Friday, September 7, 2007

Some issues with climate change

I am still not convinced that we really understand what is happening or why with our climate. For us to understand we still need to do a lot more research, collect a lot more data and ultimately will need a lot more computing power to be able to make realistic outward projections.

Issues that are raised for me are the following:

More Plant Growth From Increased CO2

With more CO2 in the atmosphere, which we do know is there, there will be more vigorous plant growth. There has been some research done showing that the plains are getting woody shrubs growing due to higher CO2. This plant growth will lock up more carbon and should slow or reverse the CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

We should see rapid expansion of forests in Canada and Russia due to this. We should also see more productive food crops.

The increased plant growth will also moderate the temperature and moisture at the surface and thereby moderate the local climate to some extent.

The Role of Methane in Climate Change

We focus on CO2 emissions, but do not spend nearly as much time on the issue of methane production. Methane has 20x the impact as CO2 on the climate, but I see almost no focus on this.

One big change that we have on the planet now when compared to 1000 years ago is the amount of livestock. The number of cows, pigs and chickens on the planet has constantly and consistently risen to a point where they are a major source of greenhouse gases. A recent analysis of the moose in Norway showed that they emit a substantial amount of methane.

No one is talking about tackling this issue. No one talks about getting people to eat vegetarian diets. I suspect that this would have a dramatic impact if it were to occur.


With a rising temperature, evaporation of water becomes quicker. Also, if the ocean level rises, the total surface area of the ocean rises as well, in fact it rises rather quickly. A 1 centimetre rise in the ocean should lead to about a 2 cm increase on the surface. This will also lead to more water evaporation.

This rise in water evaporation will lead to increased precipitation and this should lead to more productive land in many areas and therefore more plant growth. I am not sure how what impact this will have on food crops, but it should move a whole series of marginal areas into productive use.

The increase water in the atmosphere will increase cloud cover and insulate the planet. Someone needs to model how the two impacts will effect the climate.

Shift of Growing Regions

Canada and the Russia have a huge expanse of lands that should become productive if the temperatures rise. If the growing regions shift northwards by 250km, this would add about 800 000 sq km of more potential growing lands in Canada alone. This could in theory add another 55 millions tonnes of wheat - about 8% of the global harvest. Russia would add twice as much as Canada.

2 Stroke Engines

We worry about cars and planes but spend very little time thinking about all those 2 stroke engines. The boat motors, lawnmowers, leaf blowers etc.... tend to all operate on 2 stroke motors. They produce many times more carbon emissions that the same 4 stroke engine.

We should be looking at banning 2 stroke engines over all and looking at making gas powered home use equipment something of the past. There is no need to have a gas powered lawnmower or weed whacker for home use. Municipalities wishing to go green may consider banning the use of internal combustion engines for lawn and garden care.

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