back to article Antarctic ice breakup makes ocean absorb more CO2

Some cheerful news on the climate change front today, as US government boffins report that ice breaking off the Antarctic shelves and melting in the sea causes carbon dioxide to be removed from the environment. This powerful, previously unknown "negative feedback" would seem likely to revise forecasts of future global warming …

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  1. SuperTim

    Phew...

    Panic over then.... As you were!

  2. Ru
    Boffin

    LIfe giving oxygen

    There was once a whole biosphere of anaerobes for whom oxygen was a dangerous corrosive metabolic poison... you don't see them about quite so much these days.

  3. Tom 7 Silver badge

    This could be fun

    I'm looking forward to those that claim CO2 does not contribute to global warming leaping on this with self-contradictory glee.

  4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Interesting article (in Deep Sea Research)

    They may be onto an explanation of the unknown carbon sinks in the climate system. The existence of these sinks has been postulated previously, based on discrepancies between CO2 emissions and actual CO2 rise. This could in part fill the gap.

    1. Gerry Doyle 1

      You never really could see them, but -

      ...they haven't gone away you know.

    2. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
      Boffin

      But you can see them

      "There was once a whole biosphere of anaerobes for whom oxygen was a dangerous corrosive metabolic poison... you don't see them about quite so much these days."

      In your gut there are plenty: about 1/3rd of the volume of your faeces consists of anaerobes. This means you are probably carrying around one or two pounds of them.

    3. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      OK ...

      ... CO2 does not cause global warming. Now have your self-contradictory glee.

  5. thedweeb

    Where's my hockey stick?

    Just more evidence that a computer model is only as good as the variables you put into it. Each time someone thinks of another angle the whole picture changes.

  6. Martin

    So you don't believe any of the other climate change stuff...

    ...but, as this supports your agenda, it's clearly entirely correct and should be listened to and taken seriously.

    What a surprise.

    It's very interesting news, nevertheless.

  7. yoinkster

    like it'll change anything

    All that will happen, as with all anti-CC reports, is that it'll get ignored and we'll continue to get taxed to death.

    Nothing stops a well oiled, fast moving gravy train, especially not irrelevancies like "facts".

  8. Turtle

    Care to make a li'l wager...?

    "This powerful, previously unknown "negative feedback" would seem likely to revise forecasts of future global warming significantly downwards."

    Since no other studies, evidence, or theories disconfirming the Global Warming Hoax have had any impact on the believers, why would *this* be any different, eh?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Stop whining, you baby

      Stop being such a whiny little martyr

    2. Chris Miller

      Computer models - it's worse than that

      If you allow me four free parameters I can build a mathematical model that describes exactly everything that an elephant can do. If you allow me a fifth free parameter, the model I build will forecast that the elephant will fly. - John von Neumann (December 28, 1903 – February 8, 1957)

    3. longbeast
      WTF?

      re: Turtle

      How have you managed to see an article which essentially says "new data added to climate change theories, global warming to be slightly slower than predicted" and on reading it, to turn that in your head into "global warming is bollocks"?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Computer Models

        Actually if you look at the development of computer modeils ove the last forty years then despite increasing complaexity and various additional factors, positive and negative feedbacks, etc. the overall sensitivity range hasn't changed that much.

    4. Sir Runcible Spoon Silver badge
      Joke

      Sir

      What suprises me the most is that the planet bothers to perform these little feedback systems, it's almost as if it were designed that way..spooky.

      1. PT

        Designed that way?

        Like so many other things in the universe, the fact that we are here to observe it is a consequence of it being that way naturally. If it were not, Earth would have been barren of life a billion years ago, or maybe life would never have developed.

    5. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      "All the other climate change stuff"

      Well given the number of PRESUMPTIONS that have been made with models and particularly the hockey-stick model, and that are then shown to be FALSE...

      I mean how much confidence can you have when every time they swear blind that their model is correct, but then another thing is found to contradict it.

      The only honest things to say are:

      - yes the climate is changing (the whole world is no longer completely covered with ice).

