It may sound antithetical to what we usually hear about climate change, but cutting down some trees could actually be a good thing for our environment, according to new research.
Trees provide natural carbon storage, and cutting them down leads to a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions. But a pair of scientists at Dartmouth College plan to present new research this week that suggests that, in some snow-covered places in the world, cutting down trees might have a net benefit for the climate because of the cooling effect the snow provides.
Let’s back up for a minute and first explain what they mean. That requires understanding the basics of albedo — which to put it simply is the amount of solar energy reflected off a surface. Surfaces that are covered in snow are white, and they reflect more sunlight, which has a cooling effect. Surfaces that are darker in color, like forests, absorb more light and are warmer. Think of snow like a mirror, bouncing heat back off into space.
The new research — from David Lutz, a post-doctoral researcher at Dartmouth, and Richard Howarth, a professor of environmental studies at the school and the editor of the journal Ecological Economics — finds that in some areas where there’s lots of snow, the benefits of open spaces where the snow can reflect the sun’s energy could outweigh the carbon-storage benefits of the standing trees.
I don’t think they understand, exactly, what the concern is.
To be clear, the researchers aren’t suggesting that we clear-cut all the forests. Rather, the paper argues that sustainable forestry practices — such as selective trimming, or harvesting in a rotation — might provide positive climate impacts.
The next steps, the researchers say, will require them to also look at how snowfall patterns might change in the future, thanks to climate change. Less snow coverage could reduce the albedo. They are also looking to apply the framework they’ve developed to research in other regions, and then draw conclusions about what sustainable management might look like. It’s one of those research projects that raises more questions than it answers, in many ways — and is likely to cause a stir at this year’s AGU meeting.
“From a climate perspective, it’s not at all clear that focusing on carbon alone is getting it right,” Howarth said. “There are cases where an open field may be a good thing.”
We’ve got 40+ years of empirical data that says we’re not losing snow coverage, so, they don’t have to worry about that part. Given recent developments with global ice and the 13-17 years we’ve gone without any increase in temps, in spite of increasing our CO2 emissions tells rational people that we don’t have to cut down habitat to save our habitat.
Someone, give them their meds!!!!