Home » Global Warming, Off Topic » Atmospheric CO2 Increase Varies by 100% Year to Year

Atmospheric CO2 Increase Varies by 100% Year to Year

I was reading the 2007 IPCC report’s 2007 Physical Science Basis and it came as a surprise how much variance there is from year to year in how atmospheric CO2 increases. CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels remains relatively constant but the amount of that CO2 that actually stays in the atmosphere varies by over 100% from one year to the next. The mechanisms behind this variance are only partially understood. One thing we do know however is that old growth forest locks up huge amounts of CO2 in wood. Plant and animal use of CO2 is one of the mechanisms behind the variance. It seems like it might be much more economically viable and beneficially desirable to pursue reforestation instead of reducing CO2 emissions. A long-lived tree will lock up CO2 in wood for 50 to 100 years or more while it’s alive. If it’s harvested for lumber to build homes and other wooden structures that will keep the CO2 locked up in wood for another 50 – 100 years or more. By the time the wooden structures release the stored CO2 from rotting or burning we’ll have used up all the fossil fuel reserves and won’t have excess CO2 to dispose of anymore.

When the United States agreed in principle to Kyoto “carbon credits” were given for reforestation. The United States does a lot of reforestation and thus didn’t have to reduce carbon emissions very much because it got so much credit for reforestation. When it came time to ratify the treaty the carbon credits offered for reforestation were vastly reduced. The other parties involved in writing Kyoto reneged on their earlier agreement. That’s the primary reason the U.S. didn’t ratify it. This is more evidence of that Global Warming is driven by an agenda which is punish the United States economically by making it agree to reduce carbon emissions. If they were only concerned about CO2 buildup in the atmosphere they’d agree to let us plant enough trees to make up for our emissions (which we largely do already). This is far less costly than curbing fossil fuel burning. The problem in the eyes of much of the rest of the world is the United States holds too much economic and military power and they want that reduced. Getting us to encumber our economic growth through CO2 emission reduction is one way of putting the brakes on growing economic and military power.

Figure 3.3

Figure TS.3. Annual changes in global mean CO2 concentration (grey bars) and their five‑-year means from two different measurement networks (red and lower black stepped lines). The five-year means smooth out short-term perturbations associated with strong ENSO events in 1972, 1982, 1987 and 1997. Uncertainties in the five-year means are indicated by the difference between the red and lower black lines and are of order 0.15 ppm. The upper stepped line shows the annual increases that would occur if all fossil fuel emissions stayed in the atmosphere and there were no other emissions. {Figure 7.4}

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4 Responses to Atmospheric CO2 Increase Varies by 100% Year to Year

  1. Dave Scot is partially correct.

    C02 does fluctuate, but the main mechanism is known and is the absorption of C02 by the Northern Hemisphere’s vegetation and the fact that this absorbtion is often not even and so there can be a lag time where Co2 lingers even in the warmer summer months. More continental mass is located above the equator than below (or in temperate regions) where deciduous vegetation moves in life cycles as compared to below the equator, for which most vegetation is locked in a relatively stable state (no leaf fall, or very little, except for deforestation problems). One paper suggests that ocean absorption of C02 aids in this but then often “burps back” much of it later on. Thus there is not always a YEARLY seasonal correlation but “flat tops” to the chart.

    However, as much as I’d like to shut Al Gore up and end his new found career, I must say that upon snooping around it seems the myth that Antarctica is “gaining ice” and “getting colder” can now be traced by to comments taken out of context by Michael Crichton and columnist rantwave Ann Coulter, whom I like personally but she often gets her facts dissed and needs to stick to political commentary and raw humor. This stray comment was by one researcher who later screamed foul when he found that the corresponding caveat was that this was a temporary 2002 weather event, not a CLIMATE event.

    It seems that one of the problems here is that “weather” is getting confused with “climate”, and in doing to the skeptics are missing the larger picture of what is happening at the poles. BTW–The authors also conclude that reaction to Kyoto is way overheated and overwrought, and skeptics miss the amelioration contained in the report as well as the timetables. Hmmm. We’ll see.

    NASA astrobiology researcher and paleontologist Peter Ward also warns that another problem is that Arctic and Antarctic waters cannot absorb much more C02. Shelled creatures in these regions are getting material etched off their backs due to the very acidity. That mechanism will soon fail, and he theorizes that global warming “builds momentum” in such leaps like a sand pile that can only handle so much before if droops down due to weight. THAT is the reason you have signs in the past that massive CO2 buildup FOLLOWED rises in global temps. This does not mean, however, that CO2 is was not a major factor in global warming. Or can’t be now. Mass Extinctions in the distant past, he says, where probably due mostly to such buildups.

    Another issue here of concern, he says: We keep hearing about all the wondrous plant growth hand crop yields to be had from increased Co2. Even if that were the case, which it is not (belied by a peer reviewed study that tackled this claim), he adds the caveat that merely the ONE FOOT increase in sea levels will FLOOD many delta regions where rich crops are grown and CONTAMINATE millions of square miles of nourishing delta sand (see Nile River) that civilizations near low lying areas depend on for food. Whoopsy daisy!

    That said, reforestation is certainly helpful, as the chart shows. Any fluctuation that noticeable would certainly show a reduction if vegetation of the young growing variety could be planted. And fortunately young growth absorbs more C02 than old growth. So no worries, as D.S. mentioned, in the harvesting of older trees so long as the product c02 is locked up in timber products and not burned outright. Just keep the termites off. They will turn those gases back out.

