Friday, January 16, 2009

Nutty professors cure global warming with flower power

Latest scoop on the geoengineering bandwagon:

Climate change could be slowed by planting crop varieties that reflect more sunlight, claim food scientists

Or so says the Guardian, but on checking, I see it is none other than my pal Andy and his colleagues at Bristol. Their point is the fairly straightforward one that since different crops have different albedo (even within a species), choosing varieties with high albedos could alter the regional and even global temperature. Not by a lot, but every little helps.

Despite the jokey title, I think this is a fabulous piece of work that will define the research agenda in climate science and agriculture for decades to come. And I'm not just sucking up to them in the hope that they might give me a job some time, oh no...

And props to Oliver Morton at Nature, for managing to spell Andy's name right, unlike the Grauniad and BBC. Oliver loses credit for finding people prepared to say narky things about Andy's brilliant idea though (OK that's enough toadying for today - Ed).

7 comments:

Belette said...

Daisyworld!

James Annan said...

Apposite comment given the Lenton/Ridgwell spat in the Nature article. Maybe Tim thinks that the plants will turn white by themselves and there's no need for us to do anything :-)

crandles said...

Seems like a popular theme at the moment.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jan/16/white-paint-carbon-emissions-climate

or is that unpopular
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7821298.stm

Chuck said...

Wouldn't putting white mulch down between the plants be more useful?

I gotta wonder though, would cooling agricultural land in this manner cause it to have greater or less rainfall than without geoengineering?

Of course, dried up brown plants are way more reflective than living green ones...

crandles said...

Chuck, Interesting.

Would you consider it possible that plants adapt themselves in this way to try to get the level of rainfall they want? That obviously only appies to plants covering a significant area and presumably not cultivated crops.

crandles

James Annan said...

Well that's the whole Gaia thing. Plants certainly can promote rainfall, but that doesn't mean there is significant evolutionary pressure to change the rainfall (note that neighbouring plants will be able to take a free ride). Whereas albedo will primarily work on the plant itself giving its neighbours less of a free ride, so one might reasonably expect plants to develop higher albedo in hot areas (assuming this does not adversely affect their photosynthesis too much as Lenton and Prentice suggest).

As for mulch, I suppose a big advantage of plants is that they grow themselves. Of course plenty of farmers currently use black plastic deliberately to warm the soil and extend the growing season!

EliRabett said...

So, the Thrint look up.

Anyhow, genetic engineering may be the way we have to go to tailor plants to the changing conditions.