Friday, December 15, 2006

The National Arbor Day Foundation isn't going to like this!

I won't completely rewrite the article (click the title above) from the BBC News but basically we could be doing harm rather than good.

"Planting more trees in high latitudes could be counter productive from a climate perspective." - Dr. Govindasamy Bala of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

The article mentions three key factors that personally I don't believe they clearly explained.
  1. "forests can cool the planet by absorbing the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide during photosynthesis" - Since trees and other plants use CO2 to live, converting it to Oxygen, they would reduce greenhouse gases thus keeping the planet cool.
  2. "they can also cool the planet by evaporating water to the atmosphere and increasing cloudiness; a deck of white clouds reflects incoming solar radiation straight back out into space" - Since clouds are reflective the energy of the sun is less of an impact on the temperature of the planet. To me this is incidental. It's like saying lets create a giant cloud over the whole planet to help keep it cool. That's basically what a nuclear winter is all about, except in this case it's not nuclear. In case you aren't aware, clouds reflect because they are white, just like snow reflects the sun, clouds do also.
  3. "trees can also have a warming effect because they are dark and absorb a lot of sunlight, holding heat near ground level" - This is the opposite of #2. Since trees are a darker color they'll absorb heat (just like an asphalt road). Anyone who's been in a rain forest can attest to how hot it can be, and humid.
2 and 3 seem to contradict each other but in the larger picture they don't. Dr. Bala is suggesting that if we plant too many trees in areas where it's supposed to be cold we could potentially warm it up too much there. So basically you have a situation where #1 is irrelevant to the discussion and it's a balance of #2 and #3.

In the end I'm sure there will be plenty of other Doctors and Scientists out there who will argue this point. It is only one study and what better way to drum up publicity and thus possibly funding, by talking about everyones favorite "The Sky Is Falling" topic, GLOBAL WARMING! (Thunder Crash and Lightening Flash!)

Personally I don't think this is even an issue. The Arbor Day Foundation does a lot but there is no way we are planting so many trees in the USA that it's going to contribute to global warming in any meaningful way. That would be like me saying, "If I stop driving my car tomorrow it'll save the world!". Don't believe it? Neither do I.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for reducing pollution and keeping the environment clean, but to make the bold assumption that we petty little humans can dictate how the global climate is going to be is preposterous. We very well may have caused some global warming, but we can't fix it now. The Earth will fix it the way she feels is best, and in all likelihood we won't like it.

We've treated the Earth like a criminal treats the cops and those he/she has wronged. You think a criminal after over 100 years of bad behavior can just decide one day that he's turning over a new leaf and all those whom he's wronged will just forgive him? Get real. We've made this bed and we can try to make it better but at the end of the day we have to lay in it, for better or worse. Take responsibility.

Ok I'm getting off my high horse because I'm guilty too. Not as much as those who willingly pollute just because they don't care or think, "Well I'm only one person. What harm can I do?" My house isn't as efficiently as it could be. I don't drive a hybrid car. Though I don't drive a gas guzzling SUV either. Ok there I go again. Sorry.

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