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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

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Jean McGreggor

We could all plant trees ! Lots of trees.
Jean

Agricola

From a non-scientist's mind spring several suggestions:

1. Immediate federal support and funding for the replacement of coal-burning power plants with nuclear power. This would require the removal of the barriers to construction erected by various interest groups and bureaucracies.

2. Immediate federal support and funding for solar electric power generation, either on an individual house basis or even a neighborhood basis.

3. As Jean says, a program to plant lots of trees, and I don't mean pine trees destined for the pulp yard in 7 years.

4. Here's where the uninformed part of me really comes out....let's quit paving everything, and not allow re-paving. Instead, apply asphalt on a partial basis in areas where it is needed, leaving grass/dirt in the other portion. This might stop run-off, would reduce heat radiation, and would reduce what must be a toxic cloud that hangs invisibly over every parking lot.

Pam

Just a quick response to Agricola's comment - I totally support replacing coal-burning plants with nuclear power plants. It makes total sense to me (I'm pro-nuclear anyway). (I do hear of some new reactors being built now - which is positive - I'll try and get the details from my friend in the industry). And as someone looking into incorporating solar (passive at a minimum for heating water) - why is it (1) so expensive and (2) so difficult in an incredibly sunny part of the country to get contractors/builders to even discuss it? Can you imagine the energy savings alone if 75% of us heated our water using solar power? It would be a positive start - but we've got to be able to afford to make this change. The tree idea is good (I do my part!) but I don't think that trees alone can do what we need to do - I'll try to dig up some data on this. The same goes for taking advantage of the ocean's buffering capacity - the fear is that all of these "natural" carbon dioxide buffers will become saturated. Alternative paving materials that are more prorous - great idea from an environmental perspective. I'm at work, but will post later when I have some time - I like this post Dan!

Daniel

re: Trees. Great idea, IMHO. Even if the trees you plant in your neighborhood make only a tiny contribution to the global climate, you're protecting and improving your local microclimate. And we can all feel good about planting trees.

But what about removing trees? Are we willing to start talking about controls on tree removal for construction and development? What will we say to property owners who say regulating tree removal reduces the value of their acreage?

re: Nuclear. The decline in nuclear power production is typically discussed as the outcome of public opinion disasters, NIMBY revolts and environmental concerns about waste disposal. But if memory serves, it had at least as much to do with reactors' high unit cost for power production. Can we build better reactors now? What about waste disposal? Will people agree to pay more for nuclear-generated power?

re: paving. That's not uninformed at all. In fact, I think it's positively enlightened. Because while the primary engine of anthropogenic warming is CO2 production, I don't think there's a climate scientist alive who would argue that that CO2 is our species' only contribution to the global climate equation. I'd put this in the same category as Jean's tree suggestion: great for our various microclimates, great for our wetlands, great for overall environmental and human health.

The drawback is that it represents a restriction on private property rights, and America is founded on a respect for private property. Should we compensate landowners for removing whatever value they might have derived from paving their land? Does the greater good trump those individual rights? Or is there another answer?

re: passive solar. I grew up on a commune in the 1970s reading Mother Earth News, growing organic vegetables and building passive solar structures. The knock on them is that they cost a little more, and the argument is that they pay for themselves over time. Well, passive solar works -- but it works best (and looks best, too) when passive solar features are built into structures that are designed for energy efficiency. For instance -- yes, we could build our homes here in Charleston to heat our water (you'd still want a conventional water heater as a backup/booster), but if you REALLY want to cut energy costs here, you want features that passively cool your home. And that's where the expense really comes in.

Daniel

And let me expand this a bit. Since the United States could, in theory, make all the best-practices responses to anthropogenic warming and STILL suffer the consequences of a hotter planet, what should we be doing to encourage the rest of the world to participate?

I'm no China expert, but there's a billion-person economy based almost entirely on 1950s smokestack industries. Every year they consume more energy and produce more carbon. As the Kyoto critics say, what's the point of placing restrictions on our economy but letting the Chinese do whatever they want?

Planting trees here is a great move, but it isn't a net-offset for the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. What can we do, in practical terms, to prevent that?

When I gave my thoughts on an approach to GW in a previous thread, I thought research funding was an important step, something we could do today without fear of having to undo it later. But what should we be researching? Better nuclear power systems? Relatively low-tech tools that could improve the lives of Amazon basin farmers? Cheap communications and information processing equipment that could help the Chinese people challenge the control of their government?

Jean McGreggor

Here in Mount Pleasant there are tree ordinances in place to protect Grand trees (36 inches caliper or more)and regulations in place to preserve buffers and green space. Leaving trees on a lot actually increases its value.We need more but it'as a start. There are products like water permeable concrete that are more earth friendly and there are builders who are building homes that are "green" in many ways, including passive solar and low tox. If the demand is there the market will respond.
For some reason this country seems to be moving in the Alt-energy direction,it's just doing it very slowly. I like the idea of government support of r&d but wrapping a bureaucracy around it might make things worse.
We can boycott China but I'm not sure they would notice. Sanctions, pressure?

Chucker

It wasn't my original plan but as I remodeled my bathroom, it was pointed out that my aged 40 gallon water heater would be depleted in a matter of minutes if I cut on ALL the new showerheads at the same time.

Well, isn't that the point of having 4 body sprays, an 8" rain shower AND a massage shower?

Welcome to the energy efficient world of the Rennai TANKLESS hot water system. No more heating and reheating the same tank of water over and over again. The #2 source of energy used in the home is the hot water heater. Not at my house.

They say the Rennais will pay for themselves over a given length of time. Yeah...LOTS of time.

Ben

1) I think meaningful mileage standards on automobiles -- including SUVs and light trucks -- would be a nice start. Whether that is politically feasible or not is another question.

2) The Amazon, etc, is such a tricky issue. If I were a Brazilian with the choice of "saving the rainforest" or cutting down a couple trees to farm a plot and feed my family ... well, that's pretty easy. The answer, of course, is development, but Latin America has been trying to figure out how to develop for its entire history. The question is how we can help. I have no broad plan, but some ideas:

Debt forgiveness: We've done some of this, but Brazil and other Latin American countries have been hamstrung by huge debt payments for years. Freeing up part of their budgets is no guarantee they'd use it for wise development, but at least it's a possibility.

Ecotourism: Nope, this will not save the whole Amazon. But making the wilderness economically viable has worked on a small scale. Costa Rica is a great example of a country where ecotourism has had a major impact on the economy. Drive across it, and you'll see endless expanses of solid tree canopy.

