November 20, 2010

Saving chicken scratch for the Royal EPA

I came across this article today, "EPA gives nearly $400,000 grant to OCC to monitor Barnegat Bay's wetlands".  As Judith A. Enck, the EPA’s Region II administrator commented while handing out your hard earned taxes “That is not chicken scratch, that is a lot of money,”. I doubt Ms Enck really believes that since it is just spare change for the bloated Federal beuracracy, but it was nice of her to point it out to us, her employer.

The reason that the story caught my attention was that it was, surprise surprise about studying the effects of  climate change on wetlands:

Scientists say New Jersey’s coastal marshes could be an early casualty of climate change and sea level rise, if the wetlands cannot keep up a natural accretion rate that stays ahead of rising tides.

Now it seems to me that if the EPA was the least bit interested in saving a few bucks they might check on previous studies on the subject. It is not like academia has not spent billions of dollars determining the effects of climate change on...everything. Amazingly I did not even have to use Google to determine if Ms Enck of the Royal EPA could have saved the taxpayers money, I commented on an article about just this subject awhile back.

Amazingly this study was not done in some distant land or even across the country but just down the road a bit from New Jersey near Annapolis Maryland. It was also not some flash in pan study by nefarious individuals who might be skeptical of global warming climate change, it was actually a long term study under the auspices of another government agency:

For the past 23 years, Bert Drake and other scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in Shady Side have been monitoring the growth of marsh grasses and plants encased in the clear plastic bubbles on the fringe of the Rhode River. Those patches have been fed a steady diet of air enriched with carbon dioxide - the gas scientists say is driving our climate toward irrevocable change as human activity spews more of it into the atmosphere.

Once you get past the spewing, you wonder why Ms Enck would not just save some chicken scratch and instead rely upon a 23 year long study, but of course the Royal EPA must spend that money mustn't it? Or perhaps this long term study down the road from Jersey Shore was not giving the answers Royal EPA wanted to hear. More from the Smithsonian Study:

Scientists have known for quite a while that plants generally grow better when exposed to air with higher-than-normal concentrations of carbon dioxide. But some shorter studies suggested that the plants' growth spurt would tail off after a few years. With funding at first from the Department of Energy and more recently from the U.S. Geological Survey, Drake and colleagues tested the long-term effects by piping carbon dioxide into chambers enclosing the marsh plants. The clear plastic allowed sunlight to penetrate, so plants' photosynthesis was not affected. The researchers enriched the air inside to double the level of CO2 in the open air outside - about how concentrated the gas might be in the Earth's atmosphere by the end of the century, Drake notes, given current increases from burning fossil fuels.

Not only the Smithsonian, but the Department of Energy and  the U.S. Geological Survey, have been involved with this study over the decades. You would think that with all these Royal Federal agencies involved in such an important long term study we would have heard quite a bit about it, huh? Have you heard quite a bit about this study? No? Maybe that is why Ms Enck needed to spend the chicken scratch she probably never heard of it. Let's see what else they discovered in this study:

Now, after more than two decades of tracking in the longest-running field study of its kind, Drake can say, "The bottom line is these plants have taken up a lot more carbon over the course of the study." And they don't become saturated.
Scientists have found similar responses in other plant communities. Drake and others have monitored a tract of scrub oak forest near Kennedy Space Center in Florida for more than a decade, and found the bushy trees also took off with a boost in carbon dioxide. Drake has been working recently with researchers setting up a parallel experiment in Norway on the edge of the Arctic.
Wow! plants take off with increased CO2, who'd a thunk it, huh? But obviously what Ms Enck and the Royal EPA are after is a study on wetlands and rising seas and all that climate disruption

But Megonigal and colleagues have learned that the same carbon dioxide believed to be fueling rising sea levels might also help salt marshes outgrow rising waters - for a time, anyway. The extra greenhouse gas stimulates root growth, building up the surface of the marsh. Kirkpatrick Marsh apparently has managed to survive in this spot for thousands of years even though sea level has been slowly rising
"It's one of those silver lining stories," says Megonigal, 50, a senior scientist. He notes that probes sunk into the muck beneath the marsh have found evidence it has risen in elevation by about 15 feet in the last 10,000 years, since the end of the last Ice Age
Four years on, they've found, as Drake's longer study did, that giving the plants more carbon dioxide boosts the elevation of the marsh above sea level.
So it seems that if  Ms Enck had just contacted the Smithsonian or Googled or she could have just asked me, she could have saved all that chicken scratch. Because I doubt that measly $400,000 is going to establish any more information on the subject of global warming climate change and its effect on wetlands in Jersey than the decades long one did in Maryland. But what do I know I'm just a taxpayer.

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