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Break out the chainsaws!

Posted by Richard on January 6, 2006

According to all the people who really care, our planet is doomed unless we stop global warming, and the only way to do that is to stop generating greenhouse gases, as mandated by the Kyoto Protocol. Critics have argued that adhering to Kyoto would cripple our economy and leave us shivering in the dark, but that’s a small price to pay for saving the planet, isn’t it? The Europeans are all on board — why are we Americans being so greedy and selfish and short-sighted? It’s the eeevilll BushCheneyHalliburtonOillll!!

Well, first of all, it turns out the Europeans aren’t on board. In typical liberal fashion, they apparently think it’s enough to have good intentions; you don’t actually have to do anything to meet the Kyoto greenhouse limits. As Dan Seligman notes in Forbes, western Europe has failed spectacularly to abide by the treaty they criticize us for not ratifying (emphasis added):

The Kyoto rules say that western Europe must get their emissions to a level 8% below those prevailing in 1990. But virtually all those countries–the only significant exception is Germany–are going in the wrong direction. The latest available data, covering emissions through 2003, tell us that in the years since the treaty was negotiated, carbon dioxide levels increased by 7% in France, 11% in Italy and 29% in Spain. The increase for western Europe as a whole was 5.4%.

After many years of European chatter about the monstrous evil perpetrated by George W. Bush in rejecting Kyoto, it is of possible interest that the increase in carbon emissions in the U.S. during those years was slightly lower (4.7%).

So what’s a dedicated greenie to do? Even the well-intentioned, nuanced, enlightened Europeans aren’t doing anything to save the planet!

Fortunately, a study by a Stanford University scientist suggests another alternative that could save us from global warming without forcing me to give up my SUV or turn down my furnace until ice forms in the sink. According to Ken Caldeira, temperate and boreal forests (unlike their tropical counterparts) contribute to global warming:

Trees soak up massive amounts of energy from the sun. Much of this, he argues, is gradually released in the form of heat, especially in dark evergreen forests in the north, but also in temperate forests.

Unlike tropical forests, Canadian forests don’t release much cooling moisture.

His computer model indicates that this warming influence is more powerful than the cooling job that forests do when they soak up carbon dioxide.

In one simulation, the team covered much of the northern hemisphere with forests and saw a jump in surface air temperature of nearly three degrees Celsius.

So here’s my plan: We need to find out from Caldeira how many additional acres of trees led to that 3° C. temperature increase in his computer model. Then we can calculate the number of acres of forest per 1/10° temperature change. As I recall, advocates of Kyoto admitted that at best, it would only reduce global warming by a few tenths of a degree.

Let’s assume the model suggests a million acres more or less of forest leads to a 1/10° temperature change. The U.S., Canada, Russia, and other heavily-forested Northern Hemisphere nations would then initiate a crash program to clear-cut a couple or three million acres of forests — preferably dark evergreen forests, such as the Tongass National Forest in Alaska — and plant high-albedo vegetation, such as grasses and grains, in their place.

Besides reducing global warming, this would have several other beneficial effects. Revenue from the government timber sales would help balance the budget. The increased supply of lumber would lead to lower housing prices, more new construction, and more jobs. Sure, some bears and deer and spotted owls would be left homeless — but that’s a small price to pay for saving the planet! It’s their planet, too — shouldn’t they be willing to make some sacrifices for it?

So let’s get those hard-working men and women in the forest products industries working even harder! We’ve got trees to fell and a planet to save! Break out the flannel shirts and chainsaws!

"Oh, I’m a lumberjack and I’m OK, I sleep all night and I work all day."

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2 Responses to “Break out the chainsaws!”

  1. VRB said

    If we get too heavy with the chainsaw, will we eventually reduce the oxygen on the planet? Save the planet for the cockroaches. Cutting down trees will not sovle the problem of reducing the other greenhouse gases which are more heat absorbant, such as Methane, Nitric Oxide, and Hydrofluorocarbons. It’s not the US or the Europeans that are really driving the greenhouse gases up, but China and India with their industrial growth. Auto emissions produce Carbon Monoxide not Carbon Dioxide and Nitric Dioxide not Nitric Oxide, so your SUV is not a factor.

  2. Anonymous said

    I don’t quite know whether to be relieved or disappointed that my SUV is not to blame. πŸ˜‰

    Especially since I recently traded up to a newer one. Yes, I’ve traded my 1997 Nissan Pathfinder with 168,000 miles on it for a 2002 Pathfinder with 45,000 miles.

    I like the Pathfinder a lot. I’d have preferred to get a 2003 or 2004, but 2002 was the last year they offered a manual transmission. I love manuals and hate automatics. Except for rental cars, I haven’t driven an automatic in 30+ years. So I hired a buyer’s broker, and he found me a super-clean 2002 Pathfinder with a manual transmission. It’s silver. It doesn’t have the sunroof or heated leather seats (which I’ll really miss), but it’s otherwise perfect. I’m happy. Even if it isn’t a factor in global warming. πŸ˜‰

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