Monday, July 6, 2015

Carbon Accounting

Climate Change

Redwood Trees: These majestic trees can store carbon for 2,000 years, Gabriel Popkin writes:
“Although no one doubts that forests are taking up some of the CO2 emitted by human activity, 

scientists are still unsure which forests are sequestering the most carbon, and how much is stored
in long-lasting wood versus in roots and soil.”
Image Credit: National Geographic Creative/Getty Images
Source: Nature

Trees naturally take in carbon, or more accurately, CO2, and thus are effective in mitigating the harmful effects of climate change. An article, by Gabriel Popkin. in Nature News looks at why scientists are trying to measure not only the amount and kind of trees in the world, but also their rate of growth to determine the level of their carbon-absorbing or -trapping ability. In one sense, researchers are trying to create a world-scale carbon-sink map to determine if our forests are putting a break on climate change; another reason has everything to do with economics, Popkin writes:
In fact, studies of some regions suggest that forest growth may already be slowing down. And humans are adding to the problem by cutting down trees, especially in tropical forests. Getting an accurate reading on the status of Earth's forests is hard because scientists cannot wrap measuring tapes around the roughly 400 billion trees scattered across the planet. So researchers are exploring ways to track forest growth more efficiently, using planes and satellites. And they are feeding all of their data into sophisticated computer models that are designed to forecast how trees will respond in the future.
Such forest measurements are sorely needed as nations wrestle with how to slow climate change. Some plans call for wealthy governments or private companies to pay poorer nations in return for safeguarding the carbon in their forests. With a major international climate negotiation approaching later this year, and billions of dollars in forest payments potentially on the table, scientists are racing to advise countries and other stakeholders about just how much carbon trees are storing, and how long that carbon will stay locked up.
So, economics and in particular money becomes another reason that nations could (or should) have an interest in climate change. It is true that money is often a prime motivator, and if it can encourage the poorer nations with large swaths of forests to limit deforestation, then this is a good and sound policy. Richer nations like Canada will also benefit, with its large boreal forests, equating to one-quarter of the world’s boreal forests, which covers half of its landmass. It will become the basis of the new green economy, which promotes sustainable development. This might be, as it is said in business management, a classic win-win situation.

As an aside, let’s discuss and clarify scientific terms. Climate change and global warming are often used interchangeably by journalists, by politicians and by the general public, yet each are not describing the same phenomenon. Each describes a definite and particular scientific observation of finding; there might, however, be correlations. One could argue, for example, that global warming is one symptom of climate change, and that much of it is human-generated.

The U.S.-based National Oceans and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) writes:
Global warming refers only to the Earth’s rising surface temperature, while climate change includes warming and the “side effects” of warming—like melting glaciers, heavier rainstorms, or more frequent drought. Said another way, global warming is one symptom of the much larger problem of human-caused climate change.
For more, go to [NatureNews]

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