Field of Science

Global warming denial made easy

An anonymous benefactor has presented the Phytophactor with a gift, the Skeptic’s Handbook on global warming by Joanne Nova. Uh, thanks. Make no doubts about it, the Phactor is a card-carrying skeptic from way back, but Joanne No-go isn’t a skeptic, she’s a denier. And her charming little booklet is just full of misinformation (you can get your own copy online, but I’ll not promote it by providing the link). The Smog Blog as debunked the main claims in this booklet as easy as 1, 2, 3.

The Phactor is no expert on climate, but he knows enough to say that we have reason for concern because the carbon dioxide data, the temperature data, and the tree growth/mortality data coincide very closely in one of the few well done long term studies. Yes, correlation is not causation, but it strongly suggests a connection. The worrisome part is that trees are massive storehouses of carbon. If rising temperatures lead to more tree mortality, that carbon is returned to the atmosphere as the trees decay. Why would increasing temperature cause tree mortality? Well, the rate of photosynthesis increases with temperature only to a point and then the rate declines quickly. However, the rate of respiration continues to increase with temperature. So beyond a critical temperature, trees respire faster than they capture carbon dioxide in photosynthesis, literally metabolizing themselves to death. If increased carbon dioxide leads to an increase in temperature, then the whole system is off to the races. The resulting climatic impact on agricultural regions would be disastrous especially for those of our species who have been living close to the edge of starvation. So the choice is to act now, while we can, to make what changes we can, or to wait until there is more certainty, and maybe as a result of waiting, have no chance for or choice of actions. For whatever their reasons deniers are willing to gamble with everyone’s future because they advocate doing nothing. This is neither wise nor pragmatic. It's OK to be skeptical, but don't be foolish.


ilex said...

..."metabolizing themselves to death"... that statement filled me with a sort of nonverbal, lizard-brain dread. Then again, I feel dread about more or less everything these days.

Not to mention, there's all that methane bubbling up though the thawing arctic. Trees can't digest methane, can they? How on earth do we stop that hot mess?

Clearly our decidedly-not-liberal, left-leaning Republican president isn't going to call for anything rash, because that might freak out the corporations and the lobbies.

Phactor, I realize this isn't your area of expertise, but can we ever have an economy/ society not based on buying stuff? Am I just being naive? Are ecology and commerce diametrically opposed?

On a side note, but as long as I'm asking questions- may I please send little bags of dog poop to Geithner, Summers, and the Chicago School?

Larissa said...

there are several interesting books on the subject of ecology and commerce - all of which offer very interesting and even plausible notions of how to find a balance between the two. The problem is, and always will be - convincing the masses that they need to rethink the way they live and reevaluate what is truly important. We can only hope that we're making steps in that direction as "green" living becomes more prominent in our daily lexicon.

and of course, people like us have to be adamant and try to have open and meaningful conversations with people who just don't get it.


The Ecology of Commerce - Paul Hawken
Cradle to Cradle - William McDonough *this book is totally waterproof!
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution - Paul Hawken.

The Phytophactor said...

>may I please send little bags of >dog poop to Geithner, Summers, >and the Chicago School?

That's a lot of trouble and such big shits might not notice your small contribution. I also do not expect a great deal of imagination out of this crew, but one has, and presumably you did, consider the alternative that we might have had under the enlightened leadership of McC & Palin. Yikes!