|Man Without Qualities|
Friday, March 14, 2003
The Associated Press reports:
Coniferous forests around the world may be emitting more smog-causing nitrogen oxides than traffic and industry combined, suggests a report in the prestigious journal Nature.
The report, released Wednesday, flies in the face of the accepted view that forests reduce pollution by absorbing it — a theory Canada relied on in demanding credit for forests as pollution "sinks" under the Kyoto climate change accord.
I understand the first sentence. It's nice that yet another quote from Mr. Reagan which has been brandished by his critics as "proof" of his stupidity has turned out to be likely correct.
But the second AP sentence makes almost no sense to me. The main thrust of the Kyoto Treaty is carbon dioxide - not nitrogen oxides. It is true that greenhouse gases include water vapor, methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons and perfluorocarbons. But most of the developed world's production of greenhouse gases is in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2), this means that Kyoto is mostly about reducing CO2 - and those were exactly the terms in which the debate has been conducted.
One would have to spend a lot of time examining the credentials and recent medical history of any scientist whose study "proves" that trees don't remove carbon dioxide from the air - but this isn't such a study. The AP says only that this study deals with nitrogen oxides (I haven't seen the original Nature article). As the AP article irtself points out, the big problem with nitrogen oxides is that: Nitrogen oxides are smog precursors: They combine with other pollutants to form ground-level ozone, a major component of smog. Nitrogen oxides are also down 38 percent since 1975 in the United States, for example - a trends mirrored in all developed countries.
So how can it be that this study flies in the face of the accepted view that forests reduce pollution by absorbing it — a theory Canada relied on in demanding credit for forests as pollution "sinks" under the Kyoto climate change accord?
Link via Best of the Web
UPDATE: The Nature article discussed above seems to be about trees. But a perceptive reader reminds me that a forest is more than a set of trees. Whether forests (including the dead, decomposing ex-trees they contain) actually absorb CO2 on a meaningful net basis is controversial. Many pro-environmentalists extend the argument that forests are the "lungs of the earth" - but others, including Lomborg's Skeptical Environmentalist, disagree and cite research papers that suggest forests have no such effect. Ironically, Canada relied on the "lungs of the earth" argument to obtain its partial exemption under the Kyoto Accord.
FURTHER UPDATE: Steve Verdon has a big "global warming" update.
Comments: Post a Comment