50% Of The Warming Caused By Land Use Changes?

So says a press release from the University Of Georgia

Georgia Tech City and Regional Planning Professor Brian Stone publishes a paper in the December edition of Environmental Science and Technology that suggests policymakers need to address the influence of global deforestation and urbanization on climate change, in addition to greenhouse gas emissions.

According to Stone’s paper, as the international community meets in Copenhagen in December to develop a new framework for responding to climate change, policymakers need to give serious consideration to broadening the range of management strategies beyond greenhouse gas reductions alone.

Across the U.S. as a whole, approximately 50 percent of the warming that has occurred since 1950 is due to land use changes (usually in the form of clearing forest for crops or cities) rather than to the emission of greenhouse gases,” said Stone. “Most large U.S. cities, including Atlanta, are warming at more than twice the rate of the planet as a whole — a rate that is mostly attributable to land use change. As a result, emissions reduction programs — like the cap and trade program under consideration by the U.S. Congress — may not sufficiently slow climate change in large cities where most people live and where land use change is the dominant driver of warming.”

According to Stone’s research, slowing the rate of forest loss around the world, and regenerating forests where lost, could significantly slow the pace of global warming.

“Treaty negotiators should formally recognize land use change as a key driver of warming,” said Stone. “The role of land use in global warming is the most important climate-related story that has not been widely covered in the media.”

Stone recommends slowing what he terms the “green loss effect” through the planting of millions of trees in urbanized areas and through the protection and regeneration of global forests outside of urbanized regions. Forested areas provide the combined benefits of directly cooling the atmosphere and of absorbing greenhouse gases, leading to additional cooling. Green architecture in cities, including green roofs and more highly reflective construction materials, would further contribute to a slowing of warming rates. Stone envisions local and state governments taking the lead in addressing the land use drivers of climate change, while the federal government takes the lead in implementing carbon reduction initiatives, like cap and trade programs.

This is what is known as the Urban Island Effect. All the steel, glass, pavement, black roofs, etc, cause areas to heat up, either through trapping the heat, reflecting it within the area, or simply covering up the ground. Anyone who has ever worked on industrial roofs knows just how darned hot it can get up there. If you have ever done the tightrope walk on the crosswalk lines in your bare feet across a roadway at the beach in the summer, you know how hot the pavement can get. If you drive a little bit outside the city, it cools down. The glaciars on Kilamanjaro are not melting because of greenhouse gasses, but because of deforestation which changes the flow of air up the mountain.

This is something scientists have known about for a long time, so, it is nice to see it in print. Of course, I doubt if people are going to want to go back to living like it is 1599. I guess the science isn’t settled.

Meanwhile, Professor David Bellamy, an environmentalist and a skeptic, says that world will get cooler over the next 30 years.

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