« Arts Subsidies. | Main | Meacher on the NHS. »

January 12, 2006

Cut Down the Rainforests!

My, my. The things we learn:

They have long been thought of as the antidote to harmful greenhouse gases, sufferers of, rather than contributors to, the effects of global warming. But in a startling discovery, scientists have realised that plants are part of the problem.

According to a study published today, living plants may emit almost a third of the methane entering the Earth's atmosphere.
[...]
"The rate of methane increase in the atmosphere has slowed down in the last 10 years and there was no really convincing explanation of why that's been going on," said Dr Mahli. "This paper argues that tropical deforestation may be a factor there."

In addition, the new research could help to explain the source of plumes of methane observed by satellites over tropical forests. "The sheer biomass of the forest may be a factor there," said Dr Mahli.

Quick! Quick! Cut down the rainforests to save the planet! Get rid of the Amazon and plant soya!

In other news:

The United States yesterday announced it would rely on the private sector to tackle global warming by devising more fuel-efficient technologies.

At the inaugural meeting of an international alliance to rival the Kyoto process, the Asia Pacific Partnership on Clean Development and Climate demonstrated the support of the US, Australia, Japan, China, South Korea and India and dozens of energy corporations.

Environmentalists, however, dismissed the conference as a political stunt and warned that no technological quick fix could resolve the problem of climate change.

Got that? No technological quick fix?

Erwin Jackson of the Australian Conservation Foundation warned: "Emissions from Australia and the United States are spiralling out of control. We need rapid deployment of clean energy such as wind and solar today.

Rapid deployment of wind and solar is not a technological quick fix?

Let’s go through this. Yes, climate change is happening, yes, at least part of it is caused by humans. The question is what do we do about it. Do we continue to grow the economy, meaning that our grandchildren will be that much richer and thus able to adapt more easily? Or do we look for a technological fix now?

And yes, the immediate abolition of the use of fossil fuels would indeed be a technological fix, just as clean coal, nuclear, wind, solar, fuel cells, the hydrogen economy, living like medieval peasants, wiping out 5/6 ths of humanity....all of these are technological fixes.  The question, if we agree that we must do something now, is which of these fixes we use.

My own view, rather coloured by the fact that I, as part of the day job, see some of the upcoming technologies (some of which rely upon the sorts of metals I sell), is that the non CO2 emitting technologies are improving so fast that give it another decade or 15 years and they’ll be price competetive with fossil. At which point new capacity will naturally be of the non emitting kind and thus the problem will simply, over time, go away, as generating capacity comes to the end of its life and is replaced.

It isn’t that we need to do nothing. Rather, it’s that we need to develop non emitting sources and storage methods for energy. And we’ve already primed the scientific and engineering brains of the planet to create those for us and those desired technologies are actually on the way.

In short, yes, we did need to do something and we already have.

January 12, 2006 in Climate Change | Permalink

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00d8341c2d3e53ef00d834261c7453ef

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Cut Down the Rainforests!:

» A lot of hot air from Sortapundit
Over Christmas I got into a few arguments about global warming with some friends who live in London and migrate up to these icy northern latitudes only for special occasions (and, in one case, her dad's chili). See, I told you I was a party animal. The... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 12, 2006 11:02:11 PM

» Environmentalism: Gaia, Destroyer from EU Rota
Better late than never. BizzyBlog and Tim Worstall point to this article in the Guardian: [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 13, 2006 3:44:26 AM

» Killer Trees, Revisited from BizzyBlog.com
Remember Ronald Reagan and the killer trees? Im going to resurrect that story shortly, but to get something up immediately, I have links to and excerps from two stories. First, UK Guardian Global warming: blame the forests ·... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 13, 2006 4:14:45 AM

» A lot of hot air from Sortapundit
Over Christmas I got into a few arguments about global warming with some friends who live in London and migrate up to these icy northern latitudes only for special occasions (and, in one case, her dad's chili). See, I told you I was a party animal. The... [Read More]

Tracked on Jan 13, 2006 10:14:33 PM

Comments

So soya doesn't emit methane? Or are you just trying to drive down the tofu futures market?

RM

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Jan 12, 2006 10:34:35 AM

Well it makes for a whole new area for fart jokes.

Or "Honest dear it wasn't me who farted it was that bloody great Redwood you are standing next to!"

Posted by: Andrew Ian Dodge | Jan 12, 2006 12:18:17 PM

"Environmentalists, however, dismissed the conference as a political stunt" - quite unlike nailing oneself to the side of an oil rig then?

The woolly hat brigade 'think': that nearly all technologists and scientists are part of the wicked US led global conspiracy to destroy mankind; that one wind-turbine equals one power station; that a VCR (especially on standby)uses more electricity than a trolley-bus and that sorting one's rubbish into different coloured boxes will help 'save the planet'. Michael Meacher is one of them, 'nuff said?

Posted by: Brian Hughes | Jan 12, 2006 12:43:02 PM

To think they laughed at Ronald Reagan when he said that trees were a big source of air pollution...

Posted by: xj | Jan 12, 2006 12:55:23 PM

To be fair, this may be the worst-reported science story since MMR. The researchers have been repeatedly quoted as saying that the methane output is trivial compared with the CO2 locked up by the tree's growth, but everyone's immediately sprung for the "Hey! Cut 'em down Reagan was right!" cheap laughs. Anyway, it's not as if the climate models will be very much affected - the trees haven't just started to produce methane, so presumably the observed values include the effect of it.

