Climate experts debate strategies for reducing atmospheric carbon and future warming

Nov 25, 2009 By Krishna Ramanujan
This graph, based on the comparison of atmospheric samples contained in ice cores and more recent direct measurements, shows atmospheric CO2 increases since the Industrial Revolution.

(PhysOrg.com) -- Reducing carbon dioxide to safe levels may require extracting carbon from the air, says Cornell climate researcher.

Even if the world's policymakers all agree to dramatically reduce atmospheric (CO2) emissions, and everything were in place by the middle of the century, the world still could not meet the goals of the climate change meetings in Copenhagen, Dec. 8-18, of reducing CO2 in the to 350 parts per million (ppm), say Cornell researchers.

If everyone were on board, maybe we could contain CO2 in the atmosphere to about 400 ppm by 2050, said Cornell climate expert Charles Greene, who has published numerous papers on climate change and global .

There is already too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the world is just too dependent on fossil fuels and such obstacles as the United States' poor climate record and skyrocketing emissions from India and China make lower levels unrealistic, he said.

David Wolfe, a Cornell ecologist who studies the potential impacts of climate change on plants, soils and ecosystems, agreed, adding that "the 550 target is more realistic, where we replace fossil fuels with alternative energies in a number of decades." Wolfe likens reducing CO2 levels to reversing the direction of a cruise ship. "At 3 degrees Celsius warming [roughly what 550 ppm of CO2 would yield], we would have some chance to adapt, but if we allow emissions and temperatures to go higher than this, the impacts could be catastrophic and beyond our capacity to adapt."

Most people do not find the 350 goal realistic, he said. Even if all were to stop today, the gas already in the atmosphere would stay there for another century or two, maintaining warmth. But activists need to set firm goals.

"It's the best political strategy," Wolfe said of the 350 ppm goal. "If we allow slack, it will never happen."

But Greene says that reaching 350 ppm is not a matter of choice but a necessity, requiring diverse strategies that go beyond simply reducing emissions.

Even 450 ppm is way beyond the safe levels, said Greene. "People are only talking about reducing emissions. I am arguing that we actually need to extract CO2 from the atmosphere." Such geo-engineering strategies would include biogeochemical and human engineered systems that sequester carbon directly from the air.

One reason that Greene says we cannot wait to reduce CO2 to 350 ppm is because new research predicts that the Earth system is on the threshold of exceeding several menacing, non-linear "tipping points" triggered by rising temperatures.

The European Union announced in 2005 that to avoid such dangerous climate impacts as melting glaciers and ice sheets, severe droughts and catastrophic sea level rise, Earth's average global temperatures must not increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. For example, Himalayan glaciers that feed the Indus, Ganges and Yellow rivers and provide water to more than a billion people are already rapidly melting. In simple analyses, atmospheric CO2 that is less than 450 ppm should yield a 2 degree Celsius increase; however, when feedback loops associated with aerosols and ocean warming are accounted for, such temperature increases may already be in the works, according to a 2008 report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Part of the problem are delayed effects that have already committed the planet to warming on the order of 2.4 degrees Celsius (4.3 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century, regardless of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from today's levels. For example, as the ocean warms, it stores the heat and very slowly releases it to the atmosphere, creating a lag time in temperature equilibrium between the atmosphere and the ocean. Furthermore, due the ocean's great mass and heat capacity, it will take 1,000 years to reverse this century's warming and gradually reduce the heat already building up in the ocean, said Greene. Also, as pollution abatement strategies kick in this century, aerosols that now cool the atmosphere will decline, adding to warmth.

But, Greene added, the goal of 350 ppm can be reached and a calamitous warming halted if governments finance geo-engineering strategies that pull CO2 from the air and store it in the Earth.

For example, Greene and others advocate research to try to scale up simple machines already devised that draw CO2 from the atmosphere and then find ways to pump the gas into underground geological formations.

Greene also advocates growing algae for biofuel; algae is 10 times more productive per hectare than current biofuel crops. Such bio-petroleum recycles CO2 from the air into algae and then into fuel, unlike that put carbon stored in the earth into the air. Then, he said, power plants running on such bio-petroleum could be outfitted with scrubbers to capture and sequester CO2 to help create a system that actually reduces fossil carbon in the atmosphere.

