Thursday, June 19, 2008

Forests in the Mountains

There's an interesting website which details where all the forests on the planet are in relation to the mountains on Earth.

I had a question for some research I'm working on - how much of the world's forest are located above 1000 m? Why did I want to know this? Well ... humans on the planet like to burn fossil fuels and we often look to the natural environment to clean up after ourselves... we create lots of CO2 ... plants take up CO2 and turn it into energy, leaves, stems and wood - in effect sequestering Carbon. So there's a lot of interest in how much CO2 plants are taking up and how much they will take up in future. If we can understand what the Earth is doing we can plan accordingly ... that's the logic anyway.

So lots of people study how much CO2 plants (particularly forests) take up. But they tend to measure the forests they can get to easily and measure most effectively ... usually this means studying forests at low elevations on simple flat terrain. So I wondered ... how much of the world's forests are located in other places? i.e. in mountain regions?

Happily Valerie Kapos of Cambridge University and some colleague of hers have compiled a lot of this information for us.

Kapos, V., Rhind, J., Edwards, M., Ravilious C. and Price, M.F. (2002) Developing a map of the world's mountain forests. In: Price, M.F., Butt, N. (Eds)Forests in Sustainable Mountain Development (IUFRO Research) (IUFRO Research) CAB International, Wallingford, UK. ISBN-10: 0851994466ld K M Bugmann, Mel A Reasoner - Science - 2005 - 650 pages

So I spent the morning listening to the radio and compiling a big table from their work so I could estimate what fraction of the worlds forest was above 1000 m in elevation.

It turns out that nearly 12% of all forests of Earth are above 1000 m. One quarter of all these are in Antartica, nearly 20% are in the Far East and about 10% are in the US and Canada.

What does this mean? Well pretty simply ... we are trying very hard to work out how much CO2 forests are taking up ... but we are focusing nearly all of our effort on the easy to reach forests and all but ignoring the tough ones.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Video content: Talks on Climate Change

"....The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - co-Laureates, with Al Gore, of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize - presented a public lecture series on its work entitled: "Inside the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: Science, Policy, and Politics". UChannel is devoting the coming week to this important climate change lecture series, with the publication of one IPCC lecture each day from June 15-20...."

Coming up this week are talks from Isaac Held, V. "Ram" Ramaswamy, Ron Stouffer, Michael Oppenheimer, Jae Edmonds & Gary Yohe all speaking on IPCC activities from the evolution of the science to macroeconomics.

From TheCattleFish

China and US battle for top spot in carbon emissions

According to a study released by the The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency China has overtaken the US as the top emitter of CO2 into the atmosphere (the greenhouse gas most linked to rising global average temperatures). However, because there are so many more people in China than in the US ... the average citizen of the US wins the title of most CO2 emitted per person. Europeans are among the top five in both lists... so there's lots of work to do throughout the world.

"China tops the list of CO2 emitting countries, having about a quarter share in global CO2 emissions (24%), followed by the USA (21%), the EU-15 (12%), India (8%) and the Russian Federation (6%)"

"Top 5 CO2 emissions in metric tons of CO2 per person are: USA (19.4), Russia (11.8), EU-15 (8.6), China (5.1 ) and India (1.8)"


Pundits and politicians have been using the rising CO2 emissions from China and India as reasons prevent the US from spending money to curb emissions on the grounds that lowering US emissions will be meaningless if China and India do not also reduce their emissions.

I think the US should act and show some moral leadership - reducing the US Carbon footprint by 10 or 20% would significantly reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere... BUT the punditry is correct on some points... the Chinese and Indian share of the global emissions pie IS growing... the world community must find a way to reduce CO2 emissions all over the world... it's not just science, fancy engineering and people recycling locally ... we need some geopolitical heavy hitters to resolve USA's and China's 'you first' attitude to reducing emissions.

From TheCattleFish