Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Costs and benefits aren't always immediately obvious

Here is a short report on an interesting discovery from the British Antarctic Survey.

Basically, melting ice can have positive impacts on climate change. New open land (that once was ice) allows trees to grow, sequestering C02. New open water (that once was ice) allows phytoplankton to bloom, also sequestering carbon. The former effect appears larger than the latter, and both are small relative to global emissions (less than 1%). Neither effect appears to have been incorporated into climate modeling and the associated predictions.

Science people... we call this 'negative feedback', right? That is, higher C02 creates conditions that diminish C02.


Anonymous said...

Seems to be another great example of how little we actually know about whats going to happen or how Earth systems will re-act to rapidly changing conditions. Examples such as this make me wonder about scientists that claim to be able to predict pros and cons of environmental happenings with such high degrees of certainty, especially when related to supporting something man made that will initiate some type of environmental change.

hunter hay

Anonymous said...

While this is an interesting find, I don't think that it will be as advantageous as the scientists at BAS predict. Sure, the algal/phytoplankton blooms in the Antarctic will certainly positively affect the problem of global warming, but that positive effect will be, in my opinion, significantly over-shadowed by the negative effects brought about by the loss in snow and ice, and thus the loss in albedo for that region. This report, however, is a very good example of how variable and uncertain the process of establishing costs and benefits is. We could even take it one step further and find a way to place a dollar value on the populations of phytoplankton as well as the albedo effect from the ice.

-Jessica Patrick