"I think there are some real solutions out there; we just need to think big," he said.

Provided by Cornell University (news : web)

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User comments : 26

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freethinking
3 / 5 (14) Nov 25, 2009
Garbage in, Garbage out. Everyone who researches now knows that AGW is a scam that the corrupt media ABC, NBC, CNN, will not report on.

http://blogs.tele...warming/

http://www.washin...cooling/

and has been discussed on Physorg forums

http://www.physor...129.html

Cutting greenhouse pollution is a lie as CO2 is not pollution no matter how many on the take scientists, governement officials, and Al Gore fans disagree.

Anyone who does environmental research should be demanding an investigation to verify or disprove Climategate as Climategate has discredited their research pure and simple.

AGW now stands as discredited as flatearthers or better yet darkage alchemists.
brianweymes
2.1 / 5 (11) Nov 25, 2009
you're posts verge on parody. Just remember to give Orwell the credit.

Instead of resorting to hysterics, show me the email that proves a scientist manipulated, forged, faked any data.
marjon
3 / 5 (12) Nov 25, 2009
"We note that there is no evidence that Dr.
Mann or any of the other authors in paleoclimatology studies have had significant
interactions with mainstream statisticians.
In our further exploration of the social network of authorships in temperature
reconstruction, we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of
coauthored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the
area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus �independent studies� may not
be as independent as they might appear on the surface.
"we judge that the sharing of research materials, data and results
was haphazardly and grudgingly done. In this case we judge that there was too much
reliance on peer review, which was not necessarily independent.
http://www.climat...port.pdf

With no independent peer review, they could make anything up, and did.
deatopmg
3 / 5 (10) Nov 25, 2009
The graph looks scary. It is supposed to in lieu of the now exposed altered data. This Cornell release is to daze and confuse to help us forget that the leading AGW scientists sic have just been caught diddling with climate data to make it fit with their political beliefs.
I've seen this graph before but it included the plot temperature at the time of snow deposit. The temperature rises preceded CO2 rises and the temps dropped before CO2 did.
Whatever was altering the sample temperatures in the past is still doing it and it's certainly not CO2.
GrayMouser
2.8 / 5 (9) Nov 26, 2009
Even more interesting is that the recent GRL paper by Lindzen and Choi (which I think is indirectly mentioned in the Climategate papers) indicates the amounts of IR leaving the Earth is far higher than CRU, GISS, etc. want to admit to.
http://www.drroys...2009.pdf
omatumr
3 / 5 (10) Nov 26, 2009
It now appears that there was at least purposeful deceit, probably outright fraud.

The entire scientific community will probably suffer the consequences.

Everyone watches the weather.

With kind regards,
Oliver K. Manuel
Parsec
2.2 / 5 (11) Nov 26, 2009
So let me get this straight, just so I understand it. All you guys that just KNOW that climate change is a scam believe that the hundreds of different reports of glacial retreats, sea ice retreats, ecosystem changes because the ranges of both plants and animals are shifting northward are making this stuff up?

We have thousands of scientists from all sorts of disciplines reporting all of these changes. The evidence is simply overwhelming. To believe that somehow a global conspiracy or scientific fraud is taking place here reaches beyond paranoid into down right stupidity.
RJB26
3.5 / 5 (8) Nov 26, 2009
1.Arctic polar ice is thickening.
2.we have been in a period of global cooling for 15 years.
3.co2 levels rise while temperature falls.

look these cycles come and go. people like parsec try to link all these phenomena to "climate change" but correlation is not causation. i think when climate change "scientists" in the US,UK,australia,new zealand and various other countries collude to manipulate data, deny other scientist the raw data to corroborate thier findings, ignore FOIA requests of taxpaying citizens and real scientists, cherry-pick data, and make up fantasy graphs then by definition i would call that a global conspiracy. so carry on with the ad hominems and muddying of the waters if you want but agw is in some serious trouble.
phlipper
4 / 5 (4) Nov 26, 2009
Nice scary graph from NOAA. Where are they hiding the data on that one? Did CRU, Jones, Biffra, et. al get their pencils anywhere near that ice core data?? I imagine the pencil "slipped" towards the end -- eh?
Parsec
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 26, 2009
RJB26 -
1. If Arctic ice is thickening, then why is the area covered by arctic ice each summer getting smaller?
2. The climate has been cooling for 15 years... care to substantiate that?
3. When have CO2 levels risen while the temperature falls?

