Air quality equals longevity and climate stability means healthy trees
Will the US expand the market for credits that foul the atmosphere?
In cities, people are living longer. In the wilds, trees are dying sooner. And a bureaucratic “solution” touted as market-based is backfiring. For a real solution, the world needs geonomics. Nations would charge polluters and recover land values while not taxing people's efforts. That makes labor-intensive enterprise like tree-planting more profitable. And it spurs owners to put up quality buildings in cities and husband old-growth forests in the country. Meanwhile, society takes one step forward for two backward. We trim, blend, and append three 2009 articles from: (1) Reuters of Jan 22 on longevity by Gene Emery; (2) Reuters of Jan 22 on forests by Maggie Fox; and (3) the AP of Jan 25 on credits by Joe McDonald and Charles J. Hanley.
by Emery and by Fox and by McDonald & Hanley
Cleaner air equals 21 more weeks of life
Dramatic improvements in US air quality over the last two decades have added 21 weeks to the life of the average American.
Reducing fine particles given off by automobiles, diesel engines, steel mills, and coal-fired power plants have added as much as 15 percent of the 2.72 years of extra longevity seen in the United States since the early 1980s, researchers wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Changes in smoking habits are the biggest reason why Americans are living longer. Next was socioeconomic conditions, indicated by the proportion of high school graduates living in an area. But cleaner air was a big factor.
When fine-particle air pollution dropped by 10 micrograms per cubic meter -- as in Akron, Ohio, and Philadelphia -- life expectancy rose by 31 weeks. In some areas where fine-particle counts dropped by 13 to 14 micrograms -- such as Buffalo, New York, and Pittsburgh -- people typically started living about 43 weeks longer.
Based on earlier research, the World Health Organization has estimated that 1.4 percent of all deaths around the world are caused by air pollution particles.
JJS: Meanwhile, nature’s air cleaners are dying.
Reuters: Drought, heat killing trees in western N. America
Trees in the Northwest's oldest, richest forests are dying at an increasing rate, and scientists point to regional warming as the probable cause.
The paper in the journal Science said the death rate for trees in Northwest forests remains low, but has nearly doubled over the past few decades. The mortality rate in some areas may be changing from 1 to 2 percent a year. It doesn't look like a lot of trees, but it's happening in many areas.
Studying more than 75 plots in old-growth forests throughout the Western United States and Canada, researchers found trees of every size and species are dying in greater numbers, and for a variety of reasons, no matter the elevation or climate of their particular forest.
The death rate was beginning to outpace the replacement rate; new trees sprouting and surviving only held steady. When forests are made up of smaller, younger trees, they are more susceptible to fires and massive die-offs.
Across the West, average temperatures have increased by nearly 2 degrees F over the past 30 years or so. While this may not sound like much, it has been enough to reduce winter snowpack, cause earlier snowmelt, and lengthen summer drought. Lack of water leaves trees vulnerable to disease and insects. In Northwestern Colorado, mountain pine bark beetles have destroyed 3.5 million acres (1.4 million hectares) of pine forest.
Forests are called "carbon soaks" because plants take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen, removing carbon from the atmosphere. But when trees die or burn, this carbon is released back into the atmosphere. So a dying forest adds to the condition that may be killing trees.
JJS: Meanwhile, emission credits may not be cutting emissions.
China dams reveal flaws in climate-change weapon
The 4-year-old, UN-managed Clean Development Mechanism allows industrial nations, required by the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to reduce emissions of gases blamed for global warming, to comply by paying developing nations to cut their emissions instead. But has anyone cut emissions?
Utilities from Italy's Edison to Tokyo Electric are making deals for hydro-project credits in India, Vietnam, and Peru. The Chinese have 763 hydro projects in the Clean Development Mechanism approval pipeline and are adding 25 a month. But Chinese planners aren't suddenly replacing coal-fired power plants with dams.
If those projects are going to be built anyway, the climate doesn't gain, but loses. Such projects "may allow covered entities" -- such as Germany’s RWE electric utility (coal-burning, carbon dioxide-spewing) -- "to increase their emissions without a corresponding reduction in a developing country," the US Government Accountability Office said.
Fat CDM payments have spawned an industry of consultants and of UN-certified "validators," firms that attest that projects meet UN standards.
The Chinese developer of the new Xiaoxi dam displaced 7,500 people. Evicted farmers said payments for losing their rights to state-owned land, where they grew beans and squash, were far below China's legally required minimum, which they said requires payment of the value of at least five years' harvests. Forced relocations have become common in China as people in hundreds of communities are moved to clear land for factories and other projects, provoking anger and violent protests.
JJS: While the CDM is touted as a market-based tool, and markets are thought of as free, in China CDM depends upon forced relocations. If Obama opts into the scheme, the US would be the biggest player in a market expected to be worth hundreds of billions a year by 2030. For a real market solution that works and avoids the “rent-seeking”, rely on geonomics.
Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics.
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