Saving the Rainforests Will Not Stop Global Warming: Here's Why

Saving the rainforests will not stop global warming -- and here’s why

Apparently, at COP26, world leaders agreed to a deal to end deforestation of rainforests, ostensibly to stop global warming.

This deal relies on implicit arguments that are nonsensical.  What’s happening to the rainforests is a classic example of how the official narrative ignores logic and reality.

The deforestation of the world's remaining large-scale forested areas (mostly in under-developed poor countries with few exploitable natural resources) is a big issue for conservationists.  And they are right to be concerned.  The rainforests are an under-researched reservoir of biological diversity. 

So any international agreement to protect rainforests has got to be worthwhile -- but only if the net effect is beneficial.  

But it's far from clear that the deal currently being touted at COP26 is actually a good thing at all, either for the countries involved or the planet's ecosystem, still less as a way of stopping global warming.  If it works the same way as other 'climate change' 'green' initiatives then all that will happen is that big corporations will receive massive government subsidies and/or lucrative contracts to stop what they are currently doing (cutting down rain-forests for logging and then planting palm-oil trees and/or soybeans) and instead do something else equally damaging but even more profitable.

An existing example of a ‘green’ initiative that fails to be ‘green’ is the industry currently cutting down entire forests in North America to produce raw wood chips which are then transported across vast distances to burn in electricity-generating plants.

But the enormous consumption of fossil fuels to power the entire process means it isn't 'green' at all.  It doesn’t benefit anyone other than the big corporations making huge profits from it, and also the politicians who curry favor by handing out the massive government subsidies paid for by hiking taxes.  In other words, it's a massive con-trick.

The first and most compelling basis for being skeptical about the COP26 'save the rainforests' deal is the fact that the epistemic justification is lacking: the premises are not relevant to the implicit argument supporting the claims being made.

The reasoning begins with two true premises: that the trees in the rainforest are capturing atmospheric CO2 and holding it in what is termed a 'carbon sink, and that if the trees are destroyed they won't be able to capture and hold the carbon

But how relevant is this to stopping the supposed Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming (CAGW)?

The carbon cycle is a continuous process, in which all plants, not just trees, participate.  Even in the deeper carbon cycle, which fossil fuels are part of, the carbon thus cycled is not contained in the 'carbon sink' forever.  When fossil fuels come to the surface due to seepage or earthquakes, they can ignite without human intervention, returning carbon into the atmosphere as CO2.  And there’s also a lot of carbon trapped semi-permanently very deep under the surface of the Earth, some of which is released during volcanic eruptions.

But none of this impacts on the claim that human-induced CO2-driven global warming is happening, let alone that it is about to turn into runaway global warming.  Not only has this process never been demonstrated -- because it’s never happened before so the evidence simply isn’t available -- but the means used to try to convince us (climate-modeling) is not evidence either.  The models are tested by ‘hindcasting’ -- how well they do at simulating past trends.

But statistical regularities and correlations are not in themselves evidence of anything.  What matters is their causal significance with respect to the possible dangerous warming effect of human-generated CO2 on the planet.  This remains far from clear because the quality and comprehensiveness of the data are problematic, and experimental results do not support the CAGW hypothesis.

And (contested) claims that the predictive accuracy of such modeling is high are in themselves insufficient to support the CAGW scenario.

The problem here lies not only in the specificity of the predictions (their precision and accuracy) but also in getting enough of the relevant and significant detail right.

The existing climate models do not get enough of the relevant and significant detail right to be considered reliable.

As Bertrand Russell remarked in The Problems of Philosophy (1912), the regularities of the past are not necessarily a reliable guide as to the regularities of the future.

Without a well-grounded, comprehensive, and testable theory of causation, and extensive confirmation from high-quality data (all of which are lacking), the claim that human-generated CO2 is over-heating the planet is speculative, spurious, and unscientific.

What we do know for sure is that plant life (and hence animal life) cannot thrive with too little CO2 in the atmosphere: below a certain level plants begin to fail, estimated to be around 200ppm (parts per million).  Even below 500ppm growth is impaired.  We’re now at around 400-450ppm.

Maintaining the status quo by ‘saving’ the rainforests is not a solution to anything.

Second, the vegetation in the rainforest is not destroyed forever by deforestation.  It is replaced by agriculture, and even slash-and-burn agriculture involves new plant life which captures CO2 from the atmosphere and participates in the carbon cycle.  Basically, what is happening here is no different from the practice in North America of cutting down entire forests to process into raw wood chips to sell as fuel for supposedly 'green' electricity generation.  If it's O.K. to do this to generate electricity, why is it not O.K. to do this in order to farm for palm oil or soybeans?  The logical incoherence here is obvious.

Third, if the reason for saving the rainforests is to preserve their function as a supposed essential component of the global ecosystem and if they are -- as is claimed -- a key means of saving the world from the 'climate crisis,' then by implication the more rainforests the planet is host to the better (in fact the more plant life the better).

But... if you have more plant bio-mass on the planet, then the amount of carbon circulating through the carbon cycle will also increase because more plants mean more carbon-capture, and then more carbon released back into the atmosphere as CO2 when the plants die and decay, making it available for new plants to extract from the air.  Along with auxiliary mechanisms which contribute additional carbon to the atmosphere (such as burning fossil fuels...), the net effect is more CO2 in the atmosphere available for plants to use and thrive.  Commercial growers have been pumping additional CO2 into greenhouses for many years now to increase crop yields.

Plant and animal life on Planet Earth would benefit from having far more CO2 in the atmosphere.

But the climate alarmists want to reduce the level of atmospheric CO2 whilst at the same time increasing the amount of plant life (they want us to plant more trees).

You can have more plant biomass or less atmospheric CO2, but you can't have both.  More plants mean more atmospheric CO2, not less; less atmospheric CO2 means fewer and less-vigorous plants not more.

The COP26 deal will not save the rainforests, nor stop global warming.  It’s a sham. 

Wen Wryte is the pseudonym of a retired teacher of philosophy.

Image: Pixabay / Pixabay License

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