Comments On The Testimony Of Senator Dick Lugar On Climate Change and Deforestation On April 22 2008

There was a Hearing on Climate Change and Deforestation in the U.S. Senate yesterday (April 22 2008) [Thanks to Dev Niyogi of Purdue for alerting me to this Hearing].  There will be a presentation of the results so far on the excellent Vulcan project, which Climate Science weblogged on last week (see). 

Senator Lugar starts his testimony with the text

 “I thank the Chairman for holding this important hearing.  A year ago today, I was on my farm in Marion County, Indiana, for a ceremony recognizing the role of agriculture and forestry in mitigating the social, economic, and political threats posed by climate change.  I was joined by Richard Sandor, Chairman and CEO of the Chicago Climate Exchange, and Tom Buis, President of the National Farmers…, to promote how certain no tillage agricultural practices and forestry can sequester carbon dioxide and help offset the environmental threats from excessive carbon emissions.”

Later he writes,

 “Clearly, there are economic opportunities in clean energy sources, solar, wind and biofuels, and carbon sequestration and storage technologies.  But improvements in farming and forestry practices may be among the lowest hanging fruit in the quest to deal with climate change.”

The planting of trees certainly should be encouraged for a variety of reasons. However, Senator Lugar has not adequately communicated the following issues:

  • The conversion of the landscape by deliberate management practices, is itself a climate change forcing (Kabat et al, 2004; NRC, 2005; Feddema et al, 2005; Pielke 2005).
  • The net effect of deliberate landscape change such as afforestation may actually result in a radiative warming effect even though CO2 is extracted from the atmosphere by the plants. This occurs if the resulting surface albedo is less than for the original landscape and due to the added water vapor that is transpired into the atmosphere from the vegetation (i.e. see Pielke Sr., R.A., 2001: Carbon sequestration — The need for an integrated climate system approach. Bull. Amer. Meteor. Soc., 82, 2021.). [Update: Thanks to Barry Hearn for alerting us to two typos in this paragraph!]

Further discussion of these issues is in the papers

Pielke Sr., R.A., G. Marland, R.A. Betts, T.N. Chase, J.L. Eastman, J.O. Niles, D. Niyogi, and S. Running, 2002: The influence of land-use change and landscape dynamics on the climate system- relevance to climate change policy beyond the radiative effect of greenhouse gases. Phil. Trans. A. Special Theme Issue, 360, 1705-1719.

Marland, G., R.A. Pielke, Sr., M. Apps, R. Avissar, R.A. Betts, K.J. Davis, P.C. Frumhoff, S.T. Jackson, L. Joyce, P. Kauppi, J. Katzenberger, K.G. MacDicken, R. Neilson, J.O. Niles, D. dutta S. Niyogi, R.J. Norby, N. Pena, N. Sampson, and Y. Xue, 2003: The climatic impacts of land surface change and carbon management, and the implications for climate-change mitigation policy. Climate Policy, 3, 149-157.

 Unless these issues are addressed in the context of developing climate policy that includes rewards for landscape management, the desired goal of reducing the human impact on climate will not be achieved.

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