It’s Earth Day, so let’s talk about the Earth. Let’s talk about life on earth and the much maligned chemical which makes most life possible – CO², the Thermageddon Molecule. This is the same chemical which XRers claim is causing the Sixth Mass Extinction and Saint Attenborough and the Beeb (and assorted guest catastrophists) weren’t far behind with their doom-laden portrayal of the ‘facts’ about man-made climate change.
Greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise and the problem is getting harder to solve. The world’s great forests play a vital role in determining the balance of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide, using it to build their leaves, stems and roots. In this process of photosynthesis, they have sucked up and stored nearly a third of our emissions.
Then we hear from Prof. Matthew Hansen, Remote Sensing Scientist, University of Maryland (son of James Hansen? He looks like him):
The main driver of climate change is greenhouse gas emissions. Forests are one of our ways out. They are like the lungs of the planet. They are big climate regulators at a global scale. My work has always been about monitoring the land surface and forest. Since 1972 till now, Landsat has been tracking and taking pictures of the Earth’s surface. In 2008, the US government says it’s open free of charge and accessible over the internet. Millions of images, automatically. It’s just this huge leap in capability. It was only then where we saw the whole planet. And when you see the whole, it was a bit of a revelation. And, yeah, the alarm bells go off. These warm orangey tones, that’s forest disturbance, that means forest was removed. We didn’t know that was going on. Colombia, Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia. We can go anywhere and see actual forest be cleared. It usually starts with logging. Rainforests are cleared and burned. They then replace it with soybeans, rubber, pasture for cattle. But one of the big drivers is palm oil. Palm oil is like a magical fruit. We all have palm oil in our houses right now.
That means the natural system is not working. Habitats are disappearing. But also when these high carbon stock forests, that are centuries old, are cleared and burned, CO2 is added to the atmosphere. Those emissions go up and warm the planet. When you look at our maps, our results are showing that it’s accelerating. It almost looks like a contagion. You know, it looks like a disease across the planet. I mean, the ever-increasing pattern. If we continue this level of deforestation, we’ll take it all. And our ability to mitigate climate change and turn the story around becomes really vanishingly small.
It sucks. I’m a pretty light-hearted, optimistic guy. But just looking at this data, you just look at the stories, I’d like to see some evidence of a really strong, strong kind of unified political response that was more than an aspiration on a kind of piece of paper, right? That would be cool.
This was the part of the program which had the most emotional effect upon me and Hansen came across as the most genuine and the most genuinely concerned of the people interviewed in the program.
Neo-Marxist Anthropocenie, Mark Maslin then elaborated on palm oil:
It’s found in almost every good you can think about. It’s in soaps, it’s in shampoo. It’s in chocolate, it’s in bread. It’s even in crisps. What we’re doing, accidentally and inadvertently, is actually causing deforestation in other countries because of our demand for this product.
In between this dialogue, the program showed truly heart-breaking footage of an Orangutan trying to fight off an earth-mover in a vain attempt to save its home from destruction. You couldn’t come away from this part of the program without thinking, ‘Shit, we’re destroying the lungs of the planet and destroying the homes of millions of animals, trees and plants just so we can eat biscuits, chocolate, crisps and bread and wash our hair and look pretty in pink lipstick’. Me included, hard-nosed cynic and unrepentant denier that I am. So I decided to do a bit of research and then, having uncovered some unsettling facts which the program completely ignored, some more research, and my perspective changed.
Don’t get me wrong. Tropical forest clearance is a gut-wrenching tragedy for wildlife and for biodiversity in general, as so many species inhabit these teeming forests. It is an activity driven often by greed, corruption and an insatiable global demand for ‘products’. But, as always, the situation is not that simple and there is a context which climate alarmists and green campaigners ignore.
As David Rose reports in the Mail on Sunday today:
Half of all the millions of tons of palm oil sent to Europe is used to make ‘biofuel’, thanks to an EU directive stating that, by 2020, ten per cent of forecourt fuel must come from ‘renewable’ biological sources. Malaysia says this has ‘created an unprecedented demand’.
To put it another way: misguided ‘action’ designed to save the planet is actually helping to damage it – although the EU has pledged to phase out palm oil biofuel by 2030.
In other words, some of the forest cleared for palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia was to feed a demand in Europe for ‘climate-friendly’ biofuels, i.e. they chopped down huge carbon-storing, CO²-absorbing tropical hardwood trees in order to mitigate the effects of CO²-driven climate change! You really couldn’t make this shit up. Right now, in EU countries, demand for palm oil for biodiesel makes up more than 50% of total palm oil demand. So Maslin’s list of products left out one very important consumable. An ‘oversight’ by him amd the BBC or rank dishonesty employed in order to avoid accusations of ocean-going hypocrisy and the exposure of batshit crazy EU climate change policy? I’ve made up my mind on that one.
