global warming

Dilemma: Prevent wildfires or fight global warming

Two new scientific studies pose a difficult dilemma for people managing national forests: Should they thin out the often-overgrown forests to prevent wildfires and reduce the harm of those that do occur? Or should they let forests grow luxuriant and old in order to soak up as much carbon dioxide as possible and ameliorate climate change?

Across the West national forest managers know that a century of fire suppression has left forests dangerously overstocked, including areas of tightly packed and unealthy "doghair" forests with lots of little trees competing with each other. Thinning those out, though, releases a lot of carbon dioxide when the brush and small trees taken out are burned for energy or allowed to decompose. Not logging the forests would allow them to double the amount of carbon stored. So far, no one's given the U.S. Forest Service marching orders on this point.

The new research is recounted by the AP's Jeff Barnard in Grant's Pass, Ore., who quotes University of Montana climate and forest researcher Steve Running, who was not involved in the studies:

"So forests could be a significant part of the solution or could make the problem worse. I think this is going to be a very interesting challenge for forest ecosystem management over the next few decades, to see if we can develop a plan of walking the tightrope like this."

Senators bear-ly getting climate change

Compare and contrast:

1) In D.C. today, Sen. Jim Inhofe and others of like mind bring up extraordinarily misleading information about global warming, such as repeating Pat Michaelsshibboleth-cum-hoax that if we did everything promised under the Kyoto Protocol (which, remember, only covered the years from 1990 to 2012**, and wasn’t even reached, much less ratified, until 1997) it would only result in lowering atmospheric temperatures by 7/100ths of a degree Centigrade. (Reason it’s a hoax: Everyone knows that we have to keep cutting greenhouse gas emissions far past 2010 if we are to avert a climate calamity.)*

Climate legislation: a scary sequel

If you thought the energy and climate legislation just passed by the House made a lot of concessions to coal and other polluting industries, just wait to you get a look at what the Senate’s coming up with.

So says the LA Times’ Jim Tankersley today in a dispatch from D.C. In order to get the votes necessary to overcome near-unanimous Republican opposition in the Senate, the Democratic leadership will need to cut deals to ease certain industries’ transition to a lighter carbon footprint. In particular look for bones to be thrown to Dems representing industrial states like Ohio and Michigan, coal-dependent Indiana and oil-rich Louisiana, Tankersley reports.

Sure to cause consternation is the idea that in order to ram through the Cap’n Trade bill, the Obama administration will have to agree to more offshore oil drilling. There’s also talk of giving great sway to those who would build major transmission lines to, say, move wind energy from where it’s abundant in the Midwest to Eastern population centers. Local objections would go out the window.

If you’d like a look at the early handicapping, see this item from the brave folks at Grist.org, taking a look at which senators are likely yeas, which are likely nays, and a looong list of senators who are hard to call at this point.