Investment: Without a full understanding of the economics and trade issues involved, I'd say that to the extent we can encourage building factories, etc., in Brazil, we lessen the need to find work slashing-and-burning fields. This, of course, leaves questions about the impact on our domestic economy. But given the importance of the region, though, perhaps some targeted trade/investment incentives might be a good idea.

I think we've tried debt-for-forest-protection swaps before (or at least proposed them), but that might be a good idea as well. The problem is that governments typically lack the ability to actually protect the "protected areas" from desperate farmers. So, again, any solution needs to focus strongly on development.

chip

Here's an idea. Let's plant money trees to pay off Latin America's debt! No, that's just me being funny, I actually have questions...

Do growing trees (Agricola's 7 year cycle pulp wood trees) use more or less CO2 than already established, fully grown trees, or about the same? I would think that growing trees would use more b/c they are converting it to limbs and trunks and leaves, but I really don't know, so I'm asking.

What about CO2 stored in ocean water? It's said that the oceans hold up to 50 times the CO2 that the atmosphere holds. Of course, flucuating temps change this slightly. Has it been considered that a natural solar cycle or geologic event may be warming the oceans, leading to increases in CO2 levels because the oceans are releasing it? Just asking, I just learned that TODAY. That's a scarier proposition, I think. What if it's not something we're doing at all, but something we have no way of controlling or counter-acting?

By the way, porous paving materials are a BAD idea. In the winter, water gets into the pores, then it freezes, causing it to increase in volume, leading to potholes.

What's interesting to me is that, while CO2 is a greenhouse gas that needs to be controlled, it's produced everyday as a product for sale. The conventional wisdom is that it isn't commercially viable to capture atmospheric gas. Maybe, we could regulate the amount of CO2 that is allowed to be produced for sale, leading to innovations in the capture of atmospheric gas. What I don't know is whether the CO2 produced for sale is produced by other necessary processes, or if the production is done strictly for the sale of the produced gas.

Dry ice in every freezer! Every American is required to own and maintain a 10 kg block of dry ice. Except poor people. Rich people have to have 15 kg to make up for it, so it's progressive. Also, a joke.

Hue

I've tried to refrain from being pessimistic, since this thread is about practical action.

Regarding reform via social and political institutions, your ideas should account for the realistic abilities of these institutions to effect the changes you prescribe.

We can't have action without leadership, and who will lead us if not our political leaders? I believe in capitalism, but there is too much at stake economically for the oil companies and countries that control the oil. And our economy is heavily dependent on fossil fuels.

Here's an item from ABC News on Monday during the torrential rain:

In the White House, only hours after that old elm had fallen, Bush was addressed by a reporter, thus: "I know that you are not planning to see Al Gore's new movie, but do you agree with the premise that global warming is a real and significant threat to the planet?"

"I have said consistently," answered Bush, "that global warming is a serious problem. There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused. We ought to get beyond that debate and start implementing the technologies necessary … to be good stewards of the environment, become less dependent on foreign sources of oil…"

The President — as far as the extensive and repeated researches of this and many other professional journalists, as well as all scientists credible on this subject, can find — is wrong on one crucial and no doubt explosive issue. When he said — as he also did a few weeks ago — that "There's a debate over whether it's manmade or naturally caused" … well, there really is no such debate.

At least none above what is proverbially called "the flat earth society level."

Here is what we're up against. Taking personal action will not help if everyone is not on board. This is a bit long, but the New Yorker series is not available online) Elizabeth Kolbert wrote last summer:

In the 1780s, ice-core records show, carbon-dioxide levels stood at about 280 parts per million. Give or take 10 parts per million, this was the same levels that they had been at two thousand years earlier, in the area of Julius Ceasar, and two thousand years before that, at the time of Stonehenge, and two thousand years before that, at the founding of the first cities. When, subsequently, industrialization began to drive up CO2 levels, they rose gradually at first -- it took more than 150 years to get to 300 parts per million -- and then more rapidly. By the mid 1970s, they had reached 330 parts per million, and by the mid 1990s, 360 parts per million. Just in the past decade, they have risen by as much -- 20 parts per million -- as they did during the previous 10,000 years of the Holocene.

For every added increment of CO2, the earth will experience a temperature rise, which represents what is called the equilibrium warming. CO2 will reach 500 parts per million -- nearly double pre-industrial levels -- around the middle of the century. It is believed that the last time CO2 concentrations were that high was during the period known as the Eocene, some 50 million years ago. In the Eocene, crocodiles roamed Colorado and sea levels were nearly 300 feet higher than they are today.

For all practical purposes, the recent "carbonation" of the atmosphere is irreversible. CO2 is a persistent gas; it lasts for about a century. Thus, while it is possible to increase CO2 concentration quickly, by, say, burning fossil fuels or levelling forests, the opposite is not the case. The effect might be compared to driving a car equipped with an accelerator but no brakes. ...

... Stabilizing CO2 emission, [Robert] Socolow [a Princeton engineering professor] realized would be a monumental under taking, so he decided to break the problem down into more manageable blocks, which he called "stabilization wedges." .... Along with Princeton colleague, Stephen Pacala, he eventually came up with 15 different wedges -- theoritically, at least eight more than would be necessary to stabilize emissions. These fall, very roughly, into three categories--wedges that deal with energy demand, wedges that deal with energy supply, and wedges that deal with "capturing" CO2 and storing it somewhere else other than the atmosphere. Last year, the two men published their findings in a paper in Sciene which received a great deal of attention. The paper was once upbeat -- "Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century," it declared -- and deeply sobering. "There is no easy wedge" is how Socolow put it to me.

Consider wedge No. 11. This is the photovoltaic, or solar-power, wedge -- probably the most appealing of all alternatives at least in the abstract. Photovotaic cells, which have been around for more than 50 years, are already in use in all sorts of small-scale applications and in some larger ones where the cost of connecting to the electrical grid is prohibitively high. The technology, once installed, is completely emissions-free, producing no waste products, not even water. Assuming that a 1,000-megawatt coal-fired power plant produces about 1.5 million tons of carbon a year -- in the future, coal plants are expected to become more efficient -- to get a wedge out of photovoltaics would require enough cells to produce 700,000 megawatts. Since sunshine is intermitten, 2 million megawatts is needed to produce that much power. This, it turns out, would require PV arrays covering the surface of 5 million acres -- approximately the size of Connecticut. ...

Climate records also show that we are steadily drawing closer to the temperature peaks of the last interglacial, when sea levels were some 15 feet higher than they are today. Just a few degrees more and the earth will be hotter than it has been at any time since our species evolved.

Alarmist? If we don't make drastic changes, we will see the devastating effect in our lifetime. And we also have growing Chinese and Indian economies contributing to the fun.

Q&A with Kolbert:

One disturbing thing about your article is just how alarmed many seemingly sober-minded scientists are. What sort of a gap is there between expert and lay opinion on climate change?