      - No, we really don't know very much about how all the variables of climate control interact.

      - It seems that in the past there were periods with much more CO2 than now, but not higher temperatures, and periods with lower CO2 but higher temperatures...

      1. strum Silver badge

        Stop parroting the misinformation

        >Well given the number of PRESUMPTIONS that have been made with models and particularly the hockey-stick model, and that are then shown to be FALSE...

        Except that the 'hockey stick' model is still as valid today as it ever was.

        1. Voidseeker

          valid?

          > "Except that the 'hockey stick' model is still as valid today as it ever was."

          Which is "not at all".

    6. PixelPusher220

      facts

      like the the 'increase' in 300k sq km in the antarctic? Sounds like anti-CC except that the arctic lost 4 times that much. AND the arctic ice is generally thicker than the antarctic ice, so add another 15-20% more loss in the arctic than was gained in the antarctic.

      Facts do shut down arguments, like anti-CC bullpuckey. Something the article doesn't mention is that by having more ice bergs breaking off, more water is exposed thus causing more of the suns heat to be absorbed by ocean.

      This is whats known as a feedback loop. Even if the increased calving of icebergs results from higher temps and some of the excess CO2 is gobbled back up, it's already warmed up and more sea area is now contributing more heat to the environment. You stop the original small tip, but now that the big weight is rolling it's not going to stop even if you remove the original source.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    Intriguing. Lets see how fast this gets incorporated into the next GCM

    Note that another effect of this would be the *partial* disruption of any currents driven by salt concentration (as their concentration gradient is disrupted)

    Cautious thumbs up but you have to wonder *why* it's taken this long to start collecting this sort of information.

    A lump of impure (but clean) water several Kms in size gradually melts in the ocean and no one thought it *might* be a good idea to measure what effect it has before now?

  10. Nigel Brown

    Quick everybody

    Line up with your requests for further funding into this negative feedback situation, we can milk this until the end of our research careers.

    Large ones all round.

  11. Uk_Gadget

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    Told you so!

  12. Adam Nealis

    Presumably the increased CO2 absorption is not offset by increase in oceanic pH?

    It would be a nice change to get some good news about a feedback potentially alleviating climate change.

    http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_summ.jsp?cntn_id=119058&org=NSF&from=news

    "After ten days, the scientists observed increased concentrations of chlorophyll a and reduced concentrations of carbon dioxide, as compared to nearby areas without icebergs. These results are consistent with the growth of phytoplankton and the removal of carbon dioxide from the ocean."

    That seems to be a PR piece from NSF. I don't subscribe to Nature, etc. Would be nice if someone posts a scientist's evaluation of the paper that is not behind a paywall.

  13. amanfromearth
    Thumb Down

    Pinch of salt?

    Much as I love anything which is anti -GW, I fear that I have to discount this story, because of the messenger. Mr Page has damaged his credibility by his ridiculous reporting of Fukushima.

    I'll wait for a more objective reporter to come along.

  14. It wasnt me
    Thumb Down

    Err.......

    Say I have a cup of sugary water. Then I add a load more water. The result is less sugary. But there is still the same abount of sugar there. You can measure all of that in this simple closed system. But how the hell do you measure that in the oceans?

    Maybe the article didnt explain everything, but to me it would seem that there are many possible explanations to their findings, yet, on first sight they appear to have been interpreted according to an agenda.

    Disclaimer - I have no position on anthropogenic climate change - I am still waiting for some real science on the matter.

  15. Tim Parker

    Ice extent figures

    "The past three decades have seen the south-polar ice sheets grow by 300,000 square kilometres overall."

    Indeed, and snow thickness has also increased on average in the Antarctic 1979-2008, but it is also useful to read the figures, and the context of them, in that report. An extract from the "Variations in Extent" and "Summary of differences between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice characteristics" sections from that report summary are below. The report is worth reading in it's entirety IMO, and is not long, although it may paint a somewhat less polarized view than seems to be hinted at in the Reg article (there's a surprise...)

