Friday, January 13, 2006

A joke at the heart of Climate Change

It's hilarious, really, isn't it. Why am I laughing? If you haven't heard already, here's the joke: plants are implicated in the 'global warming problem.' Here's how: Methane is roughly twenty times more powerful than carbon dioxide in trapping the sun's heat -- it is the third most important greenhouse gas behind water vapour and carbon dioxide -- and a new scientific study has just discovered that "living plants may emit almost a third of the methane entering the Earth's atmosphere. The result has come as a shock to climate scientists." This is a genuinely remarkable result," said Richard Betts of the climate change monitoring organisation the Hadley Centre." [Source, The Guardian]

I swear I am not making this up. Living plants, especially 'deep-rooted' plants such as trees, contribute about one third of the atmospehere's methane, with the Amazon Basin itself responsible for a hefty proportion. Cow farts and rice paddies are largely responsible for the other two thirds. Notes JunkScience.Com (who note also that the potential temperature saving by the year 2050 so far achieved by Kyoto is 0.001412424 °C):
So, in the space of a couple of weeks we've had temperate forests harvesting too much sunlight and warming the globe, high latitude forest trees getting 'skinnier' and absorbing less carbon than guesstimated and now, tropical forests as a source of the much more potent greenhouse gas, methane. Anyone get the feeling wannabe energy rationers are getting really desperate to deny there could be any possible avenue to mitigate warming other than ceding control of energy?

Anyone noticed that, despite the gales of hysteria, the alleged warming of ~0.7 °C over the 20th Century is about the same as the error range on estimated global mean temperature? Anyone noticed that, while atmospheric carbon levels have measurably increased and global temperature has probably increased, crop yields have more than kept pace with human population growth from ~1.7 billion to over 6 billion while hunger has declined? Anyone noticed that during this time developed nations have returned marginal farmlands to forest and wildlife habitat? Anyone figure the global picture may not be quite as bleak as wannabe energy rationers would like to paint it?
Maybe now we might see an end to the environmentalists' call for an Anti-Industrial Revolution. I look forward instead to environmentalists' demands for the following:


Linked Articles: The forgotten methane source - Max Planck Institute
Global warming: Blame the forests - Guardian
The assault on forests as carbon sinks continues - JunkScience.Com

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