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May 17, 2007

Carbon Tipping-Point Reached Soon?

-- by Dave Johnson

This is bad: Rapid rise in global warming is forecast

The oceans are losing the capacity to soak up rising man-made carbon emissions, which is increasing the rate of global warming by up to 30 per cent, scientists said yesterday.

Researchers have found that the Southern Ocean is absorbing an ever-decreasing proportion of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The excess carbon, which cannot be absorbed by the oceans, will remain in the atmosphere and accelerate global warming, they said.

[. . .] While a reduction in absorption rates by carbon sinks has long been forecast, the discovery that the Southern Ocean is mopping up less of Man’s carbon emissions has come at least two decades earlier than expected.

What they are saying is that the oceans are at their limit of carbon absorption. If this happens it could mean rapid, dramatic warming and climate change - over months not decades. Never mind oceans rising from melting ice caps -- that much of a rise in temperatures could mean mass starvation - a real die-off. And mass migration of remaining populations.

Posted by Dave Johnson at May 17, 2007 9:13 PM

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Comments

It has been calculated that to obtain just a 50% chance of preventing dangerous global warming, global GHG emissions must be cut 80% by 2050.

Furthermore, it is fair that developing nations continue to increase their GHG emissions per person, so this means developed nations will have to cut their emissions by over 90% per person.

In other words, by 2050 Americans will have to cut their GHG emissions over 90% from 2007 levels, and that is to only have a 50% chance of success preventing dangerous global warming.

To lower the CO2 level of the atmosphere, mankind either has to decrease our CO2 emissions dramatically, or we have to improve nature’s ability to remove the CO2 from the air.

Since world-wide demand for electricity is expected to double by around 2030, and coal-fired generation now accounts for about 30% of that, it is hard to see how mankind’s CO2 emissions can be cut by that much, that quickly.

By the way, I haven’t even included other factors, like:

-Increased natural emissions from carbon sinks that become carbon emitters when the earth continues to warm.

-Nature soaks up about half of mankind’s CO2 emissions now, but that is expected to reduce 30% by 2030

-Increased growth of fossil fuel powered transportation.

-Increased agricultural GHG emissions

-Decreased global dimming if emissions decrease.

In summary, since mankind probably won’t cut their greenhouse gas emissions so fast and so deep that dangerous global warming is avoided, removing the CO2 from the air is the only solution.

I suggest improving nature's ability to absorb CO2 with genetic engineering (perhaps seeding a genetically modified organism into the ocean).

Posted by: Brad Arnold [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 17, 2007 11:38 PM

This morning there's a flood advisory for New York Harbor and the coastal area tonight because of high tide plus coastal wind. This is the first time I've seen that. In the thirty years I've lived next to the Hudson River just above the harbor, I've been watching the level of the river rise, and now it's usually alarmingly high during high tides. Doesn't this have to be caused by the melting ice caps raising the level of the ocean?

Those million trees NY's mayor plans to plant in NY city should absorb plenty of the carbon dioxide the city produces. I hope other cities will follow his example. Lots of little changes CAN help.

Posted by: MJ [TypeKey Profile Page] at May 18, 2007 5:52 AM

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