so-called 'world organizations' are totally biased and misstating the facts. We are having weather, okay? They have even detected warming on Mars… Don't follow the leader! Get your own data:
"If you put tomfoolery into a computer, nothing comes out of it but tomfoolery. But this tomfoolery, having passed through a very expensive machine, is somehow ennobled and no-one dares criticize it." — Pierre Gallois
Food, for people… That's the goal.
Biochar (probably won't get much for it, but it is stable and can help farmland fertility, at least under some conditions) + pyrolysis-derived chemicals (you get a kind of tar that could be turned into useful things like plastics, but it is capital intense; too much oxygen to treat it like crude petroleum).
A more realistic, though still centuries away, method might be stimulating sea floor volcanoes. That'll produce Hawaii style land in the mid ocean.
Lettuce not resort to puns.
I wuz hoping to nip that stuff in the bud.
I won't go near them.
Just reading the other comments about Earth centric fixes is depressing. Planets are so limited!
But the tundra and the taiga are already whole, plant filled, ecosystems. Warming them up destroys one ancient ecosystem to build a new ecosystem.
re-wilding is ok – but what about up-wilding? taking existing nature and upgrading its components… bigger and faster-growinf trees, supplemented and pH-resistant corals…
thx.. I am quoting (paraphrasing) from the late J.E. Pournelle's book "A step Farther Out". Sure miss him and his writing.
There are other things we need to do to reduce methane emissions: We need to char or recycle wastes. Nothing needs to go to the landfill. 6% of the methane is being produced there.
The methane produced during water treatment needs to be captured and used.
There are a number of coal mines that have caught fire and been abandoned to burn for decades or centuries. These do not burn cleanly, and we need to snuff these fires out.
Rice cultivation is responsible for large amounts of methane. We need to switch to varieties that do not require being inundated, and can be grown similarly to other grains.
Farm animal wastes should be processed to manufacture and use methane.
We also need to investigate wetlands, and see if introducing/modifying some organisms can reduce the methane production without harming anything.
I don't think it is unrealistic to think that we can reduce the emissions of methane by greater than 75% with modest investment.
You can't just plant trees anywhere. The soil and rain must support them. Much of American farmland was grassland. If the ecosystems were not supporting trees, then they surely would not support vast forests today after all our nutrient depletion.
If we want to grow more trees, we must actively manage the forests, not talking lumber-jacking. I am talking about erosion mitigation and terracing and spreading the water out that falls rather than just letting it all merge and become one big river flowing out to the ocean. And I am talking about returning nutrients to the soil, that we removed.
We also must remove dead wood, and either use it for paper, lumber or char it. We can't afford the natural process of decay where it is all turned into CO2 and methane. We must reduce that, as well as the methane human activity makes. If we do, then the CO2 is less of a problem.
We can save lots of kinds of organisms if we are brutal with one, and modify the diet of another. If we exterminate, starve or modify termites, we can reduce methane around 11% (though there are wildly differing estimates as to how much methane they produce). Termites turn wood, roots, and animal dung into methane. How exactly we stop or greatly reduce their methane emissions is unclear. One way is to knock over any dead tree right after it dies and char it, roots and all. Tractors can easily knock them over, or pull them over.
Cows just need a bit of a seaweed with their hay.
There is nothing to "fix".
That starts to get ugly when the backwards farmers refuse to move to the city.
This mustn't ever be forgotten.
Indeed. R67 seems to be talking of a one shot heat addition that is long lasting. With more CO2, the air equilibrium is reached quickly, but it is higher!
The Earth reaches an equilibrium between incoming sunlight and departing light of all wavelengths, including infrared. Added CO2 blocks escaping IR, thus raising the average temperature. The oceans have 8000 times the thermal capacity of the atmosphere. So warmer air gradually warms the water over long periods of time.
Equilibrium is reached quickly. You have probably noticed it gets cooler at night, and the temperature drop is greater on clear nights. But the oceans, ground, and ice caps take much longer to change, simply because there is more mass there.
Forests don't produce 100 tons per acre per year, Brian. You misread the article you linked to (and what I know from my days owning timber land). That's the total inventory at harvest. Annual growth is more like 5 tons/acre/year once a stand of trees are established (closed canopy).