    ----%<----

    "Variations in Extent"

    Both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice extent are characterized by fairly large variations from year to year. The monthly average extent can vary by as much as 1 million square kilometers (386,102 square miles) from the year-to-year monthly average. The area covered by Antarctic sea ice has shown a small (not statistically significant) increasing trend.

    According to scientific measurements, both the thickness and extent of summer sea ice in the Arctic have shown a dramatic decline over the past thirty years. This is consisistent with observations of a warming Arctic. This trend is a major sign of climate change in the polar regions and may be an indicator of the effects of global warming.

    ----%<----

    "Summary of differences between Arctic and Antarctic sea ice characteristics"

    Trend, 1979-2008

    Arctic

    Significant decrease of 4.1% (~500,000 km2; 193,000 mi2) per decade

    Antarctic

    Small increase of 0.9% (~100,000 km2; 42,000 mi2) per decade

  16. Lee Dowling Silver badge

    Balance

    It gets me that people think the Earth is fundamentally incapable of looking after itself, like some kind of elderly relative.

    The fact is that if such balances and controls weren't already in place, we wouldn't be here and the place would be a rock anyway. CO2 has risen and fallen for millions of years and where there's an opportunity for a CO2-thriving mechanism to take advantage, it will do, and will evolve to do so more, until CO2 comes back into line and then *other* mechanisms take over to restore balance the other way. The whole ecosystem is a balancing act and, most importantly, autonomous. Where there's too much CO2, various elements of the biosphere thrive on it and, by bringing about their own starvation of it, restore things to a more "normal" level. Similarly for the complete opposite.

    Now, I have no doubt that human activity has an effect, but mostly this effect will only serve to trigger some compensatory mechanism that has kicked in millions of times before in order to restore order. That might mean making the planet (or parts of it) uninhabitable to us, but that's *our* fault. In the end, though, the Earth knows how to look after itself and it's been here a million times before.

    When we talk about environmental issues, we never seem to worry about bringing on our own death, and that's really the only threat here... other species have been evolving and/or dying off for millennia and there's virtually nothing we can do about it.

    I would be absolutely shocked if, in 50 years time, we discovered that our models of today were anywhere near accurate and modelled reality. I would not be at all surprised by things like this discovery occurring over and over and over again before that.

    It doesn't mean we should be throwing our garbage around as easily as we do, but was anybody really *shocked* that there's a self-correcting natural mechanism that compensates for something, which we'd never taken account of?

  17. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    The dumbest thing I've read in a long line of very dumb things

    I assume the subtext to this moronic post is (as usual) that we don't have to worry about global warming: we just carry on using our despot supplied, increasingly expensive and limited oil. "LET'S DO NOTHING!!" How much does the Reg get paid for this BS? I mean seriously.

    The trouble is that, regardless of the science, you completely tie yourself in logical knots and fallacies exposing your wilful ignorance, hypocrisy and, by extension, a level of intelligence on a par with the phytoplankton you seem to think are going to save us all.

    Let me see: global warming (which melts the ice) is going to stop global warming? The reason that this "negative feedback" is previously unknown is that it doesn't exist. If it did then we wouldn't have any global warming. I look forward to *lots* of posts saying that THERE IS NO GLOBAL WARMING but then this runs into further logical problems since if there was no global warming then the melting ice which you say is going to save us would not be melting. Indeed, if the world were not warming and this were not being caused by CO2 emissions then what is the threat that you now say we are being protected against by your intellectual companions the phytoplankton?

    For *real* (and much more interesting) feedback mechanisms that result when the ice melts you should look at what's going to happen when the billions of tons of methane (a greenhouse gas 20X more powerful than CO2) buried in the ice sheet are released: http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2010/03/04/globe-warning-methane-is-gushing-from-a-russian-ice-shelf/ I think that's *probably* going to have a larger effect than the phytoplankton.

  18. A 28
    Boffin

    Seriously

    Let's just put the whole article in plain English:

    -CO2 is continuing to be put in to the atmosphere at an exponential rate

    -A possible negative feedback mechanism has been found

    -The mechanism takes a finite resource (Ice) to make this happen

    -When that finite resource runs out we loose the negative feedback mechanism

    -CO2 continues to rise.