The EU has legislated to ban palm oil from biofuels, having realised the insanity of using it in the first place, but it’s too late; they created a market and the people selling it are very irate, promising to strike back by imposing trade restrictions, so the EU have buckled and introduced a host of exemptions which effectively means palm oil will still find its way into Europe for use in biodiesel, thus contributing to further deforestation.
Laura Buffet, clean fuels manager of T&E, said: “The Commission sends an important signal by deciding that palm oil diesel is not sustainable. But it gives with one hand what it takes away with the other. You can’t label palm oil diesel as unsustainable, then open a loophole as big as the current consumption levels and think people won’t notice. This decision is arbitrary, breaks the mandate the Commission had gotten from ministers and the European Parliament, and ignores the massive public support for ending the palm oil diesel nonsense.”
Palm oil production is not good, involving the destruction of rain forest habitat to make way for plantations. But palm oil is incredibly versatile and palm plantations are very high yielding compared to oil derived from other crops, such as rapeseed and soy beans, so less hectares are required per ton of oil. Palm oil for biodiesel is a veritable nonsense and an environmental own-goal which the EU initiated and which they are now finding it very difficult to reverse. Those responsible for the idea of using food crops to produce ‘climate-friendly’ biodiesel should be shot, or preferably face the fury of that poor orangutan filmed desperately trying to fight off the cold hard steel bucket of a monstrous mechanical digger busily tearing down its home.
Now, Hansen jnr tells us that palm oil is one of the main drivers of tropical deforestation. I checked out the facts. It turns out that the facts, as far as I can make out, contradict the ‘facts’ as presented to BBC viewers.
When properly developed and managed, palm oil plantations can play an important role in improving livelihoods and eradicating poverty in the tropics’ rural areas. The World Bank estimates that with a population increase of 11.6% and a 5% increase in per capita consumption, an additional 28 million tonnes of vegetable oils will have to be produced annually by 2020.
Global production of palm oil is now dominated by Indonesia and Malaysia, which together account for 85% of the world’s supply. Consumption is driven by emerging economies, such as India, Indonesia and China, in which both population growth and rising living standards are key factors for the rising demand. European consumption accounts for 15% of global palm oil use, while the US uses 3%.
The European Parliament resolution of 4 April 2017 on palm oil and deforestation concluded a debate on the possibility of controlling palm oil imports with the specific aim of limiting deforestation in Southeast Asia.
The issue was addressed in an article published by the French newspaper Le Monde on April 3 2017. Dealing with environmental damage related to palm oil production, the article claimed:
The conversion of land to oil palm plantations alone is responsible for 40% of the loss of natural forest cover around the world.
But exploring the source of this data shows that palm oil is actually responsible for only 2.3% of the world’s deforestation. How can this discrepancy be explained?
This is how it can be explained:
According to these data sets, palm oil plantations account for only 8% of the deforestation attributed to agricultural crops. In total, this represents 8% of 29%, thus 2.3% or 5.6 million hectares from the 239 million hectares of forest lost between 1990 and 2008.
In order to find the 40% figure, we must look a little further in the technical report to where deforestation in Brazil and Indonesia is analysed. These are the two countries in which forest losses were reported to be the highest.
In just Indonesia, 25 million hectares of forest were lost, of which 7.5 million hectares were used for agricultural production. Of these 7.5 million hectares, 2.9 million correspond to oil palm plantations, about 40%. It is therefore responsible for 40% of deforestation – but only that caused by the agricultural sector and only in this one country, not the world.
Oops, looks like Hansen, Maslin and the BBC didn’t bother to research the facts before presenting the worrying ‘facts’ about palm oil. They omitted to tell us about its use in ‘planet saving’ biofuels and they made us believe that palm oil was mainly responsible for the ongoing destruction of the rainforests. But even then, their deception regarding global deforestation and the decline of natural carbon sinks was not complete; they added another element to it, again by the omission of inconvenient facts.
It is true to say that tropical trees store a lot of carbon, which is released if they are burned or left to rot. It is true that they ‘fix’ CO2, removing it from the atmosphere via photosynthesis. But what is also true is that all plant life does this, but especially long-lived trees and trees don’t only grow in tropical rainforests. Hansen laments the shocking decline in rainforest coverage over the satellite era. What he neglects to mention is that, during that same period, temperate forest cover increased by an amount more than enough to offset the deforestation in the tropics.
