JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Save the world and raze some forests

Look out, another knot of tortured researchers just went past. All this time we’ve been pouring money into planting trees and stealing land from farmers because we were sure that trees would cool the world. (Just like solar panels do, yeah?) But life is so complicated — for years now some researchers have been quietly wondering if more trees were actually going to warm the planet instead, but they didn’t want to say much. It turns out that while trees absorb the sacred CO2 (that’s cooling!) they also emit methane (that’s warming!), and terpenes (cooling) and isoprene (warming and cooling!) If that’s not complicated enough, then there is the albedo effect. Trees are dark, they absorb more sunlight than bare ground and snow. So depending on where they are planted, that makes for “warming”. Then some VOCs or volatile organic compounds also seed clouds.

So what’s the net effect? Who knows, it’s not like there are whole industries dependent on it…

Now they ask?

How much can forests fight climate change? Trees are supposed to slow global warming, but growing evidence suggests they might not always be climate saviours. Gabrielle Popkin, Nature

As usual, the debate is based on [...]