  2. swt

    You’re wrong on a number of counts. Ocean currents effect atmospheric CO2, deep and surface water mixing effects it, and non-anthropogenic sources of CO2 also effect it. I believe these are all described in the report. I sincerely doubt average plant growth around the world varies by 100% or more from year to year. That’s not a credible claim to assign it all to variable plant productivity. Antarctica IS getting colder. Check the global temperature charts in the IPCC link I gave above. It’s on page 37 of the Technical Summary. A one foot rise in sea level isn’t going to do jack diddly. Storm surges are variable and get tens of feet above high tide. No significant crops are on land so close to sea level that one foot is going to make a big difference. It gets inundated with salt water during even tiny storm surges. Lousiana had delta rice fields salted from Katrina. Beside that shallow salt marches support many kinds of fisheries. The use in a tiny percentage of arable land will change, the productivity won’t. Increased CO2 and a bit of warming will have dramatic effects in the great expanses of inland northern latitude arable land. They already have growing seasons so short that many crops won’t grow there. Just a few weeks longer growing season can spell the difference between one and two crop cycles for short season crops or make the land suitable for longer season crops. Warming and CO2 are actually a net good thing. The earth blooms when warmer times are upon it. Food crops don’t grow in snow but they do quite well in sweltering tropic heat. I thought everyone knew at least that much. Morever, the cold and flu season becomes a thing of the past in the higher northern latitudes and less fuel needs to be consumed for indoor heating. Of course there will be some losers but as far as I can tell there will be far more winners. The only good thing about decreased fossil fuel burning is the fossil fuel reserves will last longer so we have longer to figure out what to do when they run out. If that’s acheived through efficiency gains without utility losses it’s a good thing. We should start by outlawing travel by private jet. That won’t bother 99.99999% of the earth’s inhabitants but it will sure put a crimp in Al Gore’s lifestyle along with all his hypocritical do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do Hollywood cohorts, eh?

  3. Dave:

    I HOPE I (meaning actually the sources I cited) am wrong. I can now have oleanders in the yard and not have to worry about the rest of the planet. But I’m just the messenger on this occasion. My background is political science and philosophy, not climate science, but this all makes an interesting intersection of belief and science (like ID!), so my chief concerns are the socio-political reasons behind the sudden surge in concern over all this and yes (as you point out) why most of the needling is aimed at the developed world, and yes, the hypocrisy. But before I can assign conspiratorial motives fairly and with extreme prejudice I need to hash out if active lying is truly going on. My instincts serve me well but fall flat on this one. That’s it.

    My point, Dave, was that there are other sources out there (not that the IPCC is all roses, even if on Antarctica–parts of it look quite GRIM) that are peer reviewed authors or materials that contraindicate the rosieness of the “carbonized world” thesis.

    Example: You said, in part: Food crops don’t grow in snow but they do quite well in sweltering tropic heat. I thought everyone knew at least that much.

    Cute. Well–IF irrigation needs don’t correspondingly increase (due to increased vaporization) at the same time, which some claim is another offset to the wonders of carbon–then YES.

    I’m quite sure that Dr. Ward is well aware of that even for himself and those of us who’re also part time gardeners. Yeah–well, but see, the problem is that the rise in sea level (which I meant to say per Dr. Ward, was one METER, not one foot) cannot possibly not HAVE NUMEROUS ill effects. One episode with salt water–just one–shuts down a rice field for 3 years.
    “Weesiana” might get salted over once every so often but the Nile is not drenched in salt nor is the Ganges River encrusted by salt or salt water permanantly.

    Yes, warmer weather means less heating and fuel oil usage in the Northern latitudes, but more cooling (which also pulls hard on the power plants) in the summer.
    Ever wonder about the Bible Belt’s true origins? Fear of the Devil more than Bible thumping.

    (We Southerners believe very much in hell, because its that hot sometimes in late August).

    :)

  4. swt

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.g.....balGarden/

    Over the past two decades of rapid warming and CO2 buildup the NPP (net primary productivity or “plant growth”) increased 6% globally. The biggest single gainer was the Amazon rain forest and in general the tropics along with the high northern latitudes. The tropics benefitted from fewer clouds and more sunshine. The north benefitted from a longer growing season. The losers were small and few. There’s a lovely map of the world at the link above colored to reflect this. Amazing that it took a team of 8 scientists poring over satellite data for 18 months to figure out what anyone with a lick of sense already knew – the earth blooms when it’s warm. Facts speak so much better than conjecture based on computer models, don’t you think?

    I’ll mention as an aside that plants use water more efficiently in higher CO2 environments. Isn’t that a happy conincidence? It almost seems like this was all the result of long term plan for the earth to support a growing human population rather than a mere happy coincidence.

    As far as the ocean rising a meter that’s bunkum according to the 2007 IPCC report which predicts a rise between 7 and 24 inches by 2099. With 90 years to adjust to the rise even the high end of the range isn’t going to be a big problem. Ward *should* have said one foot. You inadvertently corrected him it seems.

    Indoor heating in the winter is a necessity. Indoor cooling in the summer is a luxury. Some things are easier to live with than others and there’s just no arguing that warm isn’t better than cold.

    In a rational world we’d be thrilled that the earth is warming up. Increased CO2 levels do little but help if the facts are allowed to speak. If we didn’t have fossil fuel to burn we’d be looking to invent some other way of getting more CO2 into the atmosphere to warm up the earth and make plants grow better. The Global Cooling scare of the 1970′s was something to be honestly alarmed about. Cooling sucks. Unfortunately the world is filled with gullible fools and charlatans willing to lead them off a cliff.

    Any other misconceptions I can set straight for you?

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