Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search


Forest methane scientists hose down media reports

24 January 2006

Forest methane scientists hose down media reports

The authors of a study which revealed for the first time that growing plants emit the greenhouse gas methane now say their work has been widely misinterpreted by many in the media.

The results of the study, which were published in the January 12 edition of Nature, led some commentators to incorrectly conclude that planting trees to combat global warming was a waste of time.

The Kyoto Protocol encourages forest planting because growing trees capture the main greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide, from the atmosphere and 'lock it up' in plant material. In a media statement posted last week on the website of the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics, principal author Max Keppler says the study findings are only "preliminary".

But he estimates that methane emissions by plants may reduce their carbon uptake by up to 4 percent. The climatic benefits gained from reforestation far exceed this relatively small negative effect, he says. "The potential for reduction of global warming by planting trees is most definitely positive." Some reportage on the joint study * which involves the Max Planck Institute, Heidelberg, Germany; the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research, Utrecht University, The Netherlands; and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Belfast, Northern Ireland * went so far as to blame plants for global warming. The authors emphasise that this is not the case. "Emissions from plants are a natural source, they have existed long before man's influence started to impact upon the composition of the atmosphere.

Emissions from plants thus contribute to the natural greenhouse effect and not to the recent temperature increase known as global warming." Global warming, they say, is due to human activities. The large-scale burning of fossil fuels worldwide, which is causing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere to increase, is the fundamental problem.

Methane has the second greatest effect on the climate, mainly due to rice cultivation and the digestive processes of ruminants like cattle and sheep. The concentration of methane in the atmosphere has almost tripled in the last 150 years. NZ Forest Owners Association chief executive David Rhodes says a "fair degree of overseas media hype" followed the release of the story in Nature.

"By and large the subject was treated responsibly by New Zealand reporters who went to the trouble to get comment from local scientists. "With respect to planted forests in New Zealand, any small amount of methane released by trees would generally be offset further by subtracting the methane that was previously produced by the grass they replaced. We are likely to be talking about a very insignificant factor. "I don't think anyone will have stopped planting trees because of the report, though it was good for a few laughs during the summer silly season.

Some cartoonists saw it as a godsend." Mr Rhodes says forest owners are still negotiating with the government to get a market-based mechanism which will reward land owners for planting forests. "New Zealand needs 60,000 hectares of new forest to be planted every year if it is to get close to meeting its Kyoto targets."


Footnote: The Max Planck Society is named after the renowned German physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) who is regarded as one of the 'fathers' of quantum theory. Its research institutes perform fundamental public-good research in the natural sciences, life sciences, social sciences, and the humanities.


© Scoop Media

Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines


Tiwai Point: Rio Tinto Announces Plans To Close Tiwai Point Smelter

Rio Tinto has just announced that it will wind down New Zealand Aluminium Smelters - the Tiwai Point smelter - saying the business is no longer viable. More>>


Freight: New Report On Auckland Port Relocation

The Government has released a major new report on the options for relocating the Port of Auckland’s freight operations while deferring any decision on the issue. More>>


Chartered Accountants: COVID-19 Fails To Knock Kiwi Investor Confidence, But More Disclosure Wanted

Three months of COVID-19 lockdown and investment turmoil has done little to knock confidence in New Zealand capital markets and listed companies with overall investor sentiment very similar to 2019, an investor survey held in mid June shows. However, ... More>>


Taxation: Black-Market Tobacco Sidesteps $287 Million In Excise Tax

Year-on-year increases in consumption of illicit tobacco in New Zealand have seen illegal trade swell to 11.5% of the total market. If consumed legally, illicit products would have netted the Government $287 million in excise tax during 2019. Independent ... More>>


Energy Sector: Meridian Spilled Water To Hike Electricity Prices - Authority Ruling

The Electricity Authority has found that generator Meridian Energy manipulated the power market, costing consumers about $80 million. More>>


XE Data Update: RBNZ Official Cash Rate Decision

The RBNZ will keep the Official Cash Rate (OCR) at 0.25%. T he key points in the RBNZ statement are: RBNZ keeps the OCR unchanged at 0.25% Maintain the LSAP (large scale asset purchase) at NZD$60 billion. Committee prepared to use additional monetary ... More>>


Electricity: Kiwis Ignore Promise Of Cheaper Power

Electric Kiwi and Flick Electric Co are joint winners of Canstar Blue’s award for Most Satisfied Customers | Electricity Providers From putting on an extra layer – rather than turning on a heater – to turning off lights and choosing the energy-saving ... More>>


Electricity: Transmission Pricing For A Low Carbon Future

The Electricity Authority has decided on new guidelines for transmission pricing. James Stevenson-Wallace, Chief Executive of the Electricity Authority says the new guidelines will deliver significant benefits to consumers, through lower electricity ... More>>


RNZ: Economic Activity And Business Confidence Bouncing Back

Two surveys from ANZ show business confidence and economic activity have rebounded, but uncertainty about the future remains extreme. More>>


NIWA: The Climate Record That Keeps Getting Broken

Among the multitude of New Zealand climate statistics there is one record that continues to be broken month after month. Since January 2017 there has not been one month that recorded a below average nationwide temperature, according to NIWA’s seven station ... More>>


Govt: Extended Loan Scheme Keeps Business Afloat

Small businesses are getting greater certainty about access to finance with an extension to the interest-free cashflow loan scheme to the end of the year. The Small Business Cashflow Loan Scheme has already been extended once, to 24 July. Revenue and Small ... More>>


Science: 2019 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes Announced

The 2019 Prime Minister’s Science Prizes have been announced in a digital livestream event today. The Prizes recognise the impact of science on New Zealanders’ lives, celebrate the achievements of current scientists and encourage scientists of the ... More>>


RNZ: Fuel, Alcohol Costs To Go Up From Today

The increase today in the taxes on fuel, road user charges and alcohol is being called a tone-deaf move. More>>


Stardome Observatory: Young Kiwi Astro-Photographer Shoots For The Stars

Matariki by Josh Kirkley. The stars are aligning for up-and-coming Auckland-based astro-photographer Josh Kirkley (Kāi Tahu). During lockdown, one of his images was picked up by NASA and shared on the space agency’s Instagram to its 59.2 million ... More>>

DCANZ: Time For EU To Commit To A Level Playing Field For Trade

The Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) has welcomed New Zealand Trade Minister David Parker’s statement that it is unacceptable for New Zealand exporters to continue facing an ‘unlevel playing field’ in the EU. Details leaked ... More>>


New Zealand Government: Supporting Kiwi Businesses To Resolve Rent Disputes

The Government will legislate to ensure businesses that suffered as a result of the COVID-19 response will get help to resolve disputes over commercial rent issues, Justice Minister Andrew Little announced today. More>>