Sunday, April 27, 2008

don't forget

about stuff like this:

April 23, 2008 -- Pine beetles that have already destroyed huge swathes of Canadian forest are on pace to release 270 megatons of carbon dioxide (C02) into the atmosphere by 2020, says a study released Wednesday.

That is the same amount of greenhouse gas emissions that Canada is committed to reducing by 2012 under the Kyoto Protocol, and would effectively doom that effort to failure, the study says.

By the end of 2006, the mountain pine beetle -- Dendroctonus ponderosae -- had ravaged more than 50,000 square miles of forests in western Canada.

While not the first outbreak in the last decade, the latest is 10 times larger than any previous attacks.

The tiny beetle, the shape and size of a grain of rice and native to the western part of North America, lays its eggs under the bark of mature lodge-pole pine and jack pine trees.

Once the insects are embedded, a tree's fate is sealed.

Healthy forests are normally carbon sinks, meaning that they absorb more carbon dioxide -- the number one greenhouse gas -- than they give off.

We know about certain types of positive feedback loops associated with climate change (Snow reflects more energy than water. When snow melts because it warms, warming is more severe. There's others...). But I'm sure there's a host of other positive feedback loops that people either haven't considered, or couldn't possibly predict. Think about these beetles. Maybe the recent 10X worse than normal outbreak is a product of warmer average temperatures in Canada. It will continue to warm and these outbreaks may become more significant and frequent, causing even more warming through the massive CO2 release.

This is just a reminder not to get too comfortable about our energy/global warming problem. As much as the imperfect science bolsters arguments from the global warming nonbelievers, it also presents the dangerous possibility that reality will be much worse than we expect. Read here for more on this subject.

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