Despite ongoing deforestation, fires, drought-induced die-offs, and insect outbreaks, the world’s tree cover actually increased by 2.24 million square kilometers—an area the size of Texas and Alaska combined—over the past 35 years, finds a paper published in the journal Nature. But the research also confirms large-scale loss of the planet’s most biodiverse ecosystems, especially tropical forests.
Overall, the study found that tree cover loss in the tropics was outweighed by tree cover gain in subtropical, temperate, boreal, and polar regions. Tree cover gain is being driven by agricultural abandonment in parts of Europe, Asia, and North America; warming temperatures that are enabling forests to move poleward; and China’s massive tree planting program. Tree cover is also increasing globally in montane areas.
The biggest gains in tree cover occurred in temperate continental forest (+726,000 square kilometers), boreal coniferous forest (+463,000 square kilometers), subtropical humid forest (+280,000 square kilometers). Russia (+790,000 square kilometers), China (+324,000 square kilometers), and the United States (+301,000 square kilometers) experienced the largest increase in tree cover among countries during the period.
Global warming is causing more trees to grow in high latitudes! ‘But, but, but tropical rainforest loss is more dire than temperate rainforest loss because tropical trees suck up more carbon and their destruction releases more carbon than temperate and subtropical trees’, I hear excitable activists say. The latter may be true. The former assertion may not be.
Forests are widely recognised as important carbon sinks – ecosystems capable of capturing and storing large amounts of carbon dioxide – but dense tropical forests, close to the equator have been assumed to be working the hardest to soak up these gases.
Researchers at the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR) have carried out fresh analysis of the global biosphere using a new combination of data and computer modelling in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). Drawing on data sets of forest age, they were able to show the amount of carbon uptake between 2001 and 2010 by old, established areas of forest.
They compared this with younger expanses of forest which are re-growing across areas that have formerly experienced human activities such as agriculture or logging or natural disturbances such as fire.
Previously it had been thought that the carbon uptake by forests was overwhelmingly due to fertilisation of tree growth by increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
However, the researchers found that areas where forests were re-growing sucked up large amounts of carbon not only due to these fertilisation effects, but also as a result of their younger age. The age effect accounted for around 25 per cent of the total carbon dioxide absorbed by forests. Furthermore, this age-driven carbon uptake was primarily situated not in the tropics, but in the middle and high latitude forests.
These forests include, for example, areas of land in America’s eastern states, where settlers established farmlands but then abandoned them to move west towards the end of the 19th century. The abandoned land became part of the US National Forest, along with further tracts abandoned during the Great Depression in the 1930s.
Other significant areas of forest re-growth include boreal forests of Canada, Russia and Europe, which have experienced substantial harvest activity and forest fires. Largescale reforestation programmes in China are also making a major contribution to this carbon sink.
In other words, forest regrowth in areas outside the tropics is an important counterpoint to tropical deforestation re. the global carbon budget. Hansen, the BBC and Saint Attenborough, a 92 year old expert naturalist, ‘forgot’ to mention this. Bugger me if they didn’t also forget to mention that it’s not just plants which absorb a lot of our nasty, planet-destroying carbon dioxide emissions, but the oceans too, and both the land and the oceans have been absorbing a lot more CO2 recently.
Here we use global-scale atmospheric CO2 measurements, CO2 emission inventories and their full range of uncertainties to calculate changes in global CO2 sources and sinks during the past 50 years. Our mass balance analysis shows that net global carbon uptake has increased significantly by about 0.05 billion tonnes of carbon per year and that global carbon uptake doubled, from 2.4 ± 0.8 to 5.0 ± 0.9 billion tonnes per year, between 1960 and 2010. Therefore, it is very unlikely that both land and ocean carbon sinks have decreased on a global scale. Since 1959, approximately 350 billion tonnes of carbon have been emitted by humans to the atmosphere, of which about 55 per cent has moved into the land and oceans. Thus, identifying the mechanisms and locations responsible for increasing global carbon uptake remains a critical challenge in constraining the modern global carbon budget and predicting future carbon–climate interactions.
The ocean is the largest sink for anthropogenic carbon dioxide (CO2), having absorbed roughly 40 per cent of CO2 emissions since the beginning of the industrial era1,2. Recent data show that oceanic CO2 uptake rates have been growing over the past decade3,4,5,6,7, reversing a trend of stagnant or declining carbon uptake during the 1990s8,9,10,11,12,13,14. Here we show that ocean circulation variability is the primary driver of these changes in oceanic CO2 uptake over the past several decades.
All these many facts about climate change, carbon dioxide and life on earth (St Attenborough’s area of particular expertise) just left out of the BBC’s utterly dreadful flagship program on climate change – and this isn’t even the half of it. The BBC should be forced to publicly retract the entire program.