That’s a good question. I think there is a surprisingly large—you might even say frighteningly large—gap between the scientific community and the lay community’s opinions on global warming. As you point out, I spoke to many very sober-minded, coolly analytical scientists who, in essence, warned of the end of the world as we know it. I think there are a few reasons why their message hasn’t really got out. One is that scientists tend, as a group, to interact more with each other than with the general public. Another is that there has been a very well-financed disinformation campaign designed to convince people that there is still scientific disagreement about the problem, when, as I mentioned before, there really is quite broad agreement. And third, the climate operates on its own timetable. It will take several decades for the warming that is already inevitable to be felt. People tend to focus on the here and now. The problem is that, once global warming is something that most people can feel in the course of their daily lives, it will be too late to prevent much larger, potentially catastrophic changes.

chip

Another question. Do any of you actually believe that one day we're going to wake up, and the ocean is going to be 15 feet higher?

Jean McGreggor

Chip- it almost NEVER freezes here in the coastal south so that isn't an issue for us.Even when it does get that cold we don't have the freeze-thraw-freeze cycle so it does work here. And no,I don't think I'll wake up to a 15 foot rise in sea level. But there are places on the planet that a heightened sea level is an issue. One of the Pacific archipelagos,I believe.

Hue

When glaciers melt, where does the water go Chip?

You can remain a skeptic and laugh, but it's happening and faster than most scientists had previously believed.

Daniel

Do I expect to wake up and find sea level 15 feet higher? No. Because I'd be underwater.

I'd expect that the waves lapping at my bed at about 10 feet of sea level rise would wake us up, giving us time to wade up to Summerville before the last five feet arrived.

Chip is kidding around, but skepticism about rapid change isn't out of place. And by rapid, we're talking about decades, not overnight. How quick is quick? And how much is a lot? Melting glacier water causes oceans to rise, so the question isn't "do you believe this will happen?" but "How much of a rise over how long of a period of time can we withstand before it becomes a significant problem?"

In my short story "Eula Makes Up Her Mind," peninsular, historic Charleston is a diked island surrounded by marshes and creeks and connected to the mainland by a causeway. If the change takes place slowly enough, we'll have time to make some decisions about what to do, what to save. But that doesn't make it any less disruptive.

Hue and I share a common sense of pessimism. Greenhouse effect warming is like an artillery shell: there's a period of time between the time it is fired and the time it explodes, but once it's out of the tube there's nothing you can do to pull it back.

re: storing and capturing CO2. Popular Science (Janet is a subscriber) last year did a big spread on the "techno-optimist" idea of mining carbon dioxide from the oceans and atmosphere and storing it somewhere. The overview: It's unproven, expensive and the scale is so large that you're basically talking about the largest public works project in the history of our species. Out of the question? No, but it isn't an easy fix.

chip

What about the growing trees versus established trees question? I happen to think that's the best question I've asked, and likely the most serious.

And really, to say that it almost never freezes here in coastal SC is just silly. I've lived here for two years, and it's frozen both years. Were those two years an anomaly? Just because we don't get four inches of snow doesn't mean the temperature doesn't get below 32 degrees. It's been in the twenties the last 2 years in January and February, I know because I work in it everyday. And it doesn't take much water to create potholes, just a few small cracks or hole to let water in, freeze, and the asphalt starts to break. Drive around in the Neck everyday in the winter, you can watch the potholes get bigger everyday.

What about the solar/geological angle, as opposed to anthropogenic warming? Is that discarded completely?

Daniel

re: growing trees vs. established trees. I don't know the answer to that question, but I can't imagine that the difference would be enough to significantly alter the global CO2 balance.

re: solar/geological angle v. anthropogenic warming. Anthropogenic warming takes place against whatever background conditions nature provides. One industry group has suggested that anthropogenic warming could be benefiting mankind by staving off another ice age. Anyway, identifying anthropogenic warming as an issue doesn't discard anything natural; it's better to say the vast majority of climate scientists agree that natural cycles and trends don't account for or dispute anthropogenic warming.

chip

It's just a link from Popular Mechanics, so I'm not going to say that it's the scientific gold standard, but at least it merits further discussion, I think...

The Tree Solution

Jean McGreggor

Permeable concrete may not work on heavily traveled roads but it's just dandy for driveways and patios. I know because I've seen it hold up for years.And I'm out in the weather every day myself, for a good bit more than two years. Those of us in the Green Industry have an opprotunity to effect positive change. I'm doing my part, the best ways I know how and will continue to do so as long as I'm able. Being Pagan only adds to this responsibility,as I see my efforts as part of my worship.

Daniel

Chip's link answers the earlier question (which is more efficient at processing carbon: new forests or mature forests? and the answer here is that new forests convert more) and suggests that we look at trees and forests differently. Use tree byproducts as replacements for petroleum in plastics. Use trees as carbon dioxide filters.

Here's the payoff graph:

” For trees to be truly effective at removing carbon dioxide, they will need to be cut down on a regular basis and their carbon content converted into products. This means cutting down some of the most majestic stands of old-growth timber, because these trees are less efficient at removing carbon dioxide than younger trees. As a result, Moore’s hardest task is changing public perception of forests, to see clear-cut lands not as ugly, but as a beautiful environmental solution. “The time scale of forest growth extends beyond the human lifetime,” says Moore. “That’s difficult to appreciate in a world of 30-second news clips.”

What the piece doesn't do is put this in context. How much of a reduction in carbon do you get from cutting down old-growth forests and replanting them? How significant is the contribution, given the cost? How does it compare to other options? Cost-benefit.

I did a little Googling and didn't get very far, and I've got to go wash dishes now, but at first blush I'd speculate that cutting climax forests as a way to fight global warming is a bad trade off. I believe, but cannot prove, that protecting biodiversity is in our long-term best-interest (lots of reasons, little time).

Clear cutting aside, reforestation of deforested ecosystems is something that really can't hurt us, and has tangible benefits. So yes, plant trees -- plant lots of trees. But I don't yet see evidence that would suggest that a pro-tree program would be more than a sidebar to a much larger carbon-reduction campaign.


chip

I did some further looking myself, and a lot of what I find is contradictory. It almost seems to be a "protect existing trees at all costs" rather than an effort to try to discern whether or not it is actually beneficial to grow trees for a certain time and cut them. Of course, you have to use the wood, but that's easily enough done. I think that there is some measure of dishonesty on both sides of the debate.

