Tag Archives: Gary Yohe

A Funny Thing did not happen in the Cambrian and Late Ordovician Periods

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Climate Change scientists warn us to act right now to limit our CO2, or our climate will tip over irreversibly, and there will be a disaster for marine life.

The climate tip-over is foretold in a study reported by “Scientific American” on 12 January 2010.  It finds that “even if the world’s governments manage to cut global emissions in half by 2050 and then do everything possible to limit emissions from 2050 on, society has only even odds of limiting global temperature increases to 2º, a goal noted in the recent Copenhagen Accord“.

The article says that “The science is not clear what level poses a threat, but some research suggests concentrations must remain at or below 450 parts-per-million to prevent drastic climate change.”  And it says that “emissions today are on the path to 550 ppm and beyond”.  The last quote in the article is from Gary Yohe, an economist at Wesleyan University (an economist – what’s he doing here in “Scientific American”?)  He says that “Tip an ecosystem or planetary process – such as the atmosphere – too far in one direction, and it may suddenly and irreversibly “flip” into an altered state that precludes any notion of going back to the unaltered version”.

The marine disaster is foretold in a report published by the EU-funded European Project on Ocean Acidification.   The report says that levels of aragonite, the type of calcium carbonate which is essential for marine organisms to make their skeletons and shells, will fall by 60% to 80% by 2095 across the northern hemisphere.  Dr John Baxter, a senior scientist with Scottish Natural Heritage, and the report’s co-author, says “The bottom line is the only way to slow this down or reverse it is aggressive and immediate cuts in CO2.  This is a very dangerous global experiment we’re undertaking here.”

Now, let’s put what they are saying into perspective:

Consider the geological history of Earth from the Cambrian period that began 600 million years ago.  In the latter part of the Cambrian period, about 530 million years ago, the proportion of atmospheric CO2 was nearly 7000 parts per million.  In the Late Ordovician period, about 430 million years ago, CO2 was at 4400 parts per million.

Today we are in the beginning of the Quaternary Period.  In all of the past 600 million years, CO2 levels have been less than 400 parts per million in only the Carboniferous period and the present.  For about 70 percent of the whole 600 million years, the proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere has been above 1000 parts per million.  1000 ppm – that’s well above the 550 million ppm they are rabbiting on about, up to peak of nearly 7000 ppm!  For 420 million years out of the last 600 million.

And guess what.  A funny thing didn’t happen in all of those 420 million years.  The sky did not fall.  That is, the ecosystem did not flip over to an irreversible state.  The Greenhouse Effect did not run away.  And, in the waters beneath an atmosphere containing 7000 ppm of CO2, the marine acidity did not kill the marine animals and plants that teemed in the Cambrian oceans.

Update July 2012:

The study reported here in WUWT may explain why the seas under a high-CO2 atmosphere support  life very well indeed.

P.S:

It’s a wonder the two “studies” didn’t say outright “Be afraid…  Be very afraid”.  They don’t use the words “Runaway Greenhouse Effect”, and they avoid any specifically testable conclusions,  but they want us to be afraid, all right.  Penn & Teller would love them.

In accord with good literary manners, I have enclosed the name of the scientific publication in quotes – viz: “Scientific American”.  I have no hesitation in also enclosing my final comment on the reported studies in quotes: “Yeah Right!”

References:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/dec/10/ocean-acidification-epoca

The “Guardian” article “Ocean Acidification Rates pose Disaster”, reported on the Copenhagen Summit.

http://www.geocraft.com/WVFossils/Carboniferous_climate.html.  They quote:

Temperature after C.R. Scotese http://www.scotese.com/climate.htm
CO2 after R.A. Berner, 2001 (GEOCARB III)

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=climate-policy-analysis-goals-long-mid-term.

The study they quote was published by scientists from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria, and the Energy Research Center in the Netherlands, under the auspices of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.