    I don't see how this gets us away from a fairly obvious problem:

    No mater how many buckets you have to store the filth, the problem still exists, and at the end you have no more empty buckets and just as much filth pouring out of the spout.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Headmaster

      Umm, no.

      Understanding dynamic equilibrium fail. Back to school young/old man/woman.

      1. A 28
        Boffin

        Umm, yes

        "On the infrequent occasions when I have been called upon in a formal place to play the bongo drums, the introducer never seems to find it necessary to mention that I also do theoretical physics."

        Richard Feynman

        So then let's bring a completely unnecessary piece of maths to it all and very slowly go through what I said:

        "CO2 is continuing to be put in to the atmosphere at an exponential rate":

        This is not in doubt, we have measured this:

        We know the amount of hydrocarbons we extract, we have measured it. Lets say that the amount of hydro carbons we extract is X. We then try a simple model that assumes we burn all the hydro carbons and get some amount of CO2, lets call this Y or (Y(X) if you want to be a complete pedant). We then have measured the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, lets say this the number Z. We find that the rise in Z over the years quite nicely correlates with a simple model of burning all of X and getting Y(X) CO2.

        From the beginning of exploitation of coal (1800 onwards) there has been an exponential increase in X. There has been an exponential increase in Z in that time.

        “A possible negative feedback mechanism has been found”

        That is to say that for some amount of stuff (Ice), we remove some amount of carbon. This consumes the stuff, we have no stuff left once it has done its removing of carbon. So for some amount of stuff, m, we remove some amount of carbon C(m).

        A very basic model for the amount of carbon is:

        TotalCarbon(t) = Z(t)-C(m)

        Z(t) grows exponentially so we don't need to do anything more advanced to draw our conclusions. We know that C(m) needs to increase exponentially or TotalCarbon(t) will continue to increase. C is dependant only on m so one of the following must apply: m(t) increases exponentially and C(m) is a monotonic increasing function OR C(m) increases exponentially and m(t) is an increasing monotonic function.

        Back to measuring – we know m(t) is not increasing exponentially, it might be bobbing about some equilibrium point but the measurements do not show an exponential increase in m(t). Nor do we see a monotonic increase in m(t). Thus the behaviour of C(m) doesn't matter, its overall behaviour compared to Z(t) is not exponential so TotalCarbon(t) grows exponentially. QED.

        1. Sean Baggaley 1
          Flame

          Er...

          ... last time I looked, fossil fuels were a "finite resource" too. And there's rather less of those than there is water.

          FYI: this is not the "with us or against us" argument some commenters appear to believe. I have no quarrel with the concept of a changing global climate—archeologists and geologists have produce more than enough compelling evidence for that.

          What I do have a problem with is this endless computer model willy-waving. I used to make computer models for entertainment—they're called "computer games"—and I know first-hand how hard these things are to nail down. Unless you have a genuinely rock-solid grasp of *how* the real thing works, your model will inevitably suffer from the most common programming problem of all: Garbage In = Garbage Out.

          It's clear that climatologists are nowhere near understanding exactly what variables and processes are involved. Until they reach the point where the Earth's climate's interactions are wholly understood, their models are inherently untrustworthy. This applies to all sides. Computer models are not, and never will be, proof of *anything*. All they are is illustrations. Pointing to a computer model as evidence for a case is like pointing at the Bayeux Tapestry and claiming it provides cast-iron evidence of exactly what happened in the Battle of Hastings.

          This isn't to say there aren't some good things to come out of the ACC camp. More money has been invested in alternative energy sources. Energy sources we use today are also getting much more efficient. CFC and LED lighting is finally catching on in a big way too.

          But much of the ACC camp's arguments could just as easily be phrased in terms of efficiency drives. Low-power lighting reduces costs. Find me a corporate accountant who won't vote in favour of that!