I also am not advocating the massive clear cutting of forests, but I think it's reasonable to responsibly manage forests to increase the production of wood products. It's not hard to see the benefits of using forests, if you live in the lowcountry. We have beautiful clear blue skies despite moderately high traffic levels and 2 coal fired power plants within 70 miles of Charleston. I've tried to find some reference to atmospheric CO2 levels in Charleston, but have so far been unable to do so. Any idea where I can get such info?

Hue

Re: atmospheric CO2 levels in Charleston.

Clear blue skies and emissions aren't related. Greenhouse gases aren't in a bubble over your community. The emissions of those 2 coal plants don't hang or stay isolated in the atmosphere above the Charleston area.

Everyone in Charleston can use solar power, stop driving cars and plant trees, but that wouldn't put a dent in global warming because of cars in Atlanta, coal plants in China etc. Of course, Charleston and any other community can limit its contribution.

Pam

Can I be allowed a lengthy geek moment? On Friday I grabbed from my office some papers I had on CO2 and impacts on trees/forests - and I thought I'd share these random thoughts with everyone. I think the conclusion is that when we talk about trees and CO2 that we have to consider alot of different factors. The data that's being generated is pretty interesting. This is long (my apologies to Xark - I'll try to be briefer in the future!). A few things to think about...

There are a number of studies being conducted on how elevated CO2 concentrations will impact tree growth. The general sense that I get from the peer-reviewed literature is that planting trees – and reforestation in general – is not being considered as a stand-alone solution to CO2 storage. What studies seem focused on is how enhanced CO2 will influence tree (e.g., forest) growth rates. Of course, one obvious focus is on how CO2 levels and climate change will impact the tropical rainforests (where about half of the planet’s biological carbon hangs out) - rising atmospheric CO2 could enhance forest productivity (I’ll get to this in a minute) but then increased temperatures and drought are predicted to diminish it. Results aren’t that clear right now: some studies point to enhanced carbon uptake (although these studies are currently being debated) while other field observations suggest decreased forest productivity and increased tree mortality due to increased temperatures and drought (strong El Nino episodes). There are predictions that we’ll get more precipitation in the northern latitudes, and that we’ll get drier in the tropics. That wouldn’t help the rainforests (as they exist today).

Theme No. 1: Trees will react differently to elevated CO2 levels. Classical theoretical approaches of assessing CO2 impacts assumed a uniform stimulation of photosynthesis and growth across taxa with a net uptake of CO2 - however these theoretical approaches sometime exceed what’s required to balance the global C cycle. This is probably because of differential responses of taxa or plant functional types. One author argues that CO2 enrichment may cause forests to have faster tree turnover rates resulting in a stimulatory effect of elevated CO2 on photosynthesis and growth into a long-term net biomass C loss by favoring shorter-lived trees with lower wood densities.

Theme No. 2: This isn’t just a discussion about tree growth – we have to consider biochemical changes that result from enhanced growth. Some scientists feel that certain trees “acclimate” to increased CO2 levels (down-regulate their photosynthetic machinery after time) while others don’t. For example, in one study I read, poplar trees were shown to increase their leaf photosynthetic rates when grown under long-term elevated CO2 – in these trees, no increase in the levels of soluble carbohydrates was observed, however, substantial increases in starch levels were observed in the mature leaves even though no changes in the expression of photosynthetic Calvin cycle proteins, or in the starch biosynthetic enzyme ADP-glucose pyrophosphorylase, were observed. This suggested that no long-term photosynthetic acclimation to CO2 occurred in these trees - thus poplar trees are able to avoid long-term down-regulation of photosynthesis through a high capacity for starch synthesis and carbon export. So, poplars are more suited to the elevated CO2 conditions we might see in the middle of this century and would be suited for planting for the long-term carbon sequestration into wood (but isn’t poplar low density wood?). Trees that down-regulate their photosynthetic apparatus wouldn’t do so well.

Theme 3: It’s not just about CO2. You’ve got to remember that trees need other nutrients and lots of water in order to keep up with the enhanced growth rates. There’s theories floating around out there – one being ‘The Progressive Nitrogen Limitation’ (or PNL) hypothesis. PNL suggests that CO2-enriched ecosystems will sequester C and N in long-lived biomass and soil organic matter limiting available N and limit the response of to elevated CO2. In a study with sweetgum, scientists look at N dynamics over a 6-yr period while the trees were exposed to elevated CO2 in the free-air CO2 enrichment (FACE) experiment at Oak Ridge, Tennessee. They observed that the total N requirement of the trees was higher in elevated CO2, and the increased N need was met through an increase in N uptake rather than increased retranslocation of stored N reserves - increased N uptake was correlated with increased tree growth. However, the overall N-use efficiency did not change with CO2 enrichment because increased N productivity was offset by lower mean residence time of N in the trees. There was no evidence of PNL during this 6-year study, but this is most likely because the Oak Ridge soils have sufficient N to meet the demand for available N – this may not always be the case (and PNL has been observed with other tree species) – plus, other essential nutrients may become limiting over time as well.

Theme 4: Better ways to measure CO2 effects on trees are needed. Most of the earlier studies (and many still today) are conducted in chambers – so only younger/smaller trees are studied and there can be a “chamber effect” – experimental artifacts due more to being in a chamber than elevated CO2. One of the most interesting articles I read was a 2005 Science article (309: 1360) that used the FACE approach (that I mentioned above in the poplar study). Using free air CO2 release in combination with a canopy crane, they studied 32-35 meter deciduous trees in a mature forest in Switzerland (the photo looking up through the canopy at the crane was amazing) – they observed an immediate and sustained enhancement of carbon flux through the trees when exposed to elevated CO2 but there was no overall stimulation in stem and leaf litter production after 4 years. Other observations: photosynthetic capacity did not decline, leaf chemistry changes were minor, tree species differed in their responses, and trees did not accumulate more biomass carbon in stems in response to elevated CO2. These observations challenge many studies that used smaller trees or chamber methodologies – we need better methods, and we need to better understand how our methods bias the data.

Bottomline: As always, there are a lot of factors to consider: temperature, precipitation, solar radiation, climatic extremes, atmospheric CO2 concentrations, nutrient deposition, O-3/acid depositions, soil fertility, not to mention land-use change, etc. Each tree species may react differently in space and time to these environmental parameters. The carbon cycle is linked to other cycles, particularly N – we can't consider just one parameter alone.

