Crop Plants to Reduce Global Warming Effect
Posted February 17, 2009on:
Some varieties of crop are likely more reflective than others. This can be one valuable alternative way to reduce the negative impacts of global warming. So farmers could help curb rising global temperatures by selecting crop varieties that reflect more solar energy back into space, researchers say.
Temperatures have risen by about 0.7C since the dawn of the industrial age and The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) projects that by the end of the century, the average global temperature will have risen by 1.8-4.0C from 1990 levels. Scientists at Bristol University calculate that switching crops in North America and Europe could reduce global temperatures by about 0.1C, that’s significantly offering good impact.
Although pessimist experts say that the idea is feasible but could not cool the world enough to combat rising greenhouse gas levels, it is worth to try since they would be easy to do and posses no negative effects anyway. Its worth to try since there are hopes that we can actually slow down the global warming effects. Whereas farming already has a global infrastructure and it’s done each year, so it should be relatively simple to utilize it to provide a climate benefit.
The principle, expounded in the scientific journal Current Biology, is certainly simple enough: since some crop varieties are naturally more reflective than others, a field of more reflective leaves will send more solar energy back into space than a field of a more absorbent variety. The specific reflective crop variety can be tracked from satellites that monitor albedo – reflectivity – across the planet’s surface, which means more research needed to be done to determine on which varieties would prove most suitable to the task.
One downside to the idea is that it only works with crops grown in Europe and North America, according to Andy Ridgewell’s computer-model. In the Asian growing season, he explained, most of the reflection is done by clouds, so changing the ground’s albedo would have little impact. The corollary of that is that most of the temperature reduction would happen over North America, Europe and surround regions such as western Russia, and would be concentrated in the summer, when the net regional cooling could be as much as 1C. But with the IPCC forecasting a greater number of summer heat waves over Europe, the continent’s politicians might see the concept as desirable.
Another obvious question with the approach is how to persuade farmers to make crop choices that might impact on their income, if they were asked to adopt strains that fetched less at market. For Andy Ridgewell, rewards such as those the EU offers to stimulate the growing of biofuel crops would be one way to incentives farmers – and this approach should not generate any of the same problems that biofuels raise.
Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University, California, has analyzed many different potential climate “fixes”; and he suggested the approach seemed feasible, especially given other research indicating that conversion of dark forests to lighter-colored croplands during the settlement of North America might have lowered temperatures by about 1C.
Although feasible enough, this kind of approach can never be quantitatively important on a global scale. It could help marginally in certain places but it shouldn’t cause anybody to think we can slow up our efforts to stop dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.