          One thing we DO know, for a fact, is that fossil fuels are a finite resource. The only debate is how much of it we have, and how easy it is (or isn't) going to be to extract. Oil, coal and natural gas pricing also fluctuates wildly whenever some Western nation goes barging around the Middle East, so corporations are inevitably going to be interested in alternative, more predictable, sources of energy, *regardless* of whether this makes the Earth's climate any better.

          Furthermore, hydrocarbons have far more important uses than as a source of heat for giant kettles and producing explosions for engines. Digging vast quantities of the stuff out of the ground, shipping it around the planet, refining it, only to then set fire to it, is easily one of the most stupid things our species has ever done.

    2. GrumpyJoe
      Grenade

      You are anonymous

      therefore I discount your input - at least tie an account to your posts. And wher ein this article did you see any cheerleading for oil?

      I'm not a full-on believer in AGW - but I do see the point of GW - I've got CFL lightbulbs andturn my thermostats down - TO SAVE MONEY. Just because one does not agree with the whole premise of the political movement behind AGW, doesn't mean I can share some of their goals - a reduced dependence on 'other people's stuff' is preferable.

      Black|Grey|White - Mine's the one in the middle, not your monochromatic view of the world.

    3. Ben M

      RE: The dumbest thing I've read in a long line of very dumb things

      Calmed down yet? I'm guessing by the exclamation marks and the CAPS that you were a little worked up.

      Excluding the methane bit at the end (for we can all throw in our own favoured feedback, as if that were a good enough distraction from the aforementioned rant)...

      In your comment, you set up a straw man, then proceeded to tear it down. Hardly very bright. You assumed that Lewis' point (or sub-text, as you called it) is that there is no global warming. Then you use the NSF study to prove that there is global warming. Ergo Lewis is an idiot.

      That may work in your world, but doesn't stand up to sensible, reasoned, non-exclamation-marked, non-CAPS-ed review.

      I think you'll find the point of the article is this: should global warming be caused by man's emissions of CO2 (a huge assumption which Lewis does not challenge here), then the end result might not be as catastrophic as the IPCC pretends. A new feedback has been found. It is negative. Therefore the net feedback of earth's bisophere needs to be revised towards the negative.

      Your point about methane is not new. It has already been accepted, and taken into account when assessing the net feedback of the climate system.

      Next time: no CAPS, fewer exclamation marks, more thinking.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Alert

      self correcting mechanism

      The self correcting mechanism might be to shed several billion human beings

    5. Mark 65 Silver badge

      @Lee Dowling - minor correction...

      "That might mean making the planet (or parts of it) uninhabitable to us, but that's *our* fault."

      Not proven thus far, should read...

      "That might mean making the planet (or parts of it) uninhabitable to us, but that's *tough shit*."

    6. John Angelico
      FAIL

      Error in assumptions

      You said:

      "CO2 is continuing to be put in to the atmosphere at an exponential rate"

      but I don't think it is at an exponential rate, which would be rising at a faster rate each period (like the acceleration due to gravity, prior to reaching terminal velocity).

      1. Chris Miller
        Unhappy

        I spy with my little eye ...

        at least two people who don't understand the meaning of the word 'exponential'.

        1. A 28
          Boffin

          It's getting silly now so I'll stop

          I understand the term exponential, but you'll notice I didn't include 'me' in the argument. I used the word 'measured' i.e. it has been shown to be so. I encourage you to look it up, the evidence backs up my claim. A doubling in output per unit time. Exponential.

    7. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      FAIL

      @A 28

      "-When that finite resource runs out we loose the negative feedback mechanism"

      That *assumes* that the ice is not re forming.

      Know what happens when you assume?

    8. indulis

      There have also been major planetary wide die-offs

      Over the millions of years, there have been climatic states which have resulted in major die-offs of most of the species on the planet.

      The atmospheric signature of man-made CO2 is there, the predicted changes are happening, the way heat is being held in the atmosphere maps exactly to what is expected if CO2 is the cause, the heat absorption of the atmosphere has increased in a way which shows a CO2 signature, CO2 is seen to rise, none of the other known major climate influencing factors are in effect (e.g. olar variations, orbital changes, massive volcanic activity etc).

