Melting northlands might mitigate some effects of climate change

Jeremy Eades @ 27-09-2007

There are enough bad peat puns in the article, so I’ll spare you any in the headline here.  Conventional wisdom regarding climate change dictates that as temperatures rise, the frozen lands in the north will release methane that has been locked in the ground.  Methane is regarded as being 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat, so this phenomenon would likely accelerate global warming.

As bad as it may seem, it may not be quite so.  A five year study done by ecologists at Michigan State University in East Lansing has found that as the frozen peatlands thaw out, they become wetter and provide fertile ground for fast-growing water plants which will suck up carbon dioxide, thus offsetting some of the methane release.

Of course, it won’t be a one-for-one tradeoff.  And as the wetlands fill in, the water plants will be replaced by slower-growing dryland plants and trees.  These new northern forests aren’t nearly as good at reducing global warming as the tropical ones.

So there you go.  We’re still going down the tubes, just not quite as quickly as people thought before.  Well, I’m off for a drink.

(via SciTech Daily Review) (image via brewbooks)

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