April 24, 2001
2:28 PM   Subscribe

Obviously, the answer to global warming is to cut down all the trees. Or maybe we should just paint them all white?
posted by CRS (18 comments total)
say the heat gets reflected off crops, but the greenhouse gases trap it...
the mind boggles.
posted by elle at 2:35 PM on April 24, 2001

Interesting article. Thanks!
posted by ParisParamus at 2:42 PM on April 24, 2001

i wasn't aware that there were any forests left... but having white trees everywhere would be kind of rad. then we could release gases into the atmosphere that made it look orange, but then i guess we'd have to dye the ocean orange too... and then it would be too weird... anyhow. how much difference does 3/4 of a degree really make?
posted by natasharama at 2:58 PM on April 24, 2001

Another great reason for flocking.
posted by daver at 3:21 PM on April 24, 2001

This immediately made me think of a TV programme about the Snowball Earth theory that I watched a while back. The Earth reflecting too much light = big, bad iceball of a planet. What a delicate climate we seem to have. Still, if we just keep tinkering and generally fucking around we're bound to get it right.
posted by MUD at 3:26 PM on April 24, 2001

Natasharama, at least in the eastern half of North America, there are more trees than there have been since the 1600's....
posted by ParisParamus at 3:28 PM on April 24, 2001

The real solution, naturally, is clean energy -- speaking of which:

Newsflash: The email correspondence and book proposal that sparked the Ginger/IT hype has now been leaked to general public as well. Enjoy.


A bit off-topic I know; I'd have posted this to the main page, but don't yet have posting rights there. Ciao!
posted by Flywheel at 3:35 PM on April 24, 2001

One proposed fix for global warming is this guy's idea: dump iron into relatively barren areas of the ocean to trigger massive phytoplankton blooms. The phytoplankton absorbs huge amounts of CO2. The CO2 given off after it dies & decomposes is theoretically trapped as it sinks below the thermocline. Very controversial, of course. And his motive is monetary rather than ecological, as he foresees cashing in by selling "credits" to polluters.
posted by gimli at 3:48 PM on April 24, 2001

Thank GOD. Now I can go and not feel guilty about polluting the air.
posted by Doug at 4:04 PM on April 24, 2001

So if we're now creating agricultural land faster than ever, why are temperatures going up? If the cooling effect of moving from forests to crops is insufficient, what else do we need to do?

This is good research, because the more we understand about climate change, the better we can be at managing it. But first we have to accept that we want to actually manage it.
posted by dhartung at 4:22 PM on April 24, 2001

When the crop residue rots, almost all the carbon it contains is released into the air as CO2. The total amount of residue generated annually by the three main crops produced in the US - corn, soybeans, and wheat - comes to 600 million tons. By weight, 40 percent of these residues consist of carbon, giving you 240 million tons of carbon, close to the 1 ton of carbon per US citizen that would satisfy the Kyoto agreement.

From this article. It goes on to advocate the ocean dumping of crop residue, once again to use the thermocline to sequester the CO2. Can't say I'm in favor of this or the iron dumping idea until someone proves that the result won't be methane, which is much worse than CO2. There is so much we don't know about the deep ocean. We could really screw things up.
posted by gimli at 4:56 PM on April 24, 2001

Really, bad idea. There is already a hell of a lot of methane in the oceans already, and nobody knows how stable it is. It's already been blamed for previous episodes of rapid climate change (and tsunamis to boot).
posted by rodii at 5:27 PM on April 24, 2001

Talk about potential for unintended consequences! The idea of "eco-hacking" sounds great until you take into account how little we know about all of the fragile, delicately balanced intricacies involved.
posted by gimli at 6:28 AM on April 25, 2001

I sent this email to the address in the press release. I'll report back on any reply I get.
I read your press release on this subject with interest. However it does not say anything about greenhouse gas changes that result directly from the replacement of forests with agricultural land. Forests are relatively efficient at converting carbon dioxide to oxygen; agriculture is less so. Therefore a replacement of forests with agricultural land would increase carbon dioxide over and above any industrial release of this greenhouse gas into the atmosphere. This would tend to counteract the cooling effect you report. Did your simulation take this into account? If it did, your press release should say so.

Also, the word "prove" in your title is overstated. Scientists do not "prove" anything -- the scientific method can only disprove, and eventually arrive at a consensus that what we are unable to disprove must be true. A single simulation, embodying all the limitations and biases of a single group of researchers, cannot prove anything.
posted by anewc2 at 6:53 AM on April 26, 2001

Natasharama, at least in the eastern half of North America, there are more trees than there have been since the 1600's....

Hey! We've got a Dittohead in our midst! Welcome!
posted by owen at 1:45 PM on May 1, 2001

Owen, not at all. Articles in the New Yorker, Harpers and other publications have all said as much; basically, all the farms have gone back to being forests; that's why there are too many deer around, and foxes in the NYC 'burbs, with Moose on the way. Sorry, can't find any links. Also an apology would be nice.

Save your ire for the real enemy.
posted by ParisParamus at 2:02 PM on May 1, 2001

It's true, but temperate-zone forests contribute a relatively small amount of CO2 processing compared to tropical forests anyway. Even if the whole US was uniformly covered with forest, it would have a much smaller impact on greenhouse gases than the equivalent area of the South American rainforests.
posted by rodii at 3:00 PM on May 1, 2001

While I would never want a Rush-hater to be unfairly identified as a Dittohead, what I read was dangerously similar to lies that have come out of his mouth, hence my alarm. Here's an example of the facts I've read:

LIMBAUGH: "Do you know we have more acreage of forest land in the United States today than we did at the time the constitution was written." (Radio show, 2/18/94)

REALITY: In what are now the 50 U.S. states, there were 850 million acres of forest land in the late 1700s vs. only 730 million today (The Bum's Rush, p. 136). Limbaugh's claim also ignores the fact that much of today's forests are single-species tree farms, as opposed to natural old-growth forests which support diverse ecosystems.

(The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh Debates Reality)
posted by owen at 8:22 AM on May 7, 2001

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