CO2 or Rainforests?

We have just published an interview with noted climate scientist Roger Pielke, Sr., a retired professor of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, and a senior research scientist at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Since July 2005 he has written and maintained Climate Science, a blog that serves as a scientific forum for dialogue and commentary on climate issues.

Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr.
“Scientific rigor has been sacrificed,
and poor policy and political decisions
will inevitably follow.”

The timing is appropriate, insofar as this week the nations of the world gather in Bali, Indonesia, for another UN Climate Change Conference. Anyone concerned about climate change would be advised to read this interview with Dr. Pielke, because it appears the UN, the IPCC, Al Gore, and all the rest of them may have it wrong – what if burning fossil fuel is not the primary cause of climate change? What if land use changes – rainforest destruction in particular – is an equal or greater culprit?

In August 2007 Dr. Pielke organized a conference of scientists to look at the role of land use changes affecting climate, and here is what he said regarding the conclusions coming from that event: “This meeting reconfirmed the first order role of land management as a climate forcing mechanism. These findings supported the conclusions of the 2005 National Research Council report “Radiative Forcing of Climate Change: Expanding the Concept and Addressing Uncertainties,” which identified land use change as having a major effect on climate. Unfortunately, the role of land surface processes was underreported in the body of the IPCC report and was essentially ignored in the IPCC Statement for Policymakers.”

When asked if tropical forests can moderate extreme weather, and conversely, if tropical deforestation could be as significant a driver in climate change as anthropogenic CO2, Pielke didn’t mince words: “Tropical deforestation clearly has an effect on both regional and global climate that is at least as important as the radiative effect of adding CO2. When forests are removed, not only does the climate system lose the biodiversity and other benefits of that environment, the vegetation loses its ability to dynamically respond in ways that reduce extreme weather fluctuations. For example, when trees access deeper water through their roots, the resulting transpiration of water vapor into the atmosphere (making rain more likely) can help ameliorate dry conditions when the large-scale weather pattern is one of drought.”

And what about the IPCC? As Pielke states: “The same individuals who are doing primary research into humans’ impact on the climate system are being permitted to lead the assessment of that research… To date, either few people recognize this conflict, or those that do choose to ignore it because the recommendations of the IPCC fit their policy and political agenda. In either case, scientific rigor has been sacrificed, and poor policy and political decisions will inevitably follow.”

As delegates to the UN Climate Change Conference gather in Indonesia this week, the burning rainforests of Borneo – to name just one heartbreaking example – cast a plume of smoke that is visible from space. Burning to make room for oil palm plantations, subsidized by European carbon offset payments. Pity the Orangutan who lived in these regions that remained pristine until the IPCC came along. And pity the rainforest lungs of this good earth – they are being destroyed in the name of fighting CO2 emissions, and well intentioned environmentalists whose activism encouraged this devastation are waking up too slow, too late. Will anyone stand up in Bali and expose this travesty; this tragedy?

9 Responses to “CO2 or Rainforests?”
  1. Lee says:

    I am not sure what you read but Al Gore and the IPCC discuss extensively these issues as causes and these causes are done by humans. I don’t think the Orangutans are burning down the rainforests and altering the land use. These are part of the anthropogenic causes of global warming.

  2. Ed Ring says:

    Lee: I will reword the statement “what if it isn’t anthropogenic CO2 that is the primary cause of climate change?” to read “what if burning fossil fuel is not the primary cause of climate change?”

    My point is that rainforest destruction – to grow biofuel – may be a greater cause of climate change than burning fossil fuels. Mainly because of the increased heat absorption and decreased rainfall throughout deforested equatorial regions. The increased CO2 from the burning of rainforests (Brazil & Indonesia are the 3rd & 4th largest emitters of CO2 because of rainforest burning) and the decreased perennial CO2 absorption once these forests are burned are yet another potential cause of warming, but not the primary cause, in my opinion.

    Isn’t it ironic that we may be destroying the world in order to save it? Isn’t it ironic that biofuel subsidies created the market for palm oil and cane ethanol which in turn may have unleashed more harmful impacts on climate – by completing the deforestation of the tropics – than burning fossil fuel ever could?

    That is what needs to be said in Bali this week. Of course Orangutans aren’t burning their rainforest – people are – because CO2 alarmists in Europe created a market for biofuel.

  3. Lee says:

    I don’t know of any environmentalist who thinks that burning the rainforest is a good thing for any reason. “An Inconvenient Truth” deals with the problems of rainforest deforestation and the burning of the rainforest and the CO2 that comes from that fire and fire in general, which are again human created problems. I still believe the burning of fossil fuels is the primary cause of global warming with deforestation, fire and its byproducts a major part of the equation. I too have a problem with biofuels, and do not think they are the solution.

  4. Michael Smith says:

    I’ve been listening to hysterical warnings about dire global disasters from “global warming” for 35 years — the first such warnings I can remember coming in a Time magazine article in 1972. 35 years!!

    So where is my global warming?!? Where are all the disasters, the species extinctions, the rising sea levels, the spread of equatorial diseases, where is it all?!?

    The fact is, the whole thing is a myth. The IPCC, like all UN programs, is another attempt to find an excuse to destroy America or at a minimum make her hostage to the rest of the world’s demands. It, and all of you “global warming” advocates, are rotten to the core.

  5. Tony Edwards says:

    The interviewer obviously has a very short view of history when he says “EcoWorld: But what about the northern icecap shrinking this September to possibly possibly its smallest size in history (exposing more than 1 million square miles of open water)”.
    This “history” goes back to, I believe, somewhere around 1977, when satellites started taking pictures of the Arctic. Before that there are many reports of open water in the Arctic and passages through the Northwest Passage.

  6. Arnd says:

    The “history” of Arctic warming started in winter 1918/19 lasting until 1940, which H.W. Ahlmann called a “climatic revolution”*), an event that could have only be generated and sustained by the ocean. As long as this phenomenon is not explained how can climatologists claim that they understand very much about climatic changes?
    *) H.W. Ahlmann; “Research on Snow and Ice, 1918-1940”, The Geographical Journal, 1946, p.11-25.

  7. Ed Ring says:

    Several commenters – who clearly are not familiar with our editorial position on global warming – might find the following posts interesting and hopefully informative as well: “A Counterpledge to Gore,” or this “Vaclav Klaus vs. the UN

  8. Wondering Aloud says:

    Fire is a human created problem?

    Ed Ring has hit it on the head, biofuels will likely be a net negative no matter how you slice it. The cure is likely to be much worse than the disease.

    If people seriously believe that CO2 is leading to catastrophic warming; why aren’t they pushing for nuclear power and geothermal development? These could easily cut emissions by more that 50% and even make hydrogen and electric vehicles practical.

    Answer: They don’t believe it, they are using it to advance a political agenda

  9. Gary Hoffman says:

    Pielke’s comments regarding land use would seem to resolve the apparent disparity between increasing ground temperatures, on the one hand, and the lack of any corresponding increase in the upper atmosphere according to satellite and weather balloon datasets, on the other. That, together with observations that ground temperature has not changed for the last decade, more or less, suggest that rising levels of CO2 may not be an indicator at all with regard to global warming. Rather CO2 levels may relate to some other factor(s), which may or may not influence global climate change (including global cooling). How can anyone seriously propose radical public policies until these phenomena receive a reliable explanation?


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