Brian Hughes: too stupid to notice an infantile strawman argument or too dishonest to care? We report, you decide..

Posted by: Alex | Jan 12, 2006 4:38:17 PM

And it looked like the researchers had only detected methane coming from one species of tree (though this could just be more bad reporting).

The trees in the experiment were (coniferous) evergreen, which might not (*might* not) behave the same way, chemically, as deciduous trees for whatever reason.

For example, coniferous trees secrete resin - a hydrocarbon. Methane is also a hydrocarbon; the simplest hydrocarbon, in fact.

If broadleaf trees don't emit methane, planting them could still be used to suck up Carbon Dioxide without the addition of even the small amounts of methane found in the study.

Bad science.

Posted by: Chris White | Jan 12, 2006 6:19:19 PM

But wouldn't investing heavily in nuclear now slow down the development of other technologies?

Posted by: James Graham | Jan 12, 2006 8:30:02 PM

Bad news for Alex and the tree huggers. Trees lock up CO2 but soon (in meteorological terms) most of it gets unlocked as the wood rots or gets burnt. Apart from the rare few that make it into coal, only the ones turned into bookcases, hat-stands or the like still lock the stuff up and even they end up eventually in the municipal dump to rot or be burnt.

Posted by: Brian Hughes | Jan 12, 2006 11:09:31 PM

Some years ago I was involved in similar research. This information is not new, it just has better publicity. While factually true it is misleading as the release of methane is quite overshadowed by carbon fixing. The conclusions of our research back in the 80's was that trees were a good weapon in the battle to reverse global warming but not the best. Primarily they just grow too damn slowly and are slow synthesisers. The recommendation we made was to plant the savannas of South America with Hemp which fixes carbon at an excellent rate and if hippies getting high is against your politics there are non-THC producing varieties.

Posted by: Wolfie | Jan 13, 2006 9:30:55 AM

i indeed do believe that this is very true. trees are a main contributer to what is going on in the world. think about it. if we didnt have trees, what would there be to have a forest fire? if we didnt have trees, the fires wouldnt spread over to the harmless neighbourhoods and danger many people. i think this article is very true

Posted by: marchie jane | Oct 24, 2007 12:58:02 AM

Please do not cut down the rainforest. It contains trees and many other plants that provide us with air. We must have the oxygen to live, it's just a basic need. Over 75% of earth's oxygen comes from the rainforests. You do want to have oxygen so you can breathe don't you? Another reason you shouldn't cut down the rainforests is that some of the medicine we use comes from plants in the rainforest. Many of those medicines have not been found. They could contain a cure for cancer and other diseases. You would hate to have one of your loved ones pass away because you cut down the rainforest and the medicine could not be found. Also there are many amazing animals that are living there in the rainforest. If you cut down their habitat of the rainforest they will have no where to live and will suffer. If your favorite animal lived in the rainforest and you cut down the only place they lived their entire species could become extinct in only a matter of years. You wouldn't want your favorite animal to become extinct because of you, would you? The rainforest is a beautiful place and needs to be saved because of all these reasons and many more. Please take not cutting down the rainforest into consideration and please email me with your descision. I may only be one person but with everyones help we can save the amazing rainforests. Thank you for reading my letter and taking this into consideration.
Sincerely,
Brooke a person trying to save the rain forest.

Posted by: Brooke | Mar 28, 2008 8:18:32 PM

Please do not cut down the rainforest. It contains trees and many other plants that provide us with air. We must have the oxygen to live, it's just a basic need. Over 75% of earth's oxygen comes from the rainforests. You do want to have oxygen so you can breathe don't you? Another reason you shouldn't cut down the rainforests is that some of the medicine we use comes from plants in the rainforest. Many of those medicines have not been found. They could contain a cure for cancer and other diseases. You would hate to have one of your loved ones pass away because you cut down the rainforest and the medicine could not be found. Also there are many amazing animals that are living there in the rainforest. If you cut down their habitat of the rainforest they will have no where to live and will suffer. If your favorite animal lived in the rainforest and you cut down the only place they lived their entire species could become extinct in only a matter of years. You wouldn't want your favorite animal to become extinct because of you, would you? The rainforest is a beautiful place and needs to be saved because of all these reasons and many more. Please take not cutting down the rainforest into consideration and please email me with your descision. I may only be one person but with everyones help we can save the amazing rainforests. Thank you for reading my letter and taking this into consideration.
Sincerely,
Brooke a person trying to save the rain forest.

Posted by: Brooke | Mar 28, 2008 8:18:39 PM

When I was born, the World's population was about two and a half billion people. Now it's over six billion and still increasing. Our leaders need to realize that our planet simply doesn't have enough arable land and drinkable water to substain such a huge population. I really don't see anything being done, the issue is too politically sensitive, not to mention religious concerns. I think it's a toss up between extinction by starvation, disease, dehydration, global war, or an atmosphere depleted of oxygen,or global pollution of every source of water and parcel of arable land. We're supposed to be an intelligent species? You better pray there's a God, that's our only shot of being around after 2050, or sooner.

Posted by: Claude | Apr 5, 2009 5:03:07 PM