It is definitely true that just because events are correlated in time does not require them to be casually related. However the enormous numbers of reports around the globe pointing to rising temperature's does tend to indicate that we are in a period of global warming.

I see a lot of rash statements by pseudo-scientific people such as yourself, but I have not read a single peer reviewed science based article that backs you up.

I would really like to see some sort of evidence that the first 3 points have any validity at all.
brianweymes
2.3 / 5 (6) Nov 26, 2009
I’ve yet to see a single email proving data forgery or fraud. How likely is it thousands of scientists working on the IPCC could be so fundamentally wrong four times now? These scientists are from over 130 countries, many with different interests. But let’s ask scientists directly:

In 2007, a Harris Interactive poll of about 500 scientists from the American Meteorological Society and American Geophysical Union found 97% agreed mean temperatures rose since the last century, with 84% believing it’s anthropogenic. http://www.usnews...ern.html

In 2009 in a poll of 10,000 Earth scientists, ~90% agreed that temperatures had risen since 1800 with ~80% believing that humans are a significant contributing factor. Among climatologists active in climate research, 96% of them believed the earth has warmed, with 97% believing humans are the cause.
http://tigger.uic...inal.pdf
marjon
3 / 5 (8) Nov 26, 2009
I�ve yet to see a single email proving data forgery or fraud. How likely is it thousands of scientists working on the IPCC could be so fundamentally wrong four times now? These scientists are from over 130 countries, many with different interests. But let�s ask scientists directly:

In 2007, a Harris Interactive poll of about 500 scientists from the American Meteorological Society and American Geophysical Union found 97% agreed mean temperatures rose since the last century, with 84% believing it�s anthropogenic. http://www.usnews...ern.html


Agreeing to observed data does not imply cause. That is where the debate begins.
Belief is not proof. That is what is supposed to distinguish science from religion.

The other tell-tale sign of intentional fraud on the part of some, like Gore, is their 'solution' demands increased government control and taxes.
marjon
3 / 5 (6) Nov 26, 2009
RJB26 -
1. If Arctic ice is thickening, then why is the area covered by arctic ice each summer getting smaller?
2. The climate has been cooling for 15 years... care to substantiate that?
3. When have CO2 levels risen while the temperature falls?

It is definitely true that just because events are correlated in time does not require them to be casually related. However the enormous numbers of reports around the globe pointing to rising temperature's does tend to indicate that we are in a period of global warming.

I see a lot of rash statements by pseudo-scientific people such as yourself, but I have not read a single peer reviewed science based article that backs you up.

I would really like to see some sort of evidence that the first 3 points have any validity at all.


Answer to question three: the past ten years.

The hottest recorded mean temperatures in the USA occurred in the mid 1930s, with less atm CO2 than now.
marjon
3.3 / 5 (7) Nov 26, 2009
How did Greenland get green 1000 years ago with less CO2 in the atm today?
Has anyone tried to correlated daily high and low temps in deserts with CO2 concentrations? 40 deg F daily temp swings can occur in a desert. Have such deltas decreased with increasing CO2? They should, right?
Has anyone noticed the error bars associated with all the computer model forcing functions? Most are so large that they could have no effect in a Monte Carlo run.
There are hundreds of such questions that should be answered before there is a 'rush to judgment'.
RJB26
4 / 5 (4) Nov 26, 2009
this consensus meme is getting old.(as if science were conducted via consensus). a lot of this public opinion is based on highly flawed ipcc data(http://www.rocket...eresting write-up which im sure many will discount because it wasnt commissioned by ipcc or CRU.) and beaten into the heads of people through a tame and supportive media that props these agw alarmists up every chance they get. heres some fraud for you. removing the period of medieval warming so thier graphs behave like they want them to. the question is not whether temps are cooler or warmer now than some other time period. they go up they go down, but whether or not we should cripple our economy and subject ourselves to the whims of some international governing body based on increasingly questionable data.
RJB26
not rated yet Nov 26, 2009
Caliban
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 28, 2009
"As if science were conducted via consensus" Your ignorance of how science is established is astonishing- and troubling. When the preponderance of research points to a certain outcome, that is generally the outcome or principle that becomes accepted by the scientific community at large. In the case of global warming, the vast majority of research supports the notion that extra heat is being added to the system. This is through the medium of the addition of Greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. the Earth's climate overall should be cooling, due to the eccentricity of earth's orbit, and the precession of the north pole. But the mean temperature has remained constant. Meanwhile, it is a FACT that glaciers and both polar ice caps are melting(including Greenland's), and possibly at an accelerating rate, and weather patterns worldwide are becoming increasingly erratic. These facts alone should, for any rational person, be cause for alarm. What I detect as a common denominator in
Caliban
1.6 / 5 (7) Nov 28, 2009
the comments of "debunkers" of global warming is an apparent attitude that they percieve a threat to their interests. The usual reasons seem to be that a.) proposed methods of combating GW in some way pose a threat to their livelihood(this usually goes unstated) or, b.) said methods will increase government intervention, especially in the economy. Both of these are legitimate fears.
Therefore, isn't it more important to consider how to better address the problem than to deny that it exists? Believe me, far more-VASTLY more- lives and livelihoods are at stake here than just your own.
Caliban
1 / 5 (4) Nov 28, 2009
(it appears that the edit function is not currently enabled)
Lastly: You don't have to agree with Al Gore's politics to purchase shares in his ventures, either. Just a thought.
superhuman
5 / 5 (3) Nov 29, 2009
Instead of resorting to hysterics, show me the email that proves a scientist manipulated, forged, faked any data.


