December 8, 2012

deforestation







Climate change and CO2 levels are concepts that are being thrown around more and more these days. Global climate change is the natural cooling and warming process of the Earth. As someone who has studied both geology and environmental studies I know that it is highly debated among the scientific community what role humans play in climate change. 

Many scientists worry more about water conservation, food shortages due to the desertification of land (which is a side effect of deforestation) and imminent rise in methane emissions. Human CO2 emissions, the burning of fossil fuels, are also a major part of the debate. It is important to know that CO2 levels are read at the Mauna Loa Observatory, in Hawaii, which is located next to an active volcano. This is important to know, because volcanoes release more CO2 with one eruption than all human CO2 emissions do in one year. We have to consider the great possibility for CO2 data to be skewed because of this location.

So I propose that the Deforestation of the planet is playing a much larger role in the rising CO2 levels. The forests, as well as phytoplankton, are the lungs of the earth as they are the major absorbers of CO2. The general public either doesn't seems to know, care about or talk about the importance of maintaining them. Millions of square kilometers have been clear cut in the US alone, and over 40% of the Earth's forests are already gone and continue to be cut down at an alarming rate. It's not just rain forests that should be getting our attention. 

The most infuriating part is that most of the trees recently being cut down aren't even being put to use. It is the land that is sought after. The same land that was once home to a variety of living things will now be turned into yet another space for shopping malls and suburbia. Ironically, I'm certain that some of this deforested land is also being used to grow more corn for ethanol in an effort to lower CO2 emissions. In some countries trees are still the reason behind deforestation, but there doesn't seem to be an easy way to get unused trees to the countries that want them in an effort to slow this down. Planting new trees in place of old ones is a good practice, but it is not done everywhere and does not solve the loss of various ecosystems, displacement of wildlife or the loss of ancient trees.

 It is difficult, impossible really, to know for sure how humans have ultimately affected the natural processes of climate change or how the Earth's climate would be now or in the future without human influence. For all we know we may have inadvertently delayed another ice age through our burning of fossil fuels and deforestation practices. In beginning to understand this topic it is important to look at the whole picture rather than simply focus on just one or two pixels. 

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