Flowers losing scent due to climate change
KUALA LUMPUR: A rose may stop smelling like a rose.
This is the concern of environmentalists as flowers are losing their scent due to climate change and air pollution. And their fragrance may be lost forever.
Science and Technology Professor Emeritus at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Dr Abdul Latif Mohamad, said genetically modified flowers might be the way out.
Climate change is also the reason Kuala Lumpur City Hall is increasingly turning to shady trees, because flowers which previously formed the centrepiece of its beautification programme have been wilting fast.
Datuk Bandar Datuk Ahmad Fuad Ismail said City Hall used to spend RM1.5 million ($635,100) a month to plant and maintain flowers in the city, but the contractor’s services were terminated in March last year.
City Hall has taken over the planting, opting for bou-gainvillea and the tropical shrubs, Ixora, for their durability and cheaper cost.
Under the previous arrangement, some of the small flowers cost RM3.50 per seedling.
“It was getting too costly to beautify the city. Flowers were dying fast,” he said, adding that City Hall would continue to plant shady trees more suited for soaking up the increasing pollution and coping with global warming.
Latif said UKM might have offered plausible reasons as to why some pollinators were not spreading flower seeds, a pattern caused by the missing “scent trail” with scent tissues burning easily due to global warming.
“The aroma producing chemical compounds in flowers dry up faster now compared with before.”
The only way out, he said, was to genetically modify the flowers so that the effects would not be permanent and the future generation would not be robbed of nature’s beauty.
“The act is almost like producing essential oils. Scientists add on certain chemicals for stronger scent.”
He said scents in flowers last longer in colder climate as plants can hold on to their essential oils longer.
“The flowers may still have strong scents in colder climate. But locally, we fear this might be lost forever.”
With flowers emitting lesser scent, the insects and butterflies are travelling further and longer to get a share of nectar.
Latif said birds and insects were heading towards hilly areas and deeper into the jungles where the weather is cooler.
He related an incident in Sungai Siput, Perak, where the farmers failed to get fruits from their orchards.
Upon investigation, Latif’s team discovered that the flowers were no longer pollinating after dust from a hill blast blocked the growth of stigmas.
He said Malaysians could no longer rely on nature to heal itself without the help of science.
He said Malaysia needed to follow in the footsteps of Japan, Europe, the United States, China and South Korea which have invested millions in the research of genetically modified seeds.
Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) director-general Datuk Dr Abdul Latif Mahmod said recently the extreme weather change might affect the life span of trees as a result of lighter or heavier rain.
“We should look at how trees can be mutated so that they will not be destroyed.”
He said experts, including from FRIM, should look at ways to prolong the lifespan of certain plants.
Meanwhile, Natural Resources and Environment Deputy Minister Tan Sri Joseph Kurup said given the extreme climate changes, every country should work together and not in isolation.
He said the decline in global biodiversity and ecosystem services urgently called for proactive measures.
“Both policy-makers and researchers need to work hand in hand to strengthen forest genetics, breeding and conservation.”
While I applaud his desire to preserve the beauty and blessings of nature, I feel he needs to keep updated with the latest information – especially in the wake of Climategate and its localized cousins in Darwin, New Zealand, Russia and the USA.
The man at the centre of the original Climategate scandal, Phil Jones, admitted that there has been no statistically significant warming in the past 15 years, even as he was recently forced to step down as the head of the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia.
Scientists at the British Hadley Centre too found no warming from 1999 to 2008. Going back further, a peer reviewed study by three climate researchers published in the Journal of Geophysical Research concluded that none of the warming from 1977 to 1998 was the result of human activity. Instead, the cause was natural variations in the Pacific Ocean that made El Niño conditions more likely.
In fact, data from the University of Alabama in Huntsville found that temperatures actually decreased by 0.39 degrees Celcius from 2001 to 2009. This utter lack of warming might explain why Arctic ice is currently the same as 1979 levels, while Antarctic ice is at the highest levels ever recorded.
Puzzlement has rightly ensued among once-confident climate change scientists, seeing as temperatures have not increased despite continually rising carbon dioxide levels – in contradiction to their theories and allegedly accurate computer models.
So exactly what global warming is Dr Abdul Latif Mohamad blaming for our wilting flowers? It was not so long ago that global warming was even blamed for local problems such the flooding of 2006 and 2007, and smelly mud along Penang’s Gurney Drive. Yep, blame global events out of your direct control for local ineptitude.
I do not blame those whose first impulse is to blame global warming rather than look at local factors. Public perception has been heavily skewed towards climate change alarmism by the powers that be, even as they seek to hush up such major embarrassments as the multiple Climategates, Pachaurigate, Glaciergate (which Pachauri made a bomb off), Mountain Icegate and Amazongate.
I am all for the preservation of the environment and keeping our cities beautiful and liveable. But we really ought base our efforts on sound fact – instead of highly politicized, profiteering-motivated, dishonest junk science – in order to achieve the desired results.
Much, much more on global non-warming at Global Warming Is Unfactual.