On the heels of reports earlier this month by Australian climate scientist Tim Flannery that atmospheric concentrations of CO2 has already reached dangerous levels not expected for another decade, it is reported today that a team of international scientists have found that carbon dioxide levels jumped 35% from 2000, much faster than expected and well beyond the worst case scenarios of climate models.
It must be true, because even Fox News has picked up the story.
All kidding aside, it seems that the critics of climate modeling are right, but they are right in the wrong way.
Part of the unexpected jump in carbon is due to “inefficient burning of fossil fuels” as China and India “come online” with a coal-powered consumer economy.
What may be more disturbing (as if what I’ve already said here isn’t disturbing enough) is that, along with increased burning of fossil fuel, the other component is Earth’s lessening ability to act as a carbon sink. That’s right, not only are we overwhelming the atmosphere with carbon and other greenhouse gases, the earth is becoming less able to absorb the ever-increasing amount of greenhouse gas emitted.
Changing wind patterns over the ocean and increasing drought on land helps create a positive feedback loop, much like what is happening to the Arctic sea ice, and diminishing the ability of the planet’s natural systems to cope, increasing the level of carbon in the atmosphere even faster, changing weather patterns even more, further reducing earth’s ability to act as a carbon sink, and on and on, as any positive feedback loop is inclined to do.
The task before us may be even more difficult than we assumed, even a few short months ago.