Anyone worth Al Gore's salt knows that cars, factories and farting cows contribute to global warming, but an international study that includes the research of a UC Irvine scientist has found drought and deforestation can also help fuel the pesky phenomenon and should be included in future climate pacts. ScienceDaily.com reports today:
The study, analyzing six years of climate and fire observations from satellites, shows that in dry years, the practice of using fire to clear forests and remove organic soil increases substantially, releasing huge amounts of climate-warming carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
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In 2006, the climate on the fast-developing islands of Borneo and Sumatra and in New Guinea and other parts of equatorial Asia was three times drier than in 2000, but carbon emissions from deforestation were 30 times greater - exceeding emissions from fossil fuel burning.
The findings show deforestation limits should be part of future climate agreements, according to UCI climate scientist James Randerson, who co-authored the study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (love their centerfolds!).
"Deforestation and carbon emissions are substantial and important contributors to the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere," Randerson says. "We should not neglect this flux in developing comprehensive approaches for stabilizing climate."
He notes that "[l]and managers respond to the drought by using fire to clear more land. In dry years, they burn deeper into the forest, which in turn releases more carbon dioxide."
That's no bueno.
Scientists from Duke University, Columbia University, the University of Maryland, VU University Amsterdam, the UK's Cranfield University, the Center for International Forestry Research in Indonesia, the University and Research Center in the Netherlands and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center contribued to the study, which was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research and NASA (love their Tang!).