Goodbye, Drained Wetlands. Hello, Greenhouse Gases.

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

I’m not sure how it is for other states, but Louisiana is almost constantly awash in “Save the Wetlands” P.S.A.s and sporadic fundraising and things like that. I know I devoted at least a couple of school projects to the subject, and while I don’t remember how they turned out, I definitely remember never learning about the global warming ramifications of wetland drainage. Though it’s probably due to Al Gore not having invented global warming yet.

It seems Louisiana officials should get in contact with the University of Gothenburg and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, who were commissioned by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency to give an official report on the greenhouse gases brought on by forests and fields created from wetlands drained for industrial reason, areas of land that make up about 10 percent of Sweden’s total surface area.

The study showed “drained wetlands which have been forested or used for agricultural purposes are a significant potential source of greenhouse gases of a magnitude that is at least comparable with the industrial sector’s greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden.” Wetlands themselves are responsible for adding methane, itself a greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere, but once the land is drained, copious amounts of both carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide are dispelled. Combined with recent reports about corroding sea snail shells in the Southern ocean due to increases in carbonic acid formation in Earth’s oceans, it’s a sure sign that limiting carbon dioxide output in any way possible can only help our current stasis.

After this year, the second phase of the environmentally centered Kyoto Protocol will be enacted, and Sweden is now at a crossroads in determining where to go with this information. Obviously the easiest way to reverse the trend is to reverse the trendsetter and re-flood the lands. But as you can imagine, this behavior wouldn’t sit well with industrialists and other environmentalists.

There’s only one real answer, depending on which side of the issue you stand on. My wish is for a fake-out Catch 22, where the land can be re-wet if the comparably polluting industrial buildings shut their doors. And then when the industrialists realize that this creates no pollution at all, they come together over a bowl of Swedish meatballs and vodka, and no one gets mad. A precedent for this has been set somewhere, right?

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