Pam

Oh - one other thing I wanted to throw out there. I saw a short 2005 Nature editorial (437:295) about the need for a way to more effectively coordinate responses to environmental challenges on a global level. They mentioned the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) - an office set up in 1972 that few know about I think. In the article it states that they have a professional staff of ~450 people and an annual budget of $60 million -- recently they've focused mostly on transgenic plants and the transportation of biological speciments - but there are obviously other issues needing considering attention. It's not a fully fledged UN agency - it's just a 'programme' funded on a voluntary basis. But it status undermines it's job, which the article states is "to set and monitor standards for environmental protection and sustainable development around the world, in collaboration with local governments, scientists, non-governmental organizations and other interested parties." I'd like to know more about this 'programme' - and ultimately won't we need a global organizational framework to coordinate climate change response? As the article also states "UNEP's problem is that it lacks the power to enforce the growing number of binding environmental deals between nations." I know next to nothing about this group, and I've been in environmental sciences for awhile now. Are any of you guys familiar with them?

Agricola

The scientfic processes mentioned earlier are too arcane and technical for an old history major like me. What seems to be a common thread, however, is the need for a national fiscal policy that encourages a "greening" in our economy. Tax credits for paving using new technologies that allow permeation of precipitation (like that alliteration), encouraging economies of scale in solar power generation through tax credits for manufacturers and customers, getting our automobiles off gasoline and onto battery power, with recharging at home with either solar or electical (via nuclear plants), all are but a few examples of what can be done. As a teenager, not that long ago, really, we had an attic fan in our house that kept us cool for all but the hottest nights. Do they still make attic fans? New construction houses are sealed tighter than Tutankhamen's tomb, with nary a screen porch in sight. Again, in a culture that worships the dollar (that's good) nothing succeeds like economic incentive. If our national, state, and local leaders can make it worth our time, people will act. If this country can show (and learn from) the rest of the world that economic incentives work, then the message will be spread. The great unknown, to me, is the elasticity of luxury versus financial incentive.

chip

Hue, of course there are local fluctuations in CO2 levels, not some 'global average.' Eventually, this will all even out with no addition and subtractions, but we know that's not true. That's why I wonder what it is over Charleston, just out of curiousity.

More later on 'fiscal policy' as a solution. For now, I'll say I'm against it.

Hue

Chip, it's a global amount, not average.

If you idle your car in your garage, do the emissions stay in your garage? for how long? is that your understand of chemistry and science?

Do you think Greenland's glaciers are melting because the CO2 emissions from coal plants and cars in Greenland?

chip

It's not a global amount. It's stated in Parts Per Million. And the numbers I've seen used are for an observatory at Mauna Loa, Hawaii. I want to see the numbers for Charleston, that's all. Don't be silly by trying to pretend that there can't possibly be local fluctuations. I'm willing to bet that the numbers are different. I'm willing to bet that they are high as hell for LA, for Houston, for New York and Boston, and I bet they're not that bad here. I want to see numbers. Either you prove that every part of the world is 380 parts per million carbon dioxide in the immediate atmosphere, exactly, or drop it, because you don't know what you're talking about. Can anybody produce numbers?

I'm not denying that this is a global issue. I'm was pointing out that Charleston is an area with high traffic, a good amount of industry, and relatively clear skies, which I suggest is due to TREES, specifically the pine trees that Mead Westvaco both grows regularly and cuts regularly to make wood products and paper. I was ASKING if this might lead to lower CO2 levels in Charleston. If you would rather try to make me look like a fool instead of providing the information I ASKED for, you picked the wrong guy. And you've proved yourself to be a typical liberal, who'd rather squash debate than engage in it. You're not worth my time, if that's your game.

Hue

Ok dip, bring politics into this. I'm really, really refraining from calling you names.

I'm merely pointing out that you fundamentally don't understand greenhouse gases and climate change.

Parts per million is measured for the entire Earth's atmosphere. The CO2 level isn't going to be different over Charleston or New York or Beijing because the way C02 disburses.

The concentrations you've seen used isn't a number of Manua Lua. It's for the entire earth.

When scientists use ice cores to determine CO2 level from 2,000 years ago, or 4,000 years ago, that's a global number. That's not a 270 parts per million for just the Artic.

There are studies under way to determine the amount of emissions in certain local areas that contribute to the global total. Local emissions doesn't stay local.

Trees in Charleston probably does effect CO2, but not in a meaningful, measurable way for just the Charleston area.

You are asking the wrong, uninformed questions.

Hue

Mauna Loa is used as a benchmark because of the good mix.

The thin Pacific air is ideal for this research since it is "well-mixed," meaning that there is no obvious nearby source of pollution, such as a heavy industry, or a natural "sink", such as forest which would absorb CO2.

For that reason the data from Mauna Loa has come to be seen as the benchmark by which atmospheric data is judged.

But I'm sure scientists verify Mauna Loa's data versus those collected at other laboratories.

So whether Westvaco trees reduce CO2 is unknown, and likely very limited. (Maybe Pam can answer this.) Or whether that anyone cares to measure the exact CO2 level in Charleston.

But scientists agree that the sink effect of forests is very limited.

To reduce U.S. carbon emissions by 7%, as stipulated in the Kyoto Protocol, would require the planting of "an area the size of Texas every 30 years", according to William H. Schlesinger, dean of the Nicholas School of the environment and earth sciences at Duke University, in Durham, N.C.
Agricola

Okay, everybody, settle down. Let's keep the spirit of the post alive, and not take things personally. To reinforce my earlier thoughts about driving conservation/technology through economic incentives, I provide this link to an article in the Washington Post.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/04/AR2006070400789.html?sub=AR

Like Xark says, we got a problem. What are we going to do about it?

tinyurl

your WaPo link is broken, because it doesn't rap on typepad.
tinyurl.com converts long links to small ones.

http://tinyurl.com/rqqk6

Daniel

It looks like the URL Agricola gave us got cut off. Was this the article to which you were referring?

BTW, yesterday Janet and I went to see An Inconvenient Truth. It's basically Gore's famous slideshow, intercut with other stuff to make it a movie. And the slide show is good, in part because it isn't a slide show per se: It's a Powerpoint, with animations. And an animated graphic on dynamic systems is often much easier to understand than comparing separate static charts.

For instance, I've been writing about and talking about "the great ocean conveyor" for about two years now, but I'd really been thinking about the Gulf Stream. Gore's graphic was animated, and for the first time I really "got" how the major ocean currents are interconnected.

Also, we've been talking here about how there's a natural climate "background" that features cycles and ranges of variability and we've been trying to make the point to people for a long time about how human-caused warming takes place on top of that background. I seldom get the impression that I've convinced anyone. Then here comes Gore, and he's got graphics that show the natural range of CO2 variability and temperature estimates, and then he adds in the recent stuff. Then you "see." This is why Mann's "hockey stick" gets so much grief -- because opponents understand that pictures are far more powerful than words.

Thing is, Gore just keeps the graphs coming, and they all have the same shape. It's not just Mann's graph that hockey-sticks: Every measure (various ice cores, various time depths, CO2, oxygen isotopes, etc.) shows the same pattern. I think I've seen most of these before, or read about the data, but to see them stacked up, one after another, pattern after pattern all showing the same ups and downs, is a highly convincing experience.

