Global warming: New study challenges carbon benchmark

Sep 28, 2011
Picture of the rainforest on the Costa Rican Pacific coast in 2005. The ability of forests, plants and soil to suck carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air has been under-estimated, according to a study on Wednesday that challenges a benchmark for calculating the greenhouse-gas problem.

The ability of forests, plants and soil to suck carbon dioxide (CO2) from the air has been under-estimated, according to a study on Wednesday that challenges a benchmark for calculating the greenhouse-gas problem.

Like the sea, the land is a carbon "sink", or sponge, helping to absorb heat-trapping CO2 disgorged by the burning of fossil fuels.

A conventional estimate is that soil and vegetation take in roughly 120 billion tonnes, or gigatonnes, of carbon each year through the natural process of photosynthesis.

The new study, published in the science journal Nature, says the uptake could be 25-45 percent higher, to 150-175 gigatonnes per year.

But relatively little of this extra carbon is likely to be stored permanently in the plant, say the researchers. Instead, it is likely to re-enter the atmosphere through plant respiration.

This will be a disappointment for those looking for some good news in the fight against .

The more carbon is sequestered in the land, the less carbon enters the atmosphere, where it helps to trap heat from the Sun.

Lead researcher Lisa Welp, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in the University of California at San Diego, said figuring out the annual carbon uptake from the terrestrial biosphere had been one of the biggest problems in the emissions equation.

Scientists, though, were confident about current estimates for in land and this was unlikely to change much in the light of the new findings, she said.

"More CO2 is passing through plants (than thought), not that it actually stays there very long," she said in email exchange with AFP.

"The extra CO2 taken up as photosynthesis is most likely returned right back to the atmosphere via respiration."

The research looked at isotopes, or variations, in the oxygen component of CO2, using a databank of atmospheric sampling going back three decades.

These isotopes are a chemical tag, indicating the kind of water the molecule has come into contact with.

The researchers looked at isotopes whose concentrations are linked to rainfall.

They were struck by a clear association between these and El Nino, the weather cycle which occurs in pendulum swings every few years or so.

The implication from this is that is swiftly cycled through land ecosystems, the researchers suggest. From that assumption comes the far higher estimate of annual .

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User comments : 28

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Erscheinung
1.7 / 5 (18) Sep 28, 2011
Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat.

I was under the impression that since global temperature predictions were in the several tenths of one degree per century realm that everything was already understood with near perfect understanding,... now this? How is it possible that there is still more to learn about nature co2 cycles?
Skultch
3.5 / 5 (17) Sep 28, 2011
Dude, give it a rest. If you can't even understand the scientific method, what are you doing commenting on a science news website?

How do trolls justify the wasting of their own time? Go out! Try something new! Hook up with women! Have actual fun instead of picking fights online and raising your blood pressure needlessly. You'll thank me on your death bed.

Me? I'm slacking off at work. What's your excuse? Truth? Justice? Yeah, right. Like you are actually going to *DO* something about this.
Gammakozy
1.5 / 5 (19) Sep 28, 2011
"The extra CO2 taken up as photosynthesis is most likely returned right back to the atmosphere via respiration."

MOST LIKELY? You mean they are not sure?

Also - "More CO2 is passing through plants (than thought), not that it actually stays there very long," she said in email exchange with AFP.

THAN THOUGHT? Was it never measured before and they just "thought", or made up up a figure?

NOT THAT IT ACTUALLY STAYS THERE VERY LONG? Is she suggesting that photosynthesis stops once the plant releases the "extra CO2" via respiration. If the process is ongoing and plants release only the "extra CO2" then the net result should be a lowering of CO2 in the atmosphere, should it not?

This is typical of the way the man made global warming zealots try to downplay and fudge any finding that does not fit their template that it is settled science.

Shelgeyr
2.3 / 5 (10) Sep 28, 2011
The extra CO2 taken up as photosynthesis is most likely returned right back to the atmosphere via respiration.


Oh man, I'm going to have to break out and dust off my ancient references and refresh myself on the Krebs cycle, because that just doesn't sound right. Or Google/Wikipedia, I guess...

Any biologists out there care to do an old man a favor and clarify this particular point?
El_Nose
2.2 / 5 (6) Sep 28, 2011
i was wondering if this effect carbon dating -- isn't that based on how many isotopes are present in a sample -- if land is absorbing more CO2 than previously assumed how does that scew carbon dating -- my thoughts are that it would mean things are a little older than previously thought
Erscheinung
2.1 / 5 (18) Sep 28, 2011
Dude, give it a rest. If you can't even understand the scientific method, what are you doing commenting on a science news website?

How do trolls justify the wasting of their own time? Go out! Try something new! Hook up with women! Have actual fun instead of picking fights online and raising your blood pressure needlessly. You'll thank me on your death bed.


