Episode 278. COP26, what’s changed?

This is The ChangeUnderground for the 15th of November 2021.

I’m your host, Jon Moore

Decarbonise the Air, Recarbonise the Soil!

So they’ve reached a consensus in Glasgow. 

From, the UN press release:


  • Adaptation, mitigation and finance are all strengthened in a complex and delicate balance supported by all Parties.
  • After six years of strenuous negotiations, pending items that prevented the full implementation of the Paris Agreement on carbon markets and transparency have finally been approved.

End Quote

Apparently though coal isn’t going to be phased out but phased down.

Then there’s this from Politico.eu


GLASGOW — Climate talks finished Saturday with a familiar outcome — the collective march toward action to tackle global warming is gaining momentum, but still falls short of what’s needed to avert a crisis.

End Quote

And those last nine words: “falls short of what’s needed to avert a crisis”    

This talk fest is getting to be well beyond a joke. We know what has to be done, we know how to do it, we just won’t. The entire tobacco industry inspired fossil fuel defense of coal, oil and gas and their less than subtle attack on the science has worked. 

Should we just pull the blanket over our heads and stay in bed?

No! Now is the time to demand, in the liberal democracies of the world, that politicians put into action what is required.

The media hasn’t, as a general thing, helped. I listened to the BBC’s “Newscast” reports on the COP and must say I was bitterly disappointed. What was once a source of thoughtful, sober reporting, descended into the horrors of a vegan croissant being mislabeled for its carbon footprint. The whole of the podcast was not too far above that level of enquiry.

Meanwhile the realities of climate change are biting harder than ever. Here in Australia, with memories of the Black Summer of 2019/2020 still fresh, areas of central, that is desert, and eastern AUstralia have received more than the average November rainfall in the first week. 

The chemical farming paradigm is also starting to face a reality they have ignored or hoped wouldn’t happen. From the ABC,

Longish Quote

With global prices soaring, it seemed odd timing this week for Incitec Pivot to announce plans to close one of Australia’s largest fertiliser plants.

The rising cost of another commodity — natural gas — appears to have sealed the fate for Incitec’s Gibson Island facility in Brisbane.

“Despite extensive efforts, [we have] been unable to secure an economically viable long-term gas supply,” the company said in a statement to the ASX.

“The decision to close the Gibson Island manufacturing facility after more than 50 years of operation is expected to impact up to 170 employees.”

The company said it would cease manufacturing with natural gas at the end of 2022 but was looking into the potential of green ammonia.

End Quote

Before we unpack that little story, from the Royal Society:

Ammonia is a pungent gas that is widely used to make agricultural fertilisers. Green ammonia production is where the process of making ammonia is 100% renewable and carbon-free.

However, the process of making ammonia is currently not a “green” process. It is most commonly made from methane, water and air, using steam methane reforming (SMR) (to produce the hydrogen) and the Haber process. Approximately 90% of the carbon dioxide produced is from the SMR process. This process consumes a lot of energy and produces around 1.8% of global carbon dioxide emissions.

End Quote

1.8% of global emissions before the stuff has even hit the paddock!

So now you know what “green ammonia” is, or isn’t yet.

The point is, fertiliser production is coming under pressures. Cost pressures, also known as price signals, are pushing players out of the market. What happens when all the carbon intensive inputs in agriculture become unprofitable to produce? If only there were other ways to maintain soil fertility. 

Well this has happened before and recently and on a smallish scale but not for the people involved, obviously.

Cuba! Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s freeish supply of ag chemicals and diesel from the USSR was turned off, almost overnight. In an article from 2008 the Guardian’s Ed Ewing reported:


But when the USSR collapsed in 1990/91, Cuba’s ability to feed itself collapsed with it. “Within a year the country had lost 80% of its trade,” explains the Cuba Organic Support Group (COSG). Over 1.3m tonnes of chemical fertilisers a year were lost. Fuel for transporting produce from the fields to the towns dried up. 

“Integrated pest management, crop rotation, composting and soil conservation were implemented,” says the COSG. The country had to become expert in techniques like worm composting and biopesticides. “Worms and worm farm technology is now a Cuban export,” says Dr Stephen Wilkinson, assistant director of the International Institute for the Study of Cuba.

End of Quote

Since 2008, developed regenerative systems would allow much of agriculture to survive, nay, thrive if there was no choice. Things got pretty bad in Cuba. Average daily caloric intake dropped from around 2500 to between 1500 and 1000. No one wants to see that happen. We have plenty of warning with this one factory closing and if we accept it as a sign to change systems, these can be in place long before we run out of artificial nitrogen. The Cubans were caught as flat footed as the rest of the planet when it came to the last days of the Soviets. We have some warning. The benefit of changing over now, apart from the obvious health ones, is, of course, the climate. Getting them out of CAFOs and onto pastures benefits them both. Soil rebuilding, using atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis and animal digestive tracts would also start the process of cleaning waterways and removing the fertiliser load. There are so many upsides to the end of the chemical fertiliser industry but it will terrify many. It will mean change and change is difficult, at times.

If COP26 showed us anything, it showed us that change needs to happen more quickly than the pledges to change add up to. We can almost assume the actual changes will be less than the pledges unless we can grab this time by the scruff of the neck then gently and with compassion bring the world with us. Accepting change is difficult for most of us, especially when we have no control over it. By  seizing the moment to make the change we take control back. There will still be weather events like the 16cm (6+”) hail that hit parts of Qld last week, there’ll still be flooding and hurricanes and wildfires but by seizing the moment and starting the changes now, those things will ameliorate over time. From being deeply depressed by the whole climate thing some six months ago, I have come to the conclusion we can, as a species, get this sorted and get it sorted quickly. 

Keep growing as much of your own food as possible. This removes transport and production emissions from some of our food and if done regeneratively actually builds soil by decarbonising the air and recarbonising the soil

If you’re ready to make the leap into growing your own food in an integrated animal supporting/supported way go to the website: https://worldorganicnews.com/freeebook/ and you can obtain a free copy of The ChangeUnderground No-Dig Gardening System.

And don’t forget the Facebook Group: ChangeUndergound Podcast Group where I see we have rocketed up to 12 members. Slowly, slowly is how exponential growth begins.

Thank you all for listening and I’ll be back next week.




The ChangeUnderground Academy No-Dig Gardening Course:


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email: jon@worldorganicnews.com

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Bubugo Conservation Trust


Fertiliser prices boom as Incitec Pivot plans closure of Gibson Island plant


Nations reach climate deal at COP26 after compromise on coal


COP26 Reaches Consensus on Key Actions to Address Climate Change (POress Release)


COP26 climate deal ‘too late’ for vulnerable countries but too much for others


A watered-down COP26 deal as Delhi chokes


Cuba’s organic revolution


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