Gore's point at the end (and he chides pessimists like me, by the way) is that "political will is a renewable resource." I'd really like to believe that, but I'm going to require a hope transfusion. So I'm got to try to get one. Maybe one of the things we can do is to buck up.

Daniel

And I'll say this, too: One of the things the blogosphere really needs is a great clearing house of scientific climate data that parses bits of the big picture down to individual pieces. Because if we had that, then we'd be able to find stuff quickly and link to it.

There's a lot of data out there, which is good, but it creates such informational background noise that finding the one thing you need to advance a conversation or respond to a question that much more difficult again. That's bad. Because regular people need access to this information in ways they can use.

Every graphic from Gore's slide show ought to have a damn URL, with extensive citations linked off of it.

I'm not a "blog triumphalist," but I do think that the last hold-outs of skepticism will take place in the blogosphere, and that the conversations we have online will wind up going a long way toward shaping public attitudes.

Agricola

Let's try this again. Have now been educated on Tiny URL, I think.

http://tinyurl.com/g93zr

Got it in Mozilla, no luck yet in IE.

Agricola

Thanks Dan and TinyURL, but neither of your links was the article I was referring to. My previous comment using tinyurl links to the Samuelson column in today's Washington Post. Thanks to both of you for your help. How long does TinyURL hold the link?

Hue

Anna Haynes on a previous pointed me to tinyurl. The site says it never expires.

Samuelson's article is exactly why I'm pessimistic, because from a capital markets point of view, fossil fuels are very cost effective (if you don't consider the effect on the climate) and there is still a lot of money to be made on it. Maybe the only way we will explore alternative energy is when oil prices goes up so high that the markets will force us to. Like we can't afford to drive with gas is $5 or more per gallon. Adding a gasoline tax now and using the proceeds to fund research would make sense, but politically unfeasible.

There is a line from Syriana where an oil exec (Killeen) is happy to have kept oil from the Chinese and stalling their economic growth. I know Syriana is fiction, but that's a good point.

Anna Haynes

Agree with Dan, the An Inconvenient Truth website is horribly frustrating. It's "here's what you can do", it's "tell your friends to see the film", it's "discuss amongst yourselves" - but NOWHERE on the site do I see any indication that they're aware that WE might have something of value to tell THEM.

So Daniel's (and my) "link to the charts and data dammit" will likely go unheard.

(and is the site usable with a text browser? I don't think so.)

and WTF is with the all the "take action X and save quantity Y" items, when quantity Y isn't _ever_ put into context?

These are minor criticisms compared with the missing graphs/data though - it's almost as though they'd rather leave people ignorant if it means they can sell a few more movie tickets.
Come on guys, how about walking the walk?

and I also agree with Daniel's
"to see them stacked up, one after another, pattern after pattern all showing the same ups and downs, is a highly convincing experience."

Anna Haynes

In case others are confused by the above linkage confusion:

Agricola's tinyurl link to this article:
The Real Inconvenient Truth
By Robert Samuelson
July 05, 2006
" [conclusion:]
Only an aggressive research and development program might find ways of breaking our dependence on fossil fuels or dealing with it.

The trouble with the global warming debate is that it has become a moral crusade when it's really an engineering problem. The inconvenient truth is that if we don't solve the engineering problem, we're helpless."

Anna Haynes

Without "genuine leadership", we're helpless.

How do we ensure that everyone in a position of political power sees this film?

Or, barring that, lay the groundwork for accountability - we should know which leaders don't think it's important to see it, so as to have a record for the future.

Open Source journalism, anyone?
:-)

Anna Haynes

more from me.

I recognized a lot of quotes in the film, but one they didn't use was Wallace Broeker's
"the climate system is an angry beast, and we are poking it with sticks"

nor "Wile E. Coyote moment", aka coyotus interruptus

My "what to do" suggestions:

Community cohesion.

More information, enabling less duplication/waste, courtesy of BlockRockr (like a hyper-hyper-hyper-local Craigslist; ftr I haven't used it yet) or equivalent.

A 2-location BlockRockr, for ride sharing.
(why doesn't the Inconvenient Truth site use their resources to enable stuff like this?) - when you think of how many car trips could e avoided if we had 'perfect knowledge' of whoever else was headed the same place at same time...

Just finished reading Bruce Sterling's "A Good Old-Fashioned Future" - the first story's set in a future where positive externalities are de-externalized (i.e. karma becomes real, altruism gets rewarded) - it makes for a much smoother-running world. (and with more info, e.g. cellphone-based ridesharing/hitchhiking, we can get some of those benefits.)

BTW, who knows about economics of light rail?
(and wouldn't it be great if the Inconvenient Truth blog had a post per topic like this (e.g. a "bringing Light Rail to your community" post), so that people who did have expertise or interest could aggregate and cross-fertilize there? instead of self-promotional posts like "we're having a free screening here", "we've added an extra show there" - ARGHHH )

Anna Haynes

I swear this is my last comment.

Buttons. They should be handing out "You need to see this movie" buttons as you're leaving the theatre, that you can wear for as long as it's showing, to facilitate word-of-mouth tranmission.

Daniel

re: An Inconvenient Truth.

Over at Pam's blog, blogger TJ left this comment:

"I won't see the movie because he admitted that they fudged on the material. That angers me. In the same way that I won't read an Ann Coulter book I refuse to watch anything associated with Gore especially since he proclaimed that fudging facts to get a message out is entirely fine with him. That's an abomination."

Pam asked him where he got that, and TJ responded with this:

"'In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don't think there's a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous (global warming) is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are, and how hopeful it is that we are going to solve this crisis.' -- Al Gore"

And the first thing you have to say is: If that's true, then those of us who are trying to make the case for rational action need to find out about it and clarify things.

But the second thing you have to say, at some point, is this: False equivalency sucks. It's a weapon of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It's a standard rhetorical tactic for dismissing anything you don't want to hear.

What, specifically, is Gore talking about here? What has he allegedly fudged? I don't know, but now I have to find out. And when we find out, we'll talk about it and determine whether or not it's a Coulteresque distortion.

I'm sensitive to this stuff. One of the things we absolutely must do if we ever hope to solve problems of this scope is evolve our way past the politics and rhetoric of personal destruction.

