Thursday, January 12, 2006

More Hot Air, or Putting the 'Green' in Greenhouse Gasses

Since KJ brought up the draft, I thought this was timely:

IT'S not just farting cows and belching sheep that spew out methane. Living plants have been disgorging millions of tonnes of the potent greenhouse gas into the atmosphere every year - without anybody noticing.

The concentration of methane in the atmosphere has almost tripled since pre-industrial times. Environmental scientists thought they had identified all natural sources where bacteria convert organic plant matter to methane, such as swamps, wetlands and rice paddies. These bacteria only thrive in wet, oxygen-poor environments; they cannot survive in air.

So Frank Keppler, an environmental engineer at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, Germany, was surprised when he saw signs of methane being emitted by plants he was examining in normal air. "If we were following the textbook, we would have ignored it as a mistake," he says.


This would make plants responsible for roughly 10 to 30 per cent of [annual] global methane production.

According to "The lungs of the planet are belching methane," scientists had begun to notice the disparity in their models and the appearance of higher-than-expected levels of methane coming from rainforests. Keppler's discovery, sure to be the proud progenitor of many late-night and water cooler jokes, may explain the discrepancies and help scientists amend their strategies for controlling man-made emissions.

I anticipate a decade of scrimmage between scientists and activists before significant clarity is disseminated to the masses.

Yes, it's ironic that because of the rainforests we'll have to work harder to minimize our pollutants, but we were headed that direction anyway. Can't just blame it on the rainforest. Then again, maybe we can, considering George Carlin's hypothesis on "saving the planet."


At 9:22 AM, Blogger camojack said...

George Carlin is an unrepentant jackass...but, he's a funny unrepentant jackass.

However, I can't help but wonder if those are really his words; he's had rants attributed to him before that weren't his...

At 12:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When the sun shines on green plants and phytoplankton, they use chlorophyll to catalyze the conversion of Co2 to long chain sugars (stored chemical energy) and oxygen. Goody, we mammals need oxygen. This is called photosynthesis.
When the sun goes down and the lights go off, plants don't go inert. They convert oxygen and the same stored sugars to chemical energy and, get this, EMIT Co2, a greenhouse gas. This is called respiration.
At night.
When nobody is looking.
Imagine that. The little sneaks.
Criminy, does Oprah know this?

"Don Brouhaha"(?)

PS. George Carlin's late wife, Brenda, was the cousin to my high-school civics teacher (who is also probably dead now), which means absolutely nothing.

At 2:10 PM, Blogger tee bee said...

anonymous, that's probably why I don't have too many houseplants. That and my brown thumb.

Camo, I actually saw Carlin do this sketch on HBO, which is funnier in person. So it's the real deal. I was surprised to find a link about it online.

At 9:19 PM, Blogger camojack said...

tee bee:
Well, that's good enough pour moi...

At 3:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I read this first in Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park", then saw Carlin do it...Don't know who came first.


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