Energy

Scientists Find Trees Changed Climate Long Before Humans

REUTERS/Fred Greaves

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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Trees helped change climate long before human activity, according to a new study that casts more doubt on the human impact on global warming.

During an experiment where scientists were trying to create reflective clouds to combat global warming, researchers at CERN (Europe’s Organization for Nuclear Research) found that trees produce similar aerosols as burning fossil fuel. When directing ultra-violet light at said particles, the scientists found that vapor emanating from trees actually adds aerosols to the atmosphere just like the burning of fossil fuels.

The prevailing knowledge said that Pre-Industrial Revolution levels of cloud cover were much lower than they may have been. Knowing that trees can and do produce the same aerosols means scientists now need to rethink the impact trees have on adding to greenhouse gasses, and therefore the impact humans have had. Scientists at CERN who are running the CLOUD (Cosmics Leaving Outdoor Droplets) experiment also note that cloud cover, while it can add to global warming by trapping heat long term, can also lead to a cooling effect in the short term as less sunlight hits the surface of the Earth as a result.

Jasper Kirby, a physicist at CERN said: “We found that nature produces particles without pollution. That is going to require a rethink of how human activities have increased aerosols in clouds.” While he and others on the team stop short of saying human activity is absolved completely, he does think our overall impact on global warming and greenhouse gasses needs to be revisited. Also claiming that computer model estimates of global temperature rise may have been overstated due to this new finding.

With this new finding of nature ‘polluting’ itself, a complete relook at natural causes of greenhouse gas emissions may be in order. If human activity can be shown to either be marginal, or even equal to natures output, things like Cap and Trade legislation should be rethought as well.

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