Google for HARRY_READ_ME.txt which proves beyond reasonable doubt that climate models from CRU are bug ridden, undocumented, untested, and artificially manipulated mess - total garbage! Even people at CRU themselves cannot replicate their own past results!

This is of course the reason why they fought so desperately against attempts to have their data and code released for outside verification - even to the point of deleting data which is a subject to a FOI request which is illegal.
prattner
5 / 5 (3) Nov 30, 2009
The Harry Read Me file is the smoking gun here. The data is false or incomplete, and world changing decisions are being made based on this bogus data. This is a VERY serious scandal.

That does not mean that global warming is not happening, but it sure throws everything into doubt. The thing that astonishes me is that the main stream media is honest to goodness ignoring the story. I haven't seen a word on MSNBC or in AP. I hear the NYT is studiously ignoring it too.

That would be a scandal in its own right, but the internet has shown just how hopelessly politicized and biased those organizations really are.
daveib6
1 / 5 (4) Dec 01, 2009
For those of you contrarians out there, I urge you to read this with an open mind.
http://www.scient...20091130
Remember this: Stating that something is controvercial doesn't make it so. The evidence is overwhelming. Do we dare doubt it when inaction could lead to the colapse of our entire culture and eventual eradication of most species on this planet including our own? Come on people, this is much MUCH worse than Russian Rulette! It's Russian Rulette with a Gigaton Nuclear Bomb! We are at a nexus. We could choose for a utopian society, or no society at all. There's very little grey in the middle.
marjon
3 / 5 (4) Dec 01, 2009
The issue again is one of trust. I haven't trusted Scientific American for quite some time.
Science and Nature are in the bag as well.

Read Lindzen's column in the WSJ, if you dare:

http://online.wsj...400.html
Helio
not rated yet Dec 04, 2009
Garbage in, Garbage out. Everyone who researches now knows that AGW is a scam that the corrupt media ABC, NBC, CNN, will not report on.

blah blah blah...

That's not "free thinking". That is paranoid thinking. You are suggesting that a global conspiracy is preventing the revelation of a global conspiracy?
Helio
not rated yet Dec 04, 2009
http://www.rocket..._by.html

http://www.geocra...ges.html


RJB26, please refer to freethinking's quote "Garbage in, Garbage out."
And marjon's quote "With no independent peer review, they could make anything up, and did."
marjon
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 04, 2009
http://www.rocket..._by.html


RJB26, please refer to freethinking's quote "Garbage in, Garbage out."
And marjon's quote "With no independent peer review, they could make anything up, and did."


Read The Wegman Roport: "http://74.125.153...a"
"we found that at least 43 authors have direct ties to Dr. Mann by virtue of
coauthored papers with him. Our findings from this analysis suggest that authors in the
area of paleoclimate studies are closely connected and thus ‘independent studies’ may not
be as independent as they might appear on the surface."