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We Need to Talk About Peat (nautil.us)
35 points by dnetesn 6 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 9 comments





Now climate change is going to affect Islay scotch? There's a line, and then there's a line. So not only is the earth going to gradually become hostile to humans, it's going to happen with dwindling stocks of good scotch...

That said, it's fascinating how much of a carbon sink peat has been. It's kind of staggering, actually. And also frightening it could just dry up and become a constant emitter like that.


> So not only is the earth going to gradually become hostile to humans, it's going to happen with dwindling stocks of good scotch

But you repeat yourself


Well played.

Ireland is still operating three power plants which burn peat for electrical generation.

Shut those down, and there should be plenty of peat to make whisky for the foreseeable future.


> Nichols believes that for the most part peatlands are drying up and decaying more and more quickly as planet temperatures rise

> Add to that the furious pace at which humans are burning up wetlands

We need to talk about population. Peat, yes, but talk enough about peat or any environmental issue and you'll hit population.


Population growth is already slowing due to decrease in fertility, increase in education, etc. Is the absolute value of the population the issue or is resources used/carbon output, per capita, a more significant problem?

Between 2019 and 2050, populations are projected to decrease by one per cent or more in 55 countries or areas, of which 26 may see a reduction of at least ten per cent. In China, for example, the population is projected to decrease by 31.4 million, or around 2.2 per cent, between 2019 and 2050.[1]

[1] - https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world...


> Is the absolute value of the population the issue or is resources used/carbon output, per capita, a more significant problem?

Both are problems. We are over the carrying capacity so we are bringing on collapse, even if rate of growth is decreasing, which still means the total number is increasing.

The numbers I've seen suggest the population that could sustain living around the world average consumption is roughly the population before the Haber-Bosch process enabled us to feed ourselves fossil fuels -- about 2 billion.

Could 7.6 or 10 billion live on 20% of that per capita? Why bother asking when families with 1 child can be filled with as much love as families with more? All the knee-jerk responses to lowering birth rate pale in comparison to dealing with the problems we will face from nature.

That's why we need to talk about population, even more than peat.


Agreed, based off the following data [1]: India: 7% global emissions, 1.34B people China: 30% global emissions, 1.39B people USA: 15% global emissions, 327.2M people EU-28: 9% of global emissions, 513.5M people

India and the EU handily demonstrate that you can have large populations with far less of a per-capita impact than other Western countries like the US, or other rapidly-developing countries like China.

What is also concerning is the rise of fascist rhetoric based on the idea that our population is too large - I've seen statements of the population being too large rapidly followed by pointing fingers at India/China and suggestions of reducing/controlling the population there.


In the US alone there are several regions where the peat depth runs from 6 to 60 or more feet (2-20 meters). A few were extensively mapped by states a century ago. So long as it stays wet, its quite stable, and plants (e.g. mosses) consume much of the gases released.

From an article about the huge deposit recently noticed in the Congo: "Pound for pound, peat is an incredibly carbon-rich soil. Over thousands of years, peatlands can build up into deposits tens of feet thick. Peatlands cover just 3 percent of the earth, but stockpile twice as much carbon as all of the world’s trees and one-fifth of all the carbon stored in soils. If just a third of this peatland burned, the amount of CO2 in the air would double." [0] [1 Congo]

More info about peat fires in NA. [2]

[0] https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2019/09/inside-se...

[1] https://www.nature.com/articles/nature21048

[2] https://www.wired.com/story/the-bizarre-peaty-science-of-arc...

* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Peatlands_Initiative




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