Pam

Daniel - I agree. I saw the movie on Monday. I thought it was okay - and I'd love his graphics person(s) to help me with my next talk...but I was frustrated a little. If I had to guess what the "misrepresentation" was - in was in the axises. Many of his graphs were simplified for effect - and the x and y axises were no given (which clutters up the space). To scientists (and to everyone) - these numbers are important and we should care about what they are. So some of the relationships could have been graphically over (or under) emphasized for effect. I found myself constantly wanting to see the numbers on these axises - any time I listen to a scientific presentation and data is presented - it's the first thing that I look at. Gore showed general relationships - but one would not be able to put these relationships into easy perspective (other than twice as much, etc). My other comment is that although I voted for Gore, I don't think that the negative jabs were necessary. If my Father went to the movie, he would have been turned off by these comments and would have paid less attention to the message - we need to communicate the message in a more neutral way. In a conversation with TJ - who should give this talk? Gore politicized a topic that I know is political but that really shouldn't be. The arguments - the science - needs to be non-political. (I know, I'm being naive). I would like to think that it should be a scientist, but I'm not sure how many folks would pay $7.25 to hear us talk (and not to pounce on Ad - but he then might consider it "too arcane and technical" instead of digging in and trying to understand). I don't think it should be someone in the entertainment industry. Maybe it should be just a person. My brother, the waitperson at Moe's.

I'm sensitive to this stuff too, really sensitive, and we SHOULD ALL be sensitive to this stuff. We need to move past it. I hadn't heard that quote before TJ brought it to my attention. It made me groan.

Pam

Daniel - I googled the quote and found it here:

http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/05/09/roberts/

Hue

Good gawd, TJ sounds like he's parsing Gore's words because he doesn't want to believe it or see the movie.

Here is actual interview with that quote. You can interpret over-representation as a full court press, blasting everyone with the facts.

Or in Samuelson's story, Agricola linked to earlier:

Having postulated a crash energy diet, the IEA simulates five scenarios with differing rates of technological change. In each, greenhouse emissions in 2050 are higher than today. The increases vary from 6 percent to 27 percent.

Over-representation could mean picking 27%, the high end of the range.

Over-representation, according to dictionary.com. Do you see that as the definition of fudging?

Comparing Gore to Coulter, well that tells you everything.

re: links to graph
One step at time. Laurie David convinced Gore to make a movie out of speeches and PowerPoint presentations he's made for years. The movie would reach a wider audience.

As far as blogs, and the people former known as the audience, I believe that is still out of the mainstream. Most people get their news from TV. The blogosphere doesn't need to be convinced (though a good place to link to original sources). An Inconvient Truth is for those people out there who don't read newspapers or newsblogs. I don't know how good the blogosphere is for debate. People tend to go sites that reinforce their pre-existing views and it only is intensified by the echo chamber effect.

Hue

See, because of TJ and attacks on fudging, Pam changed over-representation to misrepresentation.

chip
Parts per million is measured for the entire Earth's atmosphere. The CO2 level isn't going to be different over Charleston or New York or Beijing because the way C02 disburses.
I HOPE you don't actually believe that. And everybody who read it and didn't correct him on it should be ashamed of yourselves.

Measuring CO2 levels involves taking a sample. Then you measure the amount of carbon dioxide in that sample. The samples are taken at Mauna Loa, Hawaii, like I said before.

If you don't believe that carbon dioxide levels can fluctuate everywhere, then I want you do do something that even your seemingly feeble mind can understand. Go outside, look up at the sky, and notice whether or not there are any clouds in the sky. Now, think about whether it's at all possible that those same clouds, which are composed of molecules of water, are the same ones as everywhere else in the world. Before you object, and say that water isn't carbon dioxide, I'll agree that you're right. Water isn't carbon dioxide. But I'm not trying to prove that water is carbon dioxide, only that you can have local fluctuations in atmospheric makeup. Which I've done.

When scientists measure ice cores from how ever many years ago, they aren't measuring a global total. The only thing that these ice cores can tell us is the makeup of the air in the bubbles found in the ice cores, which is presumably representative of air content at the site of the ice core. Attempting to say otherwise is dishonest. Sure the numbers may be close, or the same, or far apart, but we only have data for the bubbles found inside the ice core. They can only tell us about the location of the ice core.

I thought of another good example, too, while I was sitting here. What about air in a cave, that gets stale because of differences in the density of gases? Shouldn't these gases ignore the laws of chemistry and intermingle in perfect proportion with the atmosphere?

And, don't call me dip again. You are a liberal. I wasn't labeling you, you chose your philosophy. And you're behaving in typical fashion, trying to make me look bad. You're not helping your case.

Hue

Here are thoughts on over-representation from a conversative blog, Volokh Conspiracy.

This fudging charge smells the same as the claims of Gore inventing the Internet.

Anna Haynes

re Daniel's
> "False equivalency sucks. It's a weapon of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt). It's a standard rhetorical tactic for dismissing anything you don't want to hear."

is it?
I'd just assumed that it came from difficulties in reasoning quantitatively, from having been issued el cheapo "black-and-white" epistemological goggles.

I'd never considered that it might have a "voluntary" component.
(which of course would likely be wholly unconscious)

How would you test this? we'd need a measurement by which the 'rights' score, say, 3x 'better' than the 'lefts'. (someone please think one up)

related (on using observed behavior as window into psyche) : Paul Graham on what Iraq can teach us about the '60s.
:-(

Hue

Chip, if you read post on Mauna Loa, below the one you cited, I agreed that CO2 levels can be different in various, but not meaningful. And other people here have pointed out that forests and trees aren't going to be a meaningful CO2 sink anywhere, much less Charleston. Climate scientists also have considered that aspect.

But I'm done with the trees topic. I'll concede.

Pam

Hue:

"See, because of TJ and attacks on fudging, Pam changed over-representation to misrepresentation."

Please don't think this is anything more than a typo after a really crazy busy day. Plus, we can debate the semantics of 'mis-representation' vs 'over-representation' and I'm not sure that I would (as a scientist) be particularly happy with either.

Anna Haynes

and I want to preemptively point out that I made a rather obnoxious (and now regretted) remark in my previous comment.
I hope we will all be polite and overlook it.

Hue

Pam, I just meant perception is reality. False charges do stick.

I think Gore chose a poor choice of words. But we're all free to interpret over-representation.

Pam

Do you feel that over-representation is acceptable in this case?

Pam

(Sorry - I posted this in the wrong place the first time around. I told you it had been a crazy day!)

The following is definitely worth reading. If you can't download the pdf (this is just a link to the abstract), let me know and I'll email you the pdf. It's old now (2004) but solid.

http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/305/5686/968

chip

Even I, the token wingnut, will give AlGORE the benefit of the doubt.

Hue

No, because I don't interpret over-representation to mean exaggeration.

Read the comments on that Volokh link at 19:08

Chip has me saying all clouds are the same. That's not an argument I made or would make.

If I'm wrong about CO2 levels in Charleston, not meaningfully different than Gary, Ind. Then I'll stand corrected.