Leaves in sunlight have a finite capacity to produce sugar, and in turn the carbohydrate chains in cellulose and lignin, the main components of wood. Spaced out seedlings don't use all the ground area, and one layer of branches may not capture all the light. A closed canopy is when branches from neighboring trees meet, and there is enough layers of branches to use all the incoming sun. At that point growth reaches a maximum and stays there until the trees start dying off.
Not sure if it's a leftist only sentiment, but certainly an urbanite know-it-all one.
But it's very noticeable in the way greenies and other urbanites want to go to the farms and the third world and educate the farmers on how to do what they have been doing for generations, and specially what to think and say. Which would be laughable, if they weren't armed with lawyers, law makers and regulations, now telling the farmers some things they do are wrong and need to stop, like killing weeds with safe herbicides or removing pests with pesticides, which aren't good for the urbanites all-organic shopping carts. Or the outpour of work and daily life regulation gibberish they want to impose.
There's always been some tension between farmers and city-dwellers, because the later believe they know best, and because the later also would starve without the former.
This urgency to Amazon-ize agriculture may very well respond to a desire of removing the, in their self centered opinion, backwards farmers from the political equation altogether.
"Those people will end up having to migrate to the cities to sell their unskilled labour or starve in the woods."
I think that's the general idea, yes.
I get the impression that part of the push for moving food production to urban greenhouses is motivated by a desire on the left to stop being mortally dependent on rural areas. If they can move food production into areas they control, they could end that dependence, and govern without any concern about how much they piss off people who don't live in cities.
This would also require urbanizing power sources, and getting away from their current NIMBY mindset, but it's actually a feasible program, I suppose, though it's implications for people who don't want to live in cities could be pretty dire.
While I like hyper-technified agriculture a lot, all these talks about moving all agriculture into greenhouses and vertical farms in a couple decades or so, reeks of technocratic despotism.
Because that's the only way you can force millions of farmers into building and working in such places (or get out of the way) in such time frames.
Otherwise, you have to live with local cultures and methods inherited from centuries ago across the globe, and only gradually add technical improvements upon them, because people have to know those advances and choose to use them on their own.
Also, any production advances should enter the market because they're advantageous, not because some bureaucrat ordered us to do so. Otherwise we don't have a natural growth and replacement of methods.
Let's recall: good ideas are copied, bad ones are imposed.
What he said. The idea in the article is clearly to centralise food production into a much smaller area, which requires more capital investment, but more pressingly the idea is to turn much of today's farmland into forests. What happens to the people who own those farms today? Do they get to become extractivists? This requires a very different skillset to farming or raising cattle. How are we to retrain them? Can we even set up extractivist economy that can support the same amount of people that a farm can? Those people will end up having to migrate to the cities to sell their unskilled labour or starve in the woods.
Not at all; heat added by human activity gets radiated out same as head received from the sun. What CO2 does is reduce the emissivity of the Earth in the frequencies that are radiated out while being transparent to the peaks that are radiated in. That makes the heat generated from industrial processes in general indistinguishable from solar heating, except that it's three or so orders of magnitude smaller.
More arable land is always a good thing. Arable land supports more plant life, but more than just plant life: a whole ecosystem.
I have it on good authority that politician actually think it is.
I guess China was right and should be making even more islands.
Spotted this other bit about Chinese Greenhouses – using electric fields to make plants grow faster/bigger? No idea about the science, but thought it relevant….
Sure, floating islands, really just big barges that look like islands, are perfectly feasible.
Again, less demonstrating "can", and more demonstrating "should".
The greenhouse stuff is lovely, but where is the water sourced? Unless you are actively dehydrating/processing your agricultural output before delivery, that water leaves the greenhouse systems.
Now, North Africa and the persian gulf might allow seawater humidified greenhouses to actively reclaim water from the ocean, especially if directly coupled to a solar updraft tower, but then you are coast limited (or however far you are willing to build a canal inland). Or you could try those ideas to flood parts of the Sahara with a canal from the Mediterranean…
They can, but the capital intensive part favors big agrobusiness unfortunately
Very, very slow asteroid impacts?
So, are you the guy who grows brussel sprouts?
Just get the water from the air with solar power and recycle it. This conceptually simplifies the whole thing!