What makes you think I don't understand the scientific method? The scientific method involves developing models in order to make predictions AND verifying those predictions against observational fact. Perhaps climate scientists can predict before hand, the average global temperature for each of the next five decades with margin of error a reasonable small % of the temperature change?

Obviously it was sarcasm,.. just poking some fun at the climate change models that seem to be able to predict to ridiculous precision. Sounds like you want an argument.
Skultch
4.1 / 5 (14) Sep 28, 2011
Just because a prediction goes to a certain decimal point, doesn't mean that is also the margin of error. Your post also implies that you didn't know that we don't have "perfect understanding," nor does anyone claim it. That's hyperbole (since you claim to know) and it's 101 for people who attack the scientific method, undermining reason itself to further their extreme right wing and/or religious agenda.

Be careful with sarcasm on this site; too many cranks on here for it to be obvious.
Erscheinung
1.6 / 5 (14) Sep 28, 2011
Just because a prediction goes to a certain decimal point, doesn't mean that is also the margin of error.


If the models truly predict with the precision claimed they wouldn't have to rely on trends, which are known before hand.

Your post also implies that you didn't know that we don't have "perfect understanding," nor does anyone claim it.


Well, obviously I did know that otherwise I wouldn't have made that sarcastic post; i.e. Climate science is claiming more understanding than is reasonable given the nature of the subject.

Here is a quote from a recent article from PhysOrg;

"Wigley found that a 50 percent reduction in coal and a corresponding increase in natural gas use would lead to a slight increase in worldwide warming for the next 40 years of about 0.1 degree Fahrenheit."
mrmortgage
3.3 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2011
Attempting to do a carbon balance on mother earth is almost as meaningless as trying to do and energy balance on mother earth. There is no known experiment that i am aware that will allow us to determine if the earth is in Thermodynamic equilibrium, thus requiring only one temperature to be quoted in order to describe the state. Knowing where all the carbon is coming from (or going) is a daunting task so we should not put all our scientific eggs in the one computer modeling basket. We need DATA to observe.

hush1
2.1 / 5 (7) Sep 28, 2011
The key word is "would". Or 'could'. Or 'should'. Or 'might'. Or 'if'. Or 'but'. Or 'maybe' Or 'suggests' Or 'appears'.

Run away. From anyone using these words in their research work.
Unless they explicitly state all statements following those words are non factual.
Too few are aware of this English manko.
Skultch
3.3 / 5 (9) Sep 28, 2011
You apparently want a plus minus margin of error for every climate model publication's finding. In an *abstract*. Good luck with that.
Skultch
3.3 / 5 (9) Sep 28, 2011
If it's not hardcore fact, with several lines of direct evidence, then it's of no value whatsoever? How do you guys learn at school/work? You do know that no one sees any of these as absolute, permanent, proclamations, right? Oh, no. You don't. Cuz ur trolz. nvrmd

(not you hush, we cool)
jsdarkdestruction
1.8 / 5 (5) Sep 28, 2011
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hush1
1 / 5 (3) Sep 28, 2011
No worries, Skultch. Just trying to raise the bar or awareness of wording. Some are susceptible to this if not aware.
Jayded
4 / 5 (5) Sep 29, 2011
Ladies. Why draw such wide ranging conclusions? All that is being discussed here is the efficiency of the uptake mechanisms for carbon use in a plant. I would imagine it is fairly similar to humans, in that we breath more oxygen then our body effectively makes use of. It is not something that is previously measured as there is no net decrease in the amount of propagated CO12 carbon isotope. Thus the models for climate prediction whether right or wrong would not be influenced by the finding.
IMO long term climate models dont attempt accurate prediction, they rather create the framework in which more localised prediction can take place. There is no way that every weighted variable can be accounted for and as such you will find that around the world, work similar to this is being conducted to establish accuracy and weighting.
omatumr
1 / 5 (13) Sep 29, 2011
Say whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat. ... now this?


Truth is slipping out!

To address the global carbon issue, we must abandon lock-step, consensus belief in:

a.) The 1967 Bilderberg dogma that Earth's heat source is a homogeneous ball of hydrogen, in equilibrium, generating constant heat by H-fusion.

b.) Auto-centric, pseudo-"scientific" dogma that humans cause global climate change.

These two flaws are the roots of many of society's present ills [1,2].

1. "Political roadblocks to scientific progress" (1971-2011)

http://dl.dropbox...oots.pdf

2. "Video summary of research career" (1961- 2011)

http://dl.dropbox...reer.pdf

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Former NASA Principal
Investigator for Apollo
http://myprofile....anuelo09
Jayded
4 / 5 (4) Sep 29, 2011
Omatumr - .
Derick_Smith
1 / 5 (6) Oct 01, 2011
I doubt CO2 is our problem its a fraction less than 1% of the atmosphere. Your talking about 400 PPM. I believe our issue is a weakening Atmosphere that were destroying.
Callippo
1 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
We need to stop with fossil fuel burning ASAP not because of CO2 levels (which could be a consequence rather then reason of GW) - but because of geopolitical stability. The global nuclear war for fossil fuel sources will harm the civilization a much more, than any global warming. Even if we would stop usage of oil as a fuel, we will still need a huge amount of oil for plastic industry.

