April 29, 2005

Global Warming: Something to sneeze at?

Filed under: Health Effects

The April 28, 2005 issue of Nature magazine contains a “News” story headlined “Climate change blamed for rise in hay fever.” It seems that a record number of Japanese are plagued with itchy eyes, runny noses, and annoying sneezes this spring.

Somehow, in yet another “predictable distortion” of global warming, Nature managed to conflate all this snottiness with global warming: “Spare a thought for Japan’s hay-fever sufferers as they endure the highest pollen levels on record this spring. Global warming seems at least partly to blame and most experts agree the worst is yet to come.”

Add 20 more million people to the list of climate change victims? Not so fast. Here is a story that that Nature left behind, from the New York Times.

January 17, 1995
Japan’s Cedar Forests Are Man-Made Disaster

It was a crisp, golden day in the vast forests here, near the base of Mount Fuji, but for Shigejiro Sugiyama a stroll in the country was an encounter with an impending disaster.

He plucked a sprig of cedar and pointed out how the trees were heavy with dense rows of tiny amber buds, the product of a particularly hot, dry summer. They meant that come spring, he and millions of other Japanese are likely to suffer in what experts are saying will be the worst year ever for a malady known in no other country to such a degree: allergic reactions to cedar pollen.

But for Mr. Sugiyama, the real disaster was in the fact that this health problem was caused by what many here describe as short-sighted Government policies, not nature.

The forests in the mountainous region were once verdant swaths of oak, maple and numerous other kinds of broadleaf trees and evergreens. But after World War II, Government bureaucrats applied their aggressive industrial policies to the environment as well as the economy. In the process, they financed the replacement of what they saw as commercially useless natural forests with more economically productive trees.

For the most part, this extraordinary experiment in environmental engineering has involved planting a single species, the Japanese cedar, because of the usefulness of its wood and the speed of its growth. As a result, Japan now has the largest tracts of cedar on earth, with this scenic region around Mount Fuji, long regarded as a symbol of the nation, among the most densely planted.

The aim was to make the country self-sufficient in wood products, but the widespread sensitivities to cedar pollen are just one indication of how this single-minded strategy has gone awry. It is becoming increasingly apparent experts say, that the superabundance of a single species of tree is threatening wildlife, causing heavy soil erosion, reducing the water table and creating the potential for disastrous landslides….

The Japanese cedar, or sugi, has been here for tens of thousands of years, but it was only after the intensive planting began that allergic reactions emerged.

The Times story goes on for another 1000 words or so describing how the vast cedar plantations have now matured, but that there are no longer any economic incentives to harvest the trees because, while the Japanese were waiting for them to grow, they found that lumber could be exported from other markets, such as Southeast Asia, for much cheaper that it would cost to process the home-grown cedar forests. So now, the Japanese are left with vast expanses of mature, pollen-producing cedar forests and their immune systems are left suffering the consequences.

Big government programs, vast monospecies forests, improper management, maturing trees, changing economies, but not one single mention of global warming in the entire article!

To be fair, Nature did devote one paragraph of its 10-paragraph story to the possibility that Japan’s forestry practices “may be to blame.” But, no doubt, had this been identified as the primary cause, the story would never have run. Clearly, it is Nature’s intention to push its agenda that global warming from fossil fuel usage must be controlled, and it will go to any length to create scare stories to support that agenda.

References:

Michaels, P.J., 2004. Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media. Cato Books, Washington DC. 272pp.

Sterngold, James, 1995. Japan’s cedar forests are man-made disaster. New York Times, January, 17, 1995.

Williams, Rachael, 2005. Climate changes blamed for rise in hay fever. Nature, 434, 1059.




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