Temperate forests do not help fight global warming
December 11, 2006
Trees planted in temperate zones could worsen global warming according to research that will be presented on December 15 at the American Geophysical Society annual meeting in San Francisco.
The study, which shows that trees planted in tropical regions can help fight climate change, found that global forests actually produce a net warming of the planet.
"Forests affect climate in three different ways: they absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help to keep the planet cool; they evaporate water to the atmosphere and increase cloudiness, which also helps keep the planet cool; and they are dark and absorb a lot of sunlight, warming the Earth," stated a release from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, one of the institutions involved in the research. "Climate change mitigation strategies that promote planting trees have taken only the first effect into account."
Using computer modeling, the study projects that by the year 2100, "forests in mid- and high-latitudes will make some places up to 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than would have occurred if the forests did not exist."
"Our study shows that preserving and restoring forests is likely to be climatically ineffective as an approach to slow global warming," said Ken Caldeira, a scientist from the Carnegie Institution at Stanford University and co-author of the study. "To prevent climate change, we need to transform our energy system. It is only by transforming our energy system and preserving natural habitat, such as forests, that we can maintain a healthy environment. To prevent climate change, we must focus on effective strategies and not just ‘feel-good' strategies."
Caldeira and Bala issued a similar warning a year ago in a paper published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. At the time Caldeira said "We were hoping to find that growing forests in the United States would help slow global warming. But if we are not careful, growing forests could make global warming even worse."
This article is based on a news release from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
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