Pam

I think Chip is correct - CO2 levels are taken of samples - so from different samples can have different readings. Just like carbon monoxide in cities vs rural settings, etc. I'll try to find some more out when I have some time.

Hue

But isn't the benchmark level, such as Mauna Loa, will use to represent the entire atmosphere.

The differences aren't going to be 378 parts per million versus 358 parts per million from one place to another?

Agricola

Donald Sensing, over at windsofchange.net, retrieves an old post by Steven Den Beneste that attempted to address the same questions that Xark has presented to this blog. Using Samuelson's column in today's Washington Post as a starting point, Sensing lets Den Beneste use his engineering background to develop the challenges that our world faces if it is to overcome the catastrophic effect of unstoppable global warming, at least that portion of it resulting from CO2 emissions.

I hope the link works:

http://tinyurl.com/htjpf

Also pay close attention to the comments.

Hue

Do you feel that over-representation is acceptable in this case?
Yes because I don't think Gore meant exaggeration.

I hit the post button way too fast. And commenting while multitasking.

Good link to Sensing, Agricola.

Anna Haynes

Some additional context for the casual comment-reader:

Pam's " definitely worth reading" sciencemag link above goes to the abstract for:
Stabilization Wedges: Solving the Climate Problem for the Next 50 Years with Current Technologies
S. Pacala and R. Socolow
Science 13 August 2004:
Vol. 305. no. 5686, pp. 968 - 972
("Humanity already possesses the fundamental scientific, technical, and industrial know-how to solve the carbon and climate problem for the next half-century. A portfolio of technologies now exists to meet the world's energy needs over the next 50 years and limit atmospheric CO2 to a trajectory that avoids a doubling of the preindustrial concentration....")

And Agricola's tinyurl goes to The wrong size glass by Donald Sensing at July 5, 2006 05:10 PM
("What most people don't understand is how unbelievably enormous the engineering problem is...")

and do I have anything useful and substantive to say about these?
no.

Hue

Here is everything you want to know about how carbon dioxide data is collected and analyzed at Mauna Loa, and the history of the lab and Co2 measurements.

Meanwhile, CO2 monitoring had just begun in Scandinavia under the general direction of Kurt Buch of Finland. The Scandinavian data (Fig. 1) resembled past work, with greatly varying CO2 concentrations - even though special care was being taken to sample in open areas away from local influences (Fonselius et al., 1955). My daytime CO2 results were close to the Scandinavian means, but the variability was far less - even though I had taken special care to sample in densely vegetated areas where local influences would predominate. Specifically, I had found that everywhere I went the air a few tens of meters from the plants on sunny days tended to reach a nearly constant CO2 level of about 315 ppm (Keeling, 1958). In an attempt to understand why, I took measurements in some exposed windy areas away from plants: at high elevation in the White Mountains (Fig. 2) and Sierra Nevada of California, on ocean beaches, and over ocean water near the equator (Keeling, 1961). All these data were also near 315 ppm. I concluded that the CO2 in air had a characteristic background concentration, at least near the west coast of the United States and Central America where I had sampled. Evidently, on sunny days this background level prevailed even near plants. ...
Gradually a regular seasonal pattern began to emerge: we were witnessing for the first time nature's borrowing of CO2 for plant growth during the summer and returning the loan each succeeding winter. ... The maximum at Mauna Loa occurred in May just before temperate and boreal plants add new leaves. The seasonal pattern was highly regular and almost exactly repeated itself during the second year of measurements at Mauna Loa.

Trends at Antartica

Trends at Lampedusa Island, Italy

Trends at Mauna Lua

Badger

I didn't see if anyone had posted this already, but the BBC convened a "panel of experts" (?) to discuss the climate change issue. They found that climate change is inevitable and will likely be severe, but may not be the catastrophic mess it's been made out to be.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/5150816.stm

Just in case anyone was interested. :-D

Hue

That would depend on your definition of catastrophic mess:

An expert panel convened by BBC News has concluded that climate change is "real and dangerous".

Temperatures are likely to rise by 3C to 5C by the end of the century, with impacts likely to be "severe" but not "catastrophic", the panel said.

It also concluded that politicians are unlikely to cut emissions sufficiently to prevent dangerous global heating.

The panel's discussions were based on themes set by Professor James Lovelock in his latest book The Revenge of Gaia.

The book argues that human society, through greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of environmental degradation, has brought the natural world to the brink of a crisis.

Temperatures will rise, Professor Lovelock warns, reliable supplies of water will be disrupted, life in the oceans will be compromised, food production will decline, and there will be mass migrations to areas of the planet's surface which remain habitable.

3C to 5C is 5.4 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit.
If it's inevitable and severe, your grandchildren will either have to leave Charleston or expect a large crowd in the neighborhood.

Badger

BACK SIMBA! *whipcrack* BACK IN YOUR CAGE!

You've got a good point about the impact of such climate change. I'd noticed the comment on the need for relocation but hadn't really thought about it until you put it in context for me.

However, concerning context ... The quote you used above wasn't actually taken from the panel's findings. The quote was from Prof. Lovelock's text, which was the supposedly "alarmist" publication that really got the BBC's panel of experts thinking.

Basically, the panel wasn't meeting to say, "Wow, this guy is right." They were meeting to determine whether he really was right or not, and if so, to what extent he was right.

The bolded text is interesting, but it's only the theory of one man, albeit one very well-known and respected thinker. Still, it holds more of a possibility for bias than the report of an entire panel.

Hue

You noticed that I said IF it's inevitable or severe.

I just took the top graphs of the story. Of course people should follow the link and read the whole thing. A later parapraph is this:

There was general agreement that Professor Lovelock had used rather severe projections of future climate change.

The crux of the debate is that a majority of scientists has determined the temperatures are rising due to CO2 emissions. But what will happen when it's warmer by 5 to 11 degrees (110 in the shade), they don't know for certain.

How do they predict the future? They use what they know about the present and the past to make projections. And they adjust their models as data change.

Some more over-representation I guess ;-0

chip

OK, that's what I was looking for. So the levels are fairly close for Antartica, Mauna Loa, and Italy. How about for landlocked areas, like maybe Kansas? Anybody got data for that? Once again, I'm being curious.

What about the possibility that eventually we reach an equilibrium? If the ice melts, then the water produced can be a sink for carbon dioxide, too. I think the fact that CO2 levels have increased as much as they have without major changes so far indicates that the situation isn't as dire as it's sometimes presented.

Just read the Sensing post. Interesting dilemma the world has, huh? If you can get past the Star Trek stuff, ben Deste is a pretty smart cat. Damn shame he's a wingnut, huh?

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