      Of course, if we want to push the planet into one of those hostile climate states, lets just keep on doing what we're doing- at the same time ignoring the fact that oil/gas/coal is a finite resource anyway and we'd have to do something in the future to stop burning it up anyway.

      Climate change deniers seem to be protected with Douglas Adam's "SEP" field (somebody else's problem).

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
        Boffin

        But, indulis ...

        ... hostile climate states, since they have happened before, will probably happen again. There is absolutely nothing we or anyone else can do about it. There clearly is a way that the rate of change to hostile climate state can be altered (say, huge lump of rock from space coincides with our orbit, or big volcano gets indigestion), but it is going to happen sooner or later.

        Technology is the way forward - we need to be able to mitigate the effects of these changes, not piss about trying to "reverse" them. Being prepared to deal with *any* change is better than worrying about a specific change. The recent events in Japan have shown the difference - you couldn't reverse the changes (stop the earthquake/tsunami combination, but the effects were very well mitigated due to sensible application of technology). Unless and until better means of electricity generation (the absolute core of the technological revolution) than nuclear/gas/coal come on line to keep our levels of technology at the level that saves lives that would otherwise be lost (and yes, dreadful as the death toll is in Japan, it could have been *much* worse), we should not be turning away from them. Going back to a pre-20th Century life-style is going to help no-one.

        Also, I'm more worried about global cooling, and we are definitely not going thrive without electricity if that happens.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Proof we no so little, and there is much yet to learn then

    It's clear from all these reports that basically, nobody has any real solid idea about climate change at all yet, but we are making progress.

    Meanwhile, we continue with the policy and tree-hugging associated with the viewpoint that out CO2 production is the cause, and that we are able to reverse it simply by reducing our CO2 production, and that that is what we need to do.

    Never mind the earth's climate (and CO2 an temperature levels) has been constantly changing over time and that actually it may have little to do with us.

    Or, our raping of the planet of its ability to absorb CO2 may be of equal if not greater impact that our production of it.

    Or, that actually reducing CO2 now is of little point, akin to trying to empty a swimming pool by pourly less water into it, and the planet will simply adapt - this article being an example of how.

    In fact we have very little idea on how the climate will change, over what period of time, if we can stop or change it or even as to if this is a good or bad thing to happen!

    The only good thing I see, is it is forcing us to look at clean and renewable energy and way of living - since regardless of CO2 and climate change, that is a good thing to be doing.

  20. Owen Carter

    Icebergs != Sea Ice

    The report this article is based on appears to be discussing icebergs; large things break off glaciers, which themselves slowly roll over land (where they pick up nuitrients etc).

    Glaciers form slowly and once they are gone there will be no more icebergs to provide this temporary relief..

    So why the manipulated guff about Sea Ice at the end.. Sea Ice != Icebergs.. It's not relevant unless you are trying to con the gullible that there is an infinite supply of Icebergs.. or trolling.

  21. MountfordD

    Absorbtion of Carbon Tax too?

    Will this also mean a reduction in the highly dubious Carbon Tax that gets added on to everything that has even the most tenuous link to a carbon energy source?

    1. GrumpyJoe

      So the bit

      about icebergs being created elsewhere - you know, from frozen h20 - you missed that yes?

      1. Owen Carter
        Boffin

        Bzzzt...

        Iceberg:

        Formed on land from precipitation as part of a Glacier; collects nutrients while travelling over land for a period of many years; melts in sea and releases nutrients producing small algal bloom and some CO2 capture.

        Sea Ice:

        Formed on the Sea at both poles from a mix of seawater and precipitation; most melts every year, does not collect nutrients from the land, and does not produce this really minor CO2 absorption effect.

        But yeah.. both are made from H2O, hurrah! Glad I had a genius like you around to point that out.

