As The Global Warming Desk Reference was going to press, research was published indicating that old, wild forests are far better than plantations of young trees at ridding the air of carbon dioxide. The analysis, published in the journal Science, was authored by Dr. Ernst-Detlef Schulze, the director of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena, Germany; and two other scientists at the Institute. The study provides an important new argument for protecting old-growth woods. The German study, together with other similar research, has produced a picture of mature forests that differs sharply from long-held notions of forestry science. This is important because the Kyoto Protocol is based on the older notions, and favors new-growth forests with credits.
This research raised some diplomatic eyebrows as representatives of 175 countries gathered at The Hague in the Netherlands to refine the enforcement mechanisms of the Kyoto Protocol. Several thousand protestors built a wall of sandbags around the site of the talks to dramatize the effects that flooding could have on the low-lying Netherlands during the coming century. Netherlands farmers, suffering a third straight year of flooding rains, had another global-warming worry: salt inundation of their “polder,”fields reclaimed from a now-rising North Sea. Nearly a third of the Netherlands lies below sea level. Storm surges are a particular worry along the dikes. In 1953, 2,000 Dutch died in a storm surge that covered one-sixth of the Netherlands’ territory (Hale 2000, 27-A).
Dr. Andrew Dlugolecki, a climate-change specialist with CGNU, the world’s sixth-largest insurance company, told climate talks at The Hague that with world economic growth (GDP) averaging 3 percent a year and losses from climate disasters rising 10 percent a year, the two curves will cross in the year 2065, portending bankruptcy for the world. The cost of damage will exceed the value of the world’s resources (Brown, Islands, 2000, 21; McCarthy, Climate Change, 2000, 6). The same day (November 23, Thanksgiving in the United States), island nations pleaded for relief from rising sea levels, and Frank Loy, U.S.