Tuesday, June 07, 2011

EU: forest density doubled since 1945

Daily Mail posted an article about the natural reforestation of the world:
Forget deforestation: The world's woodland is getting denser and change could help combat climate change
According to a study by Aapo Rautiainen, Pekka Kauppi, and others from University of Helsinski and the New York Rockefeller University, the forest density has started to grow in Western Europe after the war and it doubled between 1945 and now. A little later, this process has also spread to North America and, even more recently, to East Asia and perhaps South America.

There are quite many lessons to learn here. First, humans have become capable to significantly engineer the character of their environment because much of the increase of the European forest density was man-made.

Second, there is a clear spontaneous component of the growth, too. Nature just likes the improved environment - which includes higher levels of CO2 - and it benefits from it.

Third, things such as the forest growth are much more important for the character of our environment than a few degrees of temperature change in one direction or the other. Even if you care about the temperature and you want a lower one (which is unlikely), a forest typically reduces the average temperatures inside by 2 degrees Celsius or so.

If we managed to increase CO2 from 391 ppm today to something like 1500 ppm (which is unfortunately unlikely), it may be estimated that the biomass growth per unit area would approximately double for all plants - relatively to today. This could feed a much higher number of people and do many other good things. But one must be careful: the CO2 only stays in the atmosphere for a few centuries so the natural contributions to the quality of agriculture could start to deteriorate and billions (or tens of billions?) of people could be suddenly starving if people didn't manage to compensate the loss of CO2.

At any rate, it's obvious that in the long run, and maybe even in the medium run, people should think about the ways how to make and keep the CO2 in the atmosphere elevated - as high as possible. This is a real long-term survival goal that researchers should investigate. The virtues of a higher CO2 are completely indisputable.

The previous paragraph may sound nearly funny given the constant brainwashing by the media about the need to reduce CO2 emissions. But it's not quite funny. Imagine, just for the sake of it, that we stop emitting all CO2 today. The CO2 concentration will then be decreasing by roughly 2 ppm every year. From 390 ppm today, we would get to 300 ppm in 50+ years or so (the rate of decrease will drop when we're closer to 280 ppm). However, such a drop of CO2 by 30% or so will reduce the amount of plant food we may grow by 15% or so (a square root relationship) which could mean that if no big increases in the efficiency of agriculture (or the area of arable land) are made, 15% of the population - one billion people - may starve to death, to reduce the population by 15% as well and to restore the balance. I assure you that the relatively abrupt reduction of food supply by 15% would be orders of magnitude more serious a problem than a few degrees of warming or cooling or whatever is fashionable among the people who are unable to think.

By the way, one trivial realization: it's known that plants of the known species stop growing when the CO2 concentration drops below 150 ppm or so. I was always intrigued that it was so close to the 180 ppm minimum concentration during the ice ages. Where did the coincidence come from?

But of course, it is not a coincidence! And many of you have probably always realized that it is not. The explanation is "anthropic": the plant species that couldn't survive an occasional dip below 180 ppm have gone extinct. On the other hand, because the concentration has never dropped below 150 ppm for extended periods of time in recent millions of years (and probably since the birth of our planet), the species that can tolerate as low concentrations as 150+ ppm were allowed to survive.

Finally, it's just sad that the propagandistic garbage about the "fight against climate change" is being added even to articles that are about much more important topics that have nothing to do with "climate change" per se.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently Greenpeace missed this bit of news - http://www.torontosun.com/2011/06/08/greenpeace-protests-barbie

    With all the other problems in the world, can't they spend their time and money on something that is actually somewhat sensible?