Following up our discussion of Global Climate Change, I wrote to friend of mine, atmospheric scientist James Kasting, who was the fellow who proved that Mars could have struck a high-CO2 Gaia balance, if it had been larger... the real expert on a star's Continuously Habitable Zone (CHZ). Jim offered me the following --
Nice to hear from you! I only work a little on global warming these days, although I do teach about it in my introductory Earth science class. So, I can answer some of your questions, but I'm not a real authority. I've cc'd my colleague Ken Davis over in Meteorology on this reply. Ken works on the modern carbon cycle and can correct any mistakes that I may make.
With regard to your question about missing CO2 sinks, I think that the consensus view now is that it is going into the terrestrial biosphere, i.e., plants and soils. Some of this CO2 could "come back" at us in a few decades as the climate warms and as decomposition of soil carbon speeds up. In the short term, though, the terrestrial biosphere is expected to take up more carbon as a consequence of CO2 fertilization of plant growth. So, there are competing effects. Ken would know more than I do about the state of this argument.
The most credible scientific statements about global warming are those published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Their website is:http://www.ipcc.ch/ . The most recent full report is dated 2001. There is another one in progress at the moment. The last report is quite clear in making the point that anthropogenic global warming is for real. And I expect that the forthcoming report will make even stronger statements on this matter.
A good debunking of Michael Crichton's State of Fear book is given in: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/michael-crichtons-state-of-confusion/
At least I think this is the website that my colleague Richard Alley referred me to some time ago. I was going to read State of Fear myself, but Richard assured me that it has been thoroughly debunked on the Web.
And now further followup from Penn State atmospheres expert Ken Davis:
“ I would add that about half of the current 'sink' of CO2 is probably the ocean, and half the terrestrial biosphere. The ocean is likely to remain a fairly steady sink on the 100 year time scale, while the terrestrial biosphere, as Jim said, may remain a sink or become a net source depending on how ecosystems respond to climatic change, and also depending on how people alter the landscape. A primary focus of my research these days is on the current biospheric sink, and its likely evolution in the next century.
“There are a series of US government sponsored reports
being drafted now that should provide a good overview of various issues. For example, I'm helping to write one on the state of the carbon cycle, that addresses the question you asked about CO2 sinks. But the IPCC is great.”
I proceeded to ask Ken a few quick questions.
1. Where do you come down on sea-fertilization to spur
both fisheries and carbon sequestration?
Very questionable, as best I know. You certainly can stimulate biological activity, but whether or not it is a net sink is very uncertain. I am not an expert.
2. Are you concerned about the clathrate hydrate deposits sitting at the bottom of some sea beads, possibly being released into the atmosphere?
Again, I'm not expert, but I believe there are certainly such deposits. I think that long ago (50-60 million years?) there were possibly large releases. I heard some good discussion at the ICDC7 meeting in Boulder last September, but haven't read the papers. www.icdc7.com, I think. Proceedings online. Some fantastic overview talks at the beginning.
3. I thought that climate change experts were concerned about the sea's ability to continue absorbing CO2 at high rates.
Not as far as I know. Lots of water, 1000-year turnover time. It is the gorilla long-term for carbon storage/release. More concern about it acidifying so much that the micro-flora/fauna may be faced with large-scale changes in where they can/can't survive. More alarming than climatic change in some ways. Again, very good overview of some high-profile pubs were given at the ICDC7 conference.
Real science can be far more fascinating than polemic. But dig it, folks. These guys know their stuff. They know FAR more than you and me. There are mostly NOT polemically driven. And they are very, very concerned.
And there is no excuse whatsoever for cutting energy/atmospheres research in half, when we should be tripling it EVEN IF HUMAN-GENERATED CLIMATE CHANGE WEREN’T REAL, AFTER ALL.
There isn’t even a good kleptocratic reason to be doing this. Either the perps are cosmically stupid... (plausible)... or else they are dominated by people who already live in a desert and see any global change as likely to bring more rain to THEM. Also very plausible.