  22. Magnus_Pym

    tainted US science

    Science funded by the pro-smoking lobby over many decades managed not only to hold back corporate damages claims but also to taint the whole US science community. Anything published is always countered by counter claims of industry bias. This piece (together with Japanese nuclear meltdown ravings and the Gulf coast "US Oil good British Oil bad" rhetoric) sound like the outpourings of the powerful US oil lobby.

    Maybe it is maybe it ain't but it's difficult to take at face value.

  23. James Micallef Silver badge
    Flame

    Screw Global Warming, the key is Energy Security

    I don't think any rational being who has looked at the evidence can deny that (a) the earth is warming and (b) it is to some extent caused by human activity. The extent of both (a) and (b) is still not clear in my book, and it's completely irrelevant anyway. Here's why:

    Burning fossil fuels for energy is a REALLY STUPID IDEA that is unsustainable irrespective of whether the CO2 produced is killing the earth or just filling the air with sweet fragrance. It does not matter if we have 50, 100 or 1000 years of reserves, at some point it's going to run out, and it's a good idea to target 100% energy production worldwide (at considerably higher levels than current consumption) from non-carbon sources BEFORE we are even close to running out of oil. (and that's before even considering the amount of wealth and power we are putting in the hands of some very nasty individuals through oil dependancy)

    That means we need massive investment in renewable energy research and deployment, and that in turn means gradually increasing taxes on fossil fuels and using the revenue to subsidise renewables research, and nuclear power NOW to take up the slack while we can get enough power from renewables (the holy grail being fusion of course)

    Remember we didn't inherit the earth from our parents, we have it on loan from our children.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      @James Micallef

      I agreed with you until your last paragraph.

      "Remember we didn't inherit the earth from our parents, we have it on loan from our children."

      I don't have any children and I don't give a shit about yours. The earth isn't theirs, any more than it belongs to me or you or the birds or the trees. We belong to the earth, not the other way round.

      Understand that and you'll have a much better perspective on the nature of the relationship between humans and the planet they evolved on.

      1. James Micallef Silver badge
        Go

        Yeah, actually...

        ... I don't have any children either.... it's just a corny quote I borrowed from somewhere... both lazy and inaccurate of me, so thanks on pulling me up on that.

        I didn't mean to imply any "owning" relationship or the planet "belonging" to any generation of humans. My basic point was - let's not f**k this nice planet up, and of course that courtesy is to be extended to all life on the planet not just future humans.

        As to whether it's us belonging to the earth, I'm not comfortable with the use of "belong" in this context either, although I believe your point here is that in the grand scheme of things, humanity is but a speck, and we want to have the due respect and humility. If that's what you mean, I agree 100%

    2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      @ James Micallef

      You may not take note of this, because by your criteria I am not a rational being (I don't see warming when I look at the evidence, nor do I see any evidence that human activity is more significant than ant activity), but I agree with the thrust of your argument, as long as by "using non-carbon sources" you mean "using more nuclear because it is the only way of producing reliable electricity". Certainly phase out the coal/gas/oil power stations, but replace them with nuclear generators of the new generation (LFTR/pebble bed reactors), which can produce sufficient energy density to actually keep us at the technological level we are extremely lucky to live in, and spread it to the rest of the world.

      Solar/wind/wave is never going to do that, though they might take some of the load off the generators, and allow for some energy independence at the consumer level.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    "...adding key nutrients carried from the land..."

    Rising sea levels should effectively add land (including its key nutrients) to the sea.

    Anyway - 'algae ponds for fuel' will save us. Easy. Super easy, in fact.

    Humans *vastly* underestimate the long term effect of the biological response to climate change, especially the slow but steady response from the two-legged sort of biology.

  25. Banther dodo
    Go

    The important thing

    Is that we keep to the proscribed MMCC agenda, and try to use it to stop the third world developing their economies around fossil fuel consumption the way we did. Go Gore!

  26. damocles
    Flame

    Belief vs Science

    Surely we should be looking for repeatable results gained from rigorously tested experiment designs rather than picking a side and *believing* it's the right one. We should be having rational, well informed discussions rather than these rabid, theological style debates. This is science not religion, belief you are right has no place.

    It's like watching two groups