Thursday, April 19, 2012

Can Carbon Sinks Drain Our Way Out of Climate Change Problems?

My friend and neighbor, Randy Hoenig, posted a link on her Facebook page to an interesting New York Times article about the timing of blooms in Thoreau's Concord landscape.  The article notes that blooms are occurring much earlier than they did in Thoreau's time and that the likely cause is subtle change in the climate.

Of course, the scientific community is largely in agreement about the impacts of greenhouse gases on the environment.  However, we have not developed appropriate policy to counter the facts we are seeing on the ground.

 I, along with Sandra Garren, have written about the failure of the US Government to act on climate change.  Many scientists believe we have passed the tipping point and that significant climate change is inevitable even if we develop policy to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Some have looked to big science type projects to reduce greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  Carbon can be stored in rocks (limestone or dolomite) and sediment for long periods of time.  This report by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature suggests that one of the best ways to store carbon in coastal ecosystems is not by reef rock formation, but by the expansion of tidal salt marshes.

Yet we have seen significant wetland loss in many parts of the world.

This report about wetland loss on the Mississippi River delta from the USGS suggests that we have lost significant salt marsh in this important area over between 1956 and 2004.  The video above from the USGS describes some of the impacts of the wetland loss.

Clearly one thing we can do to try to store more carbon is to protect and expand our natural tidal salt marshes.

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