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February 2, 2006

Carbon Reservoirs

Evidence shows that temperature rise comes first

In the section entitled "Computer Games and Global Warming" in Kicking the Sacred Cow, I mentioned that all the hysteria over carbon dioxide is a bit silly, since around 95% of the 30oC or so warming of Earth's atmosphere above what it would otherwise be at this distance from the Sun is due to water vapor (except in computer simulations, where you can make it what you want). But you can't tax it or blame your favorite villains. CO2 makes up about 0.03% of the atmosphere, compared to anywhere from 0.5 to 4% for water vapor, and water vapor is twice as efficient as a heat absorber. Man-made CO2 contributes something like 2% of the total -- in other words, 2% of 0.03%, which is 0.000006 -- of the 5% warming which was due to CO2 to begin with.

But even if we forget all that, another fact ignored by those who make a business out of scaring the public is that while yes, temperature rises and CO2 increases are "related" as we're constantly being told, the evidence reconstructed from climatic cycles going back thousands of years shows consistently that the temperature rise comes first--as indeed was true for the 20th century, in which practically all the warming happened before 1940. So the CO2 increase can't be causing the warming, can it?

What it suggests is that when some other factor, such as variation in the Sun's output, causes the Earth's temperature to rise, carbon is released from natural reservoirs as a consequence and enters the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. And indeed, Charles Ginenthal discusses just such reservoirs in his journal the Velikovskian, Vol. 3, Nos. 2/3, (1997), "The Extinction of the Mammoth," p.177 ff. These include: (1) the greater ability of various carbonate rocks to form under lower-temperature conditions. (2) Tundra and permafrost regions. (3) Frozen peat, which forms a huge circumpolar belt as far south as the British Isles--Leitrim County, where I live in Ireland, is made of it. It can yield 2 million tons of dried fuel per square mile and is almost 3/4 carbon. (4) Ocean deposits of methyl hydrate. The carbon content of this alone is put at 14,000 times that of the atmosphere according to one estimate.

It doesn't stop there. As seems so often to be the case, we depend ultimately on micro-organisms to prepare the planet for habitation by more advanced forms of life. Even now, they make up over two thirds of the world's biomass. The March 1, 2005 issue of Benny Peiser's newsletter CCNet (see above link to variations in the Sun's output) carried an item describing the discovery in 1988 by the American researcher Sally Chisolm of a single celled oceanic organism which she called prochlorococcus. Every liter of ocean in the first 200 meters of depth contains about 20 million of them. They absorb CO2 and combine the carbon into a form that feeds plankton, which in turn feeds fish and supports marine life in general, in the process absorbing more carbon than all of the world's forests put together. Carbon dioxide is, of course, the major plant food. It seems, then, that the planet is set up such that carbon is absorbed into enormous reservoirs when the climate is cool and unable to support a rich biosphere, and released back into the atmosphere to expand the base of the food chain when conditions improve.

Complex life is replete with such feedback interconnections that make systems and life in general robust and resilient.

More on prochlorococcus in Scientific American, Dec. 2003, "The Cells That Rule the Seas," online at www.sciam.com/article.cfm?articleID=0005BE47-0078 1FA8-807883414B7F0000.

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