When I first started in my job as the regional forest and range inventory officer in the 1980s the main emphasis was to provide information for determining the annual allowable cut for the timber supply areas.
The Ministry of Forests was the first to start digitizing the forest cover maps which was a big improvement over the old style Mylar maps which were drafted by hand.
Producing detailed maps with a computer along with up-to-date statistics on the amount of lumber and wood chips was a big improvement from the old system.
Fast forward three decades with the increased use of satellites and much more powerful computers it is possible for the average citizen to use programs like Google Earth to get recent images over the entire globe.
Volcanic eruptions and wildfires can be monitored on a daily basis along with the impacts of the air pollution from these events.
While computer recognition software does a good job of sorting out the various patterns on the satellite images some ground checking is needed to establish a weight relationship of the various ecosystems.
For example a PNAS report estimates that global biomass distribution is 80 per cent plants or 450 giga tons carbon (GTC), most of which is dominated by land plants. Bacteria is the next largest biomass component with 70 GtC while the seven- plus billion human biomass is only 0.06 GtC.
The paper also lists a level of uncertainty for some of the categories which is consistent with some of the computer models used throughout the climate change debate with both sides accusing the other of cherry picking science data. I just finished leading an Elders course on climate change and we attempted to look at both sides of the debate with a good example being the recent Joe Rogan interview of two scientists on Spotify. The first interview was with Steven E. Koonin who states that scientists need to examine the data honestly and stop the alarmism.
The second interview was with climate scientist Andrew Dessler who describes Koonin’s work as similar to scientists hired by the tobacco industry to convince the public there was no health issue with smoking.
Both scientists agree that there is climate change and humans use of fossil fuels has some influence on the increase but they have a difference in opinion as to the extent that humans are influencing the increase. I tend to support Dessler’s more cautious approach for future generations but will be the first to admit this will mean some major changes to our lifestyles in developed countries.
While we make some modest improvements these seem to be overshadowed by the extreme environmental events, COVID and recent armed conflicts. Increasing our forests worldwide is generally accepted by both sides as being one of the best ways to maintain and improve our chances of survival in the future.
There is some positive news about satellites showing increased greening of the planet in some areas but is controversial as to what or who is responsible for the increase which I will cover in a future article.
READ MORE: PHOTOS: B.C. wildfires as seen from space
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