Last Sunday on Radio NZ, kiwi climate science Jim Salinger spoke of his current research in North America. A colleague gathering air over pine forests found that the pines “burb” isoprenes that inhibit the removal of methane from the atmosphere. The Science Direct website explains the impact of isoprenes in the atmosphere stating it “reacts with oxidised molecules that would otherwise react with methane, thereby extending the residence time of methane and enhancing global warming…”
So if we continue to extend our pine plantations we could be extending the life of methane in the atmosphere. Pine trees will inevitably be the majority of the billion trees the Government plans to plant. Recent reports also advocate reducing pasture. We need an urgent rethink. Here is a link to Jim Salinger’s interview. Comments on methane start at 3.15 minutes.
Another downside of pine plantations is forest fire. Sixty percent of the area burnt in the recent Tasman fires was pine plantation.
Methane hydroxyls and titanium dioxide
What if the clothes we wear could purify the air and process methane? In researching this article I came across the TiO2 clothing website that explains the action of these chemicals.
Figure 1: Hydroxyls and methane (from the TiO2 website)
This website also shows how titanium dioxide has been used around the planet for air purification. Perhaps we could use it on the farm as one way to achieve the 0.63% annual reduction in methane advocated by professor Myles Allen (see this post). It is expensive at $55 a litre, but so is the impact of the climate crisis. You can read more about the product here.
Nimble policy required
Unfortunately our political system encourages the government of the day to commit to policies come hell or high water (an appropriate metaphor). So if the science leads us to reconsider the value of pine trees, the Government may not act on new information, as the opposition would punish them for not achieving stated policy goals. Thus our political system established in the 1800s and refined in the 1900s may be too slow and encumbered to respond to our 21st century climate crisis.