The heat, not CO2 trapped solar heat, but the actual heat released by humans is insignificant compared to insolation. The insolation CO2 effect is not.
My Physics brain sez that "It takes about 3.2 quintillion btu’s of heat to raise the atmosphere 1°F." needs some thot. For how long? is the 3.2 *per year* to maintain the temp?
Clearly, what we actually need is more continents. One in the middle of the Pacific for a start. Another one in the middle of the Indian ocean.
A string of islands… well everywhere. Everyone loves islands, and there is so much sea that is just wasted.
So, CO2 trapped Sun heat is heat "by human activity"? This "heat" is not the actual heat released by humans, right? Yet it is extra heat, right? Sun heat that would not otherwise be here.
We should remove seawater into O'Neill Space until the sea level at no ice temps would be what the lowest point with the most ice was. This will expose land history for Science, and few are complaining that we have too little open ocean.
I vote for more Wilderness.
Perhaps he underestimates how crazy theocrats and socialists are?
Why do we need more arable land? Current food production is fine for our population.
Why can't small farmers use greenhouses?
Use timber to build things? Even your average house lasts several decades.
You mean stuff like tobacco, opium, brussel sprouts, marijuana?
A change in the economics of irrigated agriculture could push a big chunk of that into greenhouses even if it's all on small, private, family farms.
The number that sticks out is the claimed 93% water savings (source?). That's a lot of money in many places. That turns many farms from needing water to irrigate into having enough rain each year to keep the greenhouses happy.
Heat added by the sun is a constant. Only heat by human activity is changing atmosphere temp
If you build a heat transfer system for our atmosphere, and use 1975 heat escaping first at 1000°dt from sea level thru exosphere, my back of the envelope math suggest it took 47 years. So 1975 heat is still in the atmosphere.
"how much HEAT did 400 – 280 = 120ppm,
12 one thousandths of 1% of a trace gas actually add to the atmosphere" The thing I was looking at is that CO2 does not add heat, it traps heat added by the Sun. That makes the HEAT added by humans as HEAT trivial in comparison, as to the effect.
Soundz good to me!
But what about all those noble and inspirational farming practices…
– the 1000-acre feedlots, the monsanto mutant seed spreads, the chicken-thing hives (are they chickens or clucking meat-marshmallows?), the bizarre dna modifications of the hyper-hormon-ified cattle, the quick-death extinctions of 1000s of square-miles of mono-culture-GMO cereals from mutating strains – whoopsie monsanto (nature is a lot more resilient than believed), the rich world bio-fuel production in food-poor countries, acres of fertilizer-mutated river stream-beds…
yeah… we believe that farming needs to go a lot further with its risk-evaluation and societal-impact perogatives.. before we go 'plasticking' the landscape.
Fiddling with the climate isn't as responsive as the thermostat in your house.
Are you sure the increases in arable land will be mostly in your area and the losses in arable land will mostly be in a land far away? If you're in Russia or the likes of Greenland, your results may be different from others.
Fertilize the ocean with ferrous iron. The blooms pump more life into the mid-oceans and a lot of the diatoms sink to the bottom, stuck in the anaerobic deep zone for eons. The technique is fairly well worked out. Damn lot less disruptive than making in-the-field farmers redundant.
Agreed. if fast food (essentially nutrient-free) can become so widespread, why not quick-health food? Packets and pills and wafers and pods. Didn't there used to be an 'astronaut food' kick? Methinks 50% of calories in G7 countires will be from a vat, assembly line, or lab in 20 years. Farms? neanderthal.
We already have the technological and engineering capabilities to mitigate the effects of a warmer planet, so if we can truly regulate global average temperatures via CO2, then we really should be talking about increasing the temperature a bit higher.
The main reason why we should increase temperatures is this: a warmer climate will increase rainfall and increase arable land at both higher elevations and higher latitudes.
Once we're at an optimal temperature for plant life, we then try to fix the Earth's temperature around that point.
but is live farming really the end-all in food? It is just nutrients suspended within a water-matrix of organic matter. I always envisioned the Jetsons and their 'dial-a-meal' as contributing significantly to energy intake. Likely, far Less than half of meals are eaten for delight; the rest as sustenance. And how many microwave, mini-convection, or stove-top simplistic 10-min concoctions make up G7 world intake? Smaller amounts of better food with the 'nutrient' packets as healthily making up the rest. I don't even know many families that have more than 4 – 5 sit-down 'family' meals per week. Food will change –> therefore agriculture will change – more likely your weekly nutrition will come from Dow than the local farm. Think about it.
