Mother Nature's Carbon Emissions
Lightning Strike Forest Fires
(c) 2011 by Tom King
There's nothing quite as surreal as a bunch of banjo players arguing about anthropogenic global warming. Fortunately the discussion takes place on-line. If we were all in the same room someone would likely get the El-Kabong treatment. If you don't remember Quick Draw McGraw, the cartoon horse/sheriff, you won't get the El Kabong reference. Trust me the El-Kabong treatment is painful, especially when banjos are involved.
What got me into this was being still hacked off at environmentalist meddlers who sicked the feds on Gibson (the guitar and banjo maker in Nashville) about some imported rosewood fingerbords. Anyway after 19 pages of dueling web-links and some serious name-calling and one schmuck getting banned from the Banjo Hangout, I have a question or two for the Anthropogenic Global Warning (AGW) folks.
Since the beginning of the industrial age, granted, man has been pumping out carbon and other greenhouse gases from manufacturing, transportation and other things. But, at the same time, some things have changed that should have reduced the total output of greenhouse gasses:
1.We went from using horses and oxen to using mechanical cars, trucks, tractors, etc.. This would have reduced the number of horses drastically AND thus the amount of horse manure produced by said horses and thus the amount of methane-rich horse and oxen flatulence released into the atmosphere. I've never seen anyone attempt to correct their pollution statistics to include that reduction in pollutants. They used to have guys running all over the big cities with little barrels on wheels scooping up horse poop. They dumped those somewhere and the huge steaming piles had to have kicked a whole lot of methane into the atmosphere. Where are the calculations that take into account that we don't have that going anymore.
2.We fight forest and prairie fires. Hardly a fire starts these days that we don't jump on and try to put out. Back in the 1800s, prairie fires, set by lightening used to burn whole states worth of acreage, uncontested, blanketing huge parts of our country with thick clouds of carbon-laden smoke. I haven't seen any studies that correct pollution or carbon production statistics for the reduction in carbon emissions caused by modern wildfire fighting efforts.
3.As settlements have moved west, areas that were once strictly grassland have been planted with trees to act as windbreaks and landscaping for homes and cities, vastly increasing the number of trees in formerly treeless areas. I have seen estimates that the total acreage planted in trees has actually increased in the past couple of centuries, given man's propensity for tree-planting around his home and the massive tree-planting done by forestry products companies in an effort to restore these resources to harvest again at a later date. What impact has this had on conversion of CO2 into Oxygen and other organic materials and thus the amelioration of atmospheric CO2.
4.There has been a huge reduction in the past 150 years in the size of the great herds of bison that once roamed the prairies. It seems there is an assumption that domestic cattle replaced the bison at a 1 to 1 ratio or less, yet I see no evidence of modern herds of cattle that cover tens of thousands of acres and strip the prairie and lay down carpets of buffalo poop as the great buffalo herds once did. The methane production of a heard of a million or so of those big hairy beasts must have been incredible. Now that they are gone and replaced by their much smaller bovine relatives, where's the correction for what must surely be a reduction in methane production since the huge buffalo herds have gone?
5.The change in home heating and cooling techniques from the smoky wood-burning chimney (some houses had literally dozens of fire-places) to electric, oil and gas heat. Which produces more smoke, modern heating systems or a huge collection of chimneys burning 24/7 in the winter. The cities have certainly had clearer skies since we quit burning so much wood (and more trees were spared from the ax in the process). Has anyone corrected pollution figures from that?
I mean, we assume that we produce more pollution now, but the world was a pretty gritty place just a century or so ago. Horse poop everywhere, inefficient chimneys pouring smoke, vast bison herds, unchecked wildfires burning millions of acres per year, untreated sewerage from cities pouring methane into the atmosphere. Seems to me we should take that into account when we run the numbers on carbon pollution.
Also given that we are carbon-based life forms, you have to wonder if we reduce carbon "pollution", is that for sure a good thing to do?
- Do we need a little carbon in the atmosphere to support life?
- If so, how much is enough and how much is too much?
- Just because it was "X" amount of atmospheric carbon last century, how can you be sure that's the right amount, especially when, at best, you can only estimate what carbon levels were two, three or ten centuries ago?
But what if, Mother Nature produced man specifically because there wasn't enough carbon in the atmosphere? What if she needed us to put out wildfires, cut back on the number of buffalos or evolved us because the beavers weren't building enough dams and she needed some creatures that were really, really good at backing up rivers?
I'm just askin' the question.
What if we're supposed to be warming up the globe?