So what we urgently need is the implementation of cold fusion, which would replace the oil as a fuel in transportation and which will enable the economically viable capture of carbon from air. Global warming is IMO secondary problem - the real problems are droughts, which could be still of anthropogenic origin with compare to global warming itself. IMO they're resulting from sulphate aerosols, which are prohibiting the effective circulation of water in atmosphere.
vos
2 / 5 (4) Oct 02, 2011
I'm just plain totally barfing sick of the continued drumbeat of the warmies trying to explain away all of the endless failures of nature to follow their hyperventilating arm waving demands that we do what they tell us or we all boil in our own skins.

give it up warmies
deepsand
3 / 5 (14) Oct 02, 2011
And, they are equally "totally barfing sick of the continued drumbeat" of those who simply do not understand and accept the inescapable underlying Physics of radiative forcing, Physical Laws of Nature that are at work no matter the presence or absence of any models or projections.
Jayded
1 / 5 (3) Oct 03, 2011
vos and deepsand - i wonder if its even worth while to explain how utterly stupid comments like yours actually sound? Me thinks it must take vast quantities of energy to maintain a clearly losing position. Deepsand - no matter how intelligent you try to sound you will forever be underscored by the concept against which you are arguing. Good luck with that.
deepsand
3 / 5 (12) Oct 03, 2011
vos and deepsand - i wonder if its even worth while to explain how utterly stupid comments like yours actually sound? Me thinks it must take vast quantities of energy to maintain a clearly losing position. Deepsand - no matter how intelligent you try to sound you will forever be underscored by the concept against which you are arguing. Good luck with that.

Ad hominem. Good luck with that.
Jayded
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 04, 2011
Dude. Radiative forcing is not omitted in the calculation of climate triggers, everyone understands its role and it doesn't take some troll on a website to point it out. Its like taking something that you heard from someone else and dressing it up to make it sound like you have an argument. If you feel you have a good argument that thousands of scientists around the world missed out on, you should write a paper and submit it.
deepsand
3 / 5 (12) Oct 04, 2011
You'll find the dudes at the ranch down the road a bit.

As for radiative forcing, it had seemingly escaped your notice that there are very many who either deny its existence or greatly misunderstand it.

Are you one such?
jsdarkdestruction
3 / 5 (2) Oct 04, 2011
Oliver, do you not know of phase 2 of the plan? see kissinger and nixon knew about neutron repulsion and it being the main source of the suns power but chairman mao did not. as the world all followed their lead in the conspiracy they said it was to prevent nuclear war. however under the guise of that the united states had different reasons. as the climatoligists/scientists destroy our economy and power while funneling money to third world nations for supportung the scam the chinese will soon grow too strong and overpopulated for anyone but the us to even have a chance of stopping the chinese from taking over the world, at that moment neutron repulsion will be officially "discovered" and cheap easy neutron repulsion energy will be used both to power production of weapons and supplies and as weapons of mass destruction themselves in neutron repulsion bombs. saving the united states and allowing us to finally take over the whole world without looking like the bad guys.....
Jayded
1 / 5 (3) Oct 04, 2011
Its like little children.
Deepsand - if you have ever read the IPCC report or even taken the time to wikipedia radiative forcing you will note that it has been well covered by anyone claiming to know anything about climate change - Including the IPCC panel.
No logical reasoning person could doubt the basic mechanics of climate change. Its not some conspiracy, its scientific fact, its been happening since the earth was young. The debate as you call it is about the payload, not the mechanics. Come up with a good argument against climate change or global catastrophic climate change and I will tell youwhy you are wrong. Go on I challenge you.
deepsand
3.2 / 5 (11) Oct 05, 2011
Its like little children.
Deepsand - if you have ever read the IPCC report or even taken the time to wikipedia radiative forcing you will note that it has been well covered by anyone claiming to know anything about climate change - Including the IPCC panel.
No logical reasoning person could doubt the basic mechanics of climate change.

And, yet, they do!

Its not some conspiracy, its scientific fact, its been happening since the earth was young. The debate as you call it is about the payload, not the mechanics. Come up with a good argument against climate change or global catastrophic climate change and I will tell youwhy you are wrong. Go on I challenge you.

ROTFLMAO.

You may want to carefully re-read my 1st post in this thread, along with my many elsewhere on this forum, as you seem to have confused me with another.

Hint: I am NOT a "denialist."

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