That's all very well and good, if by well and good you mean that we should turn all the small farmers off the land and dump them into the cities to starve in slums while at the same time putting our food production mostly into the hands of large conglomerates like Amazon and Walmart.
As they say, every complex problem has a solution that is simple, cheap and wrong.
A simple calculation tells that a sphere with circumference of 40 000 km (radius = 6 366.19km, area = 509 295 818 km²) radiating at a temperature of 300 K ( = 27°C = 80.6°F) radiates about 234 PW as a black body, or 222 trillion BTU every second. Now, the Earth is not a sphere, it is not a black body, and the average temperature of the Earth is possibly 290 K rather than 300 K, but to a first approximation it's about the right order of magnitude.
all about the cost-/ft2 and the needs of the various crop types – especially if we are using them for non-direct consumption – feeding animals, bio-fuels, sin-crops, etc.
I think we are on the cusp of integrating 'fields' into suburban environments, far more automated and 'stacked/ covered' than before. As with everything, ability to ram down energy costs and availability of water/ labor rules all….
What a maroon. Everybody knows that food comes from grocery stores, not farms.
and its not just for dirty-hippies and tree-huggers – re-wilding is actually quite involved and science-y. Ecosystem planning and upgrade is taking place throughout built-up and traditionally-natural aresa. Its not just for National/ State Parks anymore…
Fertilize the oceans. The worst thing that could happen is a bumper crop of fish.
"Leave Earth to save it, and ourselves."
We don't need to leave the earth en-mass; only move most of the high-energy consuming polluting industries into space where there is an abundance of raw materials and energy several orders of magnitude more than on earth. Its not primarily the number of human boots on the ground so much as the carrying cost to maintain each at a high standard of living. Earth would become more like a sort of global suburbs with lots of room for parks, forest, savannas, etc. allowed to revert to pristine.
We need more concrete engineering proposal like this subject to detailed data driven analysis.
Growing trees per se may allow them to burn or decay and recycle the carbon. The proposal needs more work on the de-cycling end. Is there a way to use a lot of lumber that has value but de-cycles it?
Its quite noble and do-able. Some of the theories of integrating migration paths with existing infrastructure and built-up areas is quite inspiring and utterly compatible with human growth and need for commercio-industrialization.
Besides, recent infrastructure bills and their money is unlikely to be productively used per the history of same:
I don't disagree with 'modernizing' agriculture in greenhouses and encouraging thoughtful landscaping of human zones-especially for the purposes of managing air quality and CO2 levels, but it behooves us to at least 'rewild' portions of the earth and pay some dwindling 'self-sustaining' respect to some rather interesting examples of rainforest, jungle, mangrove, mountain range, steppes, savannah, etc. I know that Europe is essentially a big disney-like 'nature' park. I'm not sure if the Chinese value system includes for historic nature sentimentality, appreciation of natural spaces, or the organic complexity of the non-human as valuable, but I believe that we can have it All – <15B population, >50% wilderness, world GDP of $1Q (quadrillion -> 10^15) at 2100 and have finally figured out if we want less, same, or more warming by century end.
Big government socialism is required to execute this plan. We are not China.
Not absolutely sure, but I think the heat you add escapes and *needs* to be replaced. CO2 does that long term, direct heating does not.
We can pay for this with the profits from Space Solar, Criswell LSP and Earth to Earth power beaming, which stops the production of CO2 and opens O'Neill Space to help move the population to somewhere easier to live. Leave Earth to save it, and ourselves.
It takes about 3.2 quintillion btu’s of heat to raise the atmosphere 1°F.
NASA suggests this happened between 1975 and 2019.
Human activity alone
Has added over 3.2 quintillion btu’s of heat to the atmosphere in the same time frame.
So, while the climate obviously changed, (a cow farting in a barn changes the climate), how much HEAT did 400 – 280 = 120ppm,
12 one thousandths of 1% of a trace gas actually add to the atmosphere.
I’m struggling here to make the maths work.
How much heat?
Comments are closed.