Thursday, January 12, 2006

Scientific consensus?

Interesting news:
Scientists in Germany have discovered that ordinary plants produce significant amounts of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas which helps trap the sun's energy in the atmosphere. The findings, reported in the journal Nature, have been described as "startling", and may force a rethink of the role played by forests in holding back the pace of global warming.
And the BBC News Website has learned that the research, based on observations in the laboratory, appears to be corroborated by unpublished observations of methane levels in the Brazilian Amazon. Until now, it had been thought that natural sources of methane were mainly limited to environments where bacteria acted on vegetation in conditions of low oxygen levels, such as in swamps and rice paddies.
So much for the oft-quoted "scientific consensus"! Anyway, what are the enviro-fundamentalists going to do now? Advocate cutting down the forests? Here is the press release from the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, which came up with the findings (via Junk Science, which lamentably does not have permalinks). At any rate, Steven J. Milloy there says:
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?
I wouldn't go as far as to say that this is a ploy to get us to cut energy consumption but it certainly lends credence to what I have long believed (quote from BBC News, of all places):
The study highlights, however, the extreme complexity of the relationship between the biological processes of the Earth and the chemistry of our atmosphere - and how much there is yet to discover.
Which to my ears resonates thus: before destroying the world's economy, let's find out what we are talking about and invest the money saved in radically improving technology (and while we're at it, let's focus on real pollutants that affect people's health, instead of carbon dioxide, an essential and life-giving substance). And this is exactly what the US, Australia and the other members of the much-maligned Asia-Pacific Partnership for Clean Development and Climate seem to be trying to do. As John Howard put it a while back:
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said it was unrealistic to expect nations to sacrifice economic growth in order to halt global climate change. Howard told a conference of Asia-Pacific nations and corporations that growth was the only way many nations could reduce poverty levels among their populations.
'The idea that we can address climate change matters successfully at the expense of economic growth is not only unrealistic but it also unacceptable to the population of Australia which I represent,' Howard said. '(It's also) I'm sure, unacceptable to the populations of all the other countries that are represented around this table.'
Thankfully that's where the whole world seems to be headed (Europe last, as usual), since few countries are actually succeeding in applying the Kyoto Protocol (via EU Rota), and no wonder they aren't!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

On Milloy, you might want to read the latest New Republic :-).