A new examination of the distribution of CO2 has found that some areas of the earth experience huge seasonal variation by as much as 16 parts per million (ppm), whilst in other areas, notably at the Antarctic and equator, levels remain relatively stable. The analysis suggests that vast majority of CO2 emissions are captured in boreal forests, which have consequently been enjoying a ‘greening’ over the past few decades.
Writing on the blog of Joanne Nova, the Australian science writer who uncovered the vast amount of money driving the climate change industry in 2009, fellow scientist Tom Quirk explains his findings. Quirk explains that a recent isotopic analysis of atmospheric CO2 shows that only around 10 percent of man-made emissions find their way into the atmosphere. He asks, where, then, is the remainder going?
In order to solve this question he turned to the Scripps Institute of Oceanography’s data on atmospheric CO2. The Institute provides both raw and ‘smoothed’ versions of the data – but only the raw data exposes the seasonal variations experienced by certain regions.
At Barrow Point in Alaska, for example, the levels swung by as much as 16ppm each year, well beyond the 2ppm that humans are contributing to the atmosphere. Moreover, the swings are amplifying as the years progress, causing Quirk to deduce that they are down to the seasonal variations in plant growth (as the plants grow in spring and summer they suck CO2 out of the atmosphere; in the winter the CO2 is left in place, causing the swings observed).
The amplification is down to the fact that, across the northern hemisphere, plants are becoming more abundant (the more plants there are, the more CO2 they can capture). Quirk cites three studies showing increases in vegetation over the last few decades. In Sweden, biomass was recorded as increasing by as much as 19 percent between 1997 and 2010 in birch forests, whilst in Russia, forest biomass increased by 11 percent. A third European report attributed 61 percent of forest growth to an increase in CO2 availability, and only 26 percent to changes in climate.
“These three reports give an annual forest growth of between 0.5 percent and 1.6 percent while the annual growth rates for the seasonal variations [of atmospheric CO2] are between 0.5 percent and 0.9 percent,” Quirk writes.
Even NASA’s own satellite data shows that the planet is steadily greening, by as much as 1.5 percent a year in northern latitudes. Yet in May last year, the world’s media mournfully reported that atmospheric CO2 had just passed the 400ppm mark for the first time in three to five million years, with NASA clamouring to paint the news in a calamitous light.
NASA scientist Dr Michael Gunson said “Passing the 400 mark reminds me that we are on an inexorable march to 450 ppm and much higher levels. These were the targets for ‘stabilization’ suggested not too long ago. The world is quickening the rate of accumulation of CO2, and has shown no signs of slowing this down. It should be a psychological tripwire for everyone.”
His colleague Laura Faye Tenenbaum, an Oceanography professor was more emphatic: “As a college professor who lectures on climate change, I will have to find a way to look into those 70 sets of eyes that have learned all semester long to trust me and somehow explain to those students, my students – who still believe in their young minds that success mostly depends on good grades and hard work, who believe in fairness, evenhandedness and opportunity – how much we as people have altered our environment, and that they will end up facing the consequences of our inability to act.”
Dr William Patzert, a Research Oceanographer, was more political in his outlook: “Scary scorecard: catastrophic climate change 400, humanity zero. Listen to the scientists, vote wisely, beat carbon addiction and put humanity into the game,” he said.
But Nova and Quirk are firm that there is no reason to draw alarming conclusions over rises in atmospheric CO2, as nature is more than capable of not only dealing with the rise, but of capitalising on the extra CO2. Commenting on Quirk’s findings, Nova says “the northern Boreal forests are probably drawing down something like 2 – 5 gigatons of CO2 every year, and because the seasonal amplitude is getting larger each year, it suggests there is no sign of saturation. Those plants are not bored of extra CO2 yet. This fits with Craig Idso’s work on plant growth which demonstrates that the saturation point — where plants grow as fast as possible (and extra CO2 doesn’t help) is somewhere above 1000 and below 2000ppm. We have a long way to go.”