Greenhouse gases at record high – Oceans and Forests can’t take much more

By December 12, 2012Ocean News

Climate change is a term of which almost everyone is aware. Few years ago, this was not less than a prophecy of doom, but now it’s difficult to find a scientist who doesn’t believe it. It is real! And, as a intelligent species, we should do something to stop it…but we are not because we are not listening to the science.

The main cause of climate change is greenhouse gases such as methane, which are heat-trapping gases. These gases do not let heat out of the atmosphere. The technical name for this is radioactive forcing and we can go into the technical details because they are not very exciting and we have a bigger message to convey.

The greenhouse gase that is most known is Carbon Dioxide (CO2), which has been historically present for millions of years, but the industrial revolution really accelerated the amount of carbon dioxide in the air and it hasn’t stopped growing. This is because of the excessive use of fossil fuels, as the carbon dioxide is one of the products of their combustion.

Last year, carbon dioxide reached the postindustrial record, so we’re not only not stopping the emissions, but we’re increasing them. It is happening the same with nitrous dioxide and methane, but in a lower proportion. The rate of greenhouse gases has increased by 30% from 1990 to 2011 and about 80% of those gases consisted of carbon dioxide.

The problem with CO2 is that many business people and politicians (I mean those that govern countries won’t take it seriously) because this is a natural gas that you find in our environment. Six years ago, a man from a fuel company told me (and this is real) that CO2 can’t be bad for our environment because we produce it, plants absorb it and clean it, and it has always been like that and there was no problem with it. His company was very proud because they were using a “clean” source of energy. That was a thermal power station, and they weren’t counting CO2 as toxic. These are the misconceptions that needs to be solved really quickly, the educational ones, because our time is running out and be have to act now!

I don’t intend to tell that we all are going to die tomorrow, but our oceans and forest, our carbon absorbents, can only absorb so much carbon dioxide. We are emitting more gases than the Earth can handle, so the Oceans and Forests are absorbing as much as possible. This is translated in an acidification of the forests (also seriously damaged by acid rain) and oceans. Acidification is a real problem because it will affect the underwater food chain and it will kill the species that can’t survive to this changes. Acidification affects the development of some animals, like invertebrates. You can see the relations between seawater pH, seawater CO2 and atmospheric CO2 in Hawaii through the years in the image below.

In addition to the acidification problem, there is rising ocean temperatures. Increased ocean temperatures are known to cause an increase in severe storm frequency (like hurricanes) and melting of the polar ice caps (which cause higher sea levels). Within this century, there could be a temperature increase of 4ºC. You can also find on the internet some list with global warming effects, some of them really surprising.

It’s difficult to imagine that after all the data that we have, there is still people that really think climate change is a lie?

What do you think it will take to get people to “believe” in climate change?

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