atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,
atomic_fungus
atomic_fungus

#1459: Lifetime of a carbon dioxide molecule in the atmosphere?

About a year.

I honestly wish that JunkScience.com would link its stories--but they don't, so let me cut and paste the whole shooting match:
This persistence thing, again... On climate change, there's no going back - ...The problem is that once emitted, a molecule of carbon dioxide can remain in the atmosphere for 100 years or more. So even if we get started now on reducing future carbon emissions, some climate change is inevitable. There's too much carbon dioxide already up there, resulting from 150 years or so of emissions. And, once the oceans warm up as they have already started to do, there is no easy way to cool them down. There is no going back, no feasible way to avoid a certain amount of irreversible change. All policies have to start with where we are now, and move aggressively from here. (Boston Globe)
... is it true? Going by the IPCC's figures the global carbon cycle (annual) is greater than 210 Pg, with a cumulative increment of perhaps 3 Pg. That's ~101.5% or any given molecule has a 98.5% chance of being recycled in it's first year. Looks like an average atmospheric persistence of ~370 days then, eh? That seems a tad short of the 36,525 days suggested above.
In other words, the carbon dioxide molecule from your SUV only stays in the atmosphere for a bit more than a year before some plant grabs it.

So: we need to understand what level of atmospheric CO2 will saturate a plant's metabolism. I'd wager that 385 ppm is nowhere near the limit, and that the actual limit will vary by species, but the essential questions of how much CO2 can the world's plants absorb? and how fast? don't seem to enter into the figuring and finagling.

We need to understand the CO2 saturation and absorbption rate questions because they have an effect on what happens when CO2 concentrations rise.

As things stand right now, we believe we understand that CO2 concentrations are affected by global temperature, but not how or why. Warmer temperatures lead to higher CO2 concentrations, but that seems backwards: warmer temperatures should mean longer growing seasons and more plants taking up CO2.

I guess the real point here is the one I've been making all along: We don't know what is going on or why it's doing what it's doing.

* * *

Oh, and by the way, increased snowfall is consistent with global warming. That's right; record cold and snow doesn't mean that global warming has stopped.

*sigh*

* * *

Interestingly enough, the plane tickets to get me to Maine--according to Priceline.com--won't be in $assrape territory, as I'd feared. I've got to move pretty quickly but I expect to depart Chicago on 2/12 and return 3/5--three weeks--which probably helps a ton.

All I have to do is make the people at work see reason. Hopefully that won't be a problem, either; I mean, it's a death in the family, it's an emergency, and it happened during the slowest part of the retail year.

The more this goes on, the crazier it makes me. I'm realizing now that my lack of emotion over this situation was just shock; now the stress is starting to catch up with me.

So I'm going to be going to Maine rather precipitously, and it's going to be an "adventure". Hooray.

*sigh*
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