"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Good News is Hard to Find

When I decided to participate in the blogger's action day on Climate Change, I knew I was not going to post a litany of scary statistics. I've read all those things and it hasn't made me hopeful or optimistic. Instead, I wanted to ferret out and post some good news, news about how the world may be adapting and how people are coming up with good ideas.

Good news is hard to find. I've looked for about seven hours, total, and come up with only three articles which I think are hopeful enough to include. There are others that have a hopeful sounding headline but which when you read them, are actually gloomy as hell. For example, the headline "Global Warming expands Trees Range" would seem to be good news. But in fact, the article went on to detail the results of studies on whether or not trees can grow at higher latitudes/altitudes due to temperature changes. The widespread assumption was that yes, they uniformly would. Turns out, not so much. Only half of the sites examined showed any evidence of saplings growing in previously inhospitable areas. In a few areas, treelines had retreated.

This brings me to another thing. One of the things I hear a lot from skeptics is that global warming - if it's even happening - is good because plants can use more CO2 as fertilizer and will increase their growth rate. Well, that's true up to a point - and the point isn't very far away. First year Ecology, people. Ecology 101. Growth is limited by that necessary factor in the environment which is present in the LEAST amount. In other words, jack up the carbon dioxide all you like, but your hours of daily sunlight ain't gonna change. Or your soil quality. Or your WATER. There are a lot of marginally productive areas which are rapidly losing their margin due to desertification.

Okay. I did find one tiny scrap of halfway decent news today. If you can call it that.
Nic Fleming, contributor

Those depressed by the seemingly relentless combination of economic and environmental gloom in recent months have something to be cheerful about.

In the first major study of the effect of the recession on climate change, theInternational Energy Agency (IEA), which advises its 28 member countries on policy, is predicting a drop in carbon dioxide emissions of around 2.6 per cent in 2009 - the largest in 40 years.
The Financial Times reported yesterday that the fall in production of the most abundant human-made greenhouse gas was largely down to declining industrial output, and other economic factors such as the shelving of plans for new coal-fired power stations.

The news comes as about 100 world leaders meet at United Nations headquarters in New York today for a one-day summit. The unprecedented gathering - the highest-level meeting on climate change ever held - is an effort to invigorate negotiations in the run-up to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in December, when nations will be asked to agree on a new deal to tackle climate change.

So far, international negotiations have been slowed by national interests. Efforts to break the deadlock could be given added momentum by the IEA's estimate that a quarter of the emissions reduction expected to be achieved this year will be as a result of government action.

According to an excerpt of the IEA's annual World Energy Outlook, due to be published on 6 October, Europe's target of cutting emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, US car emission standards and China's energy-efficiency policies have had the greatest effect.

Speaking to Reuters, Fatih Birol, the agency's chief economist, said: "This fall in emissions and in investment in fossil fuels will only have meaning with agreement in Copenhagen which provides a low-carbon signal to investors."

Meanwhile The Guardian reported that the aviation industry will pledge to halve CO2 emissions by 2050 in an announcement to be unveiled to the world leaders meeting in New York today.


AnyEdge said...

Well, global warming should increaase rainfall too, by increasing global humidity. It ought to accelerate the water cycle. But yes, sunlight ain't gonna change, and might even diminish with increased cloud cover. But CO2 used to be a much higher percentage of the atmosphere (tens of millions of years ago), and plant growth was much more robust than today.

Dan said...

We have an alternative to making drastic changes. We have a 7-year old vehicle producing no HCs or CO and extremely low NOx per a California smog test here:

Jerry said...

A significant problem with the super plant theory about all the excess CO2 is that larger sized plants does not mean higher food quality or increased nutrients.

And in terms of reduced emissions thanks to global recession, many of these economies will rebound and these rebounds tend to result in HIGHER energy consumption coming out of the recession. So once again we'd just be putting off the soon-to-be-inevitable by putting too much hope into being saved. instead of taking our lumps now and reducing the pain later.

Sorry to be gloomy gus when you worked so hard to find good news.

Aimee said...

okay, but even so, you aren't counting the fact that we will have to go through a mass reduction in plant life first - as the habitat changes the plant's habitat and renders it hostile - before plants can adapt, change their ranges, evolve into the vacancies left by the mass die off. Also, plants will not be free to adapt at "will" as they were in the past, unless all the people die off first. We are going to be managing the hell out of ecosystems that are left.

Aimee said...

Jerry, yes I am aware of the problems you point out. I hope that plants are capable of absorbing more Co2, even if they aren't producing nutrients for us, they are performing a service. I'd like to see a national tree planting campaign to plant the best candidate species along all intestates, give tax breaks for planting trees, etc, try to plant several hundred million trees a year.
Our lumps are coming, for sure. Did you know (bro) that 94% of central California's nut orchards have gone out of business because it's now too hot for the trees to produce? They need a dormant period in the winter and they're no longer getting it. Turn that cute little fact into "94% of Iowa's wheat fields" and it starts to get seriously alarming.

AnyEdge said...

Oh..mankind's fucked anyway. We never had more than a few million years here. I've decided not to worry.

Aimee said...

I'm trying to get there, bro. But it's hard with three kids, two of them under six.

Jerry said...

I'm certainly all for reforestation attempts but I think something that could be hugely beneficial in terms of reducing atmospheric CO2 and fuel a much more green economic base, is industrial hemp. I also sincerely believe that there is great potential in hemp's active cousin.

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