Thursday, May 03, 2007

Ronnie retains PhD.

In sad news for expert right-wing science bloggers such as Tim Blair, a new paper has put pay to the theory that green plants produce significant amounts of the strong greenhouse gas methane.

Last year Frank Keppler and group published a paper in Nature that implied green plants play a similarly significant role to microbes in the global methane cycle. Keppler's group opined that up to 40% of yearly global methane emissions come from plants.

And didn’t the wing-nuts love it. They thought they had the perfect wedge. Forests are significantly adding to GHGs and, therefore, climate change! Those Green-Leftists will have to choose whether to save forests or prevent climate change. Watch ‘em squirm!!!

Only there was a little problem. The metabolic mechanism whereby plants produce methane was unknown. It didn’t really seem to fit anywhere into the extensive maze of biochemical pathways that make up metabolism in a healthy plant.

So what happens when a potentially landmark paper such as Keppler et al.’s comes out? Why, others try to reproduce the results of course. And the most solid way to reinforce the original results is to arrive at the same conclusions with different methodology.

This is what a new paper by Duek et al. has attempted. According to Nature (sub only):
One reason that the matter has not already been settled is that the amount of methane produced by each plant is low relative to the ambient methane concentration. To tackle this problem, Dueck and his team grew plants in an atmosphere of 'heavy' carbon dioxide enriched in the isotope carbon-13 to give any methane produced a recognizable isotopic signature. But their studies detected no significant methane emissions (New Phytol. doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2007.02103.x; 2007)
Of course, the usual scientific barney erupted between the two groups:
Both groups have criticized the other's choice of experimental method. Dueck says that Keppler's group kept plants in sealed plastic containers instead of flow chambers, and exposed them to sources of stress such as bright sunlight and high temperature, which could have produced methane as an artefact. Keppler retorts that the use of 13C is an artificial piece of chemical trickery with unknown effects on plant metabolism, and also argues that methane production can vary by up to three orders of magnitude between species.
Scores are even. However:
Meanwhile, another plant scientist, David Beerling of the University of Sheffield, UK, says that he has not seen any methane using a method that is similar to Dueck's, but without relying on 13C. His research has not yet been published, but Beerling thinks that if it joins Dueck's in the peer-reviewed literature, "the two together could kill off the theory".
Looks like game to Dueck and team.

Which isn’t good for Blair. Or Ronald Reagan for that matter.

According to Blair commenter Dave S.
At my university, 20 years ago, some lefty moron took a glass cutter and scribed in huge letters into a large restroom mirror:

"Trees cause pollution” - Ronald Reagan, PhD in idiocy

When I went back ten years later, it was still there. I was pissed.

Now I hope it’s still there, as a monument to the intellectual jackasses who thought they were smarter than Ronnie.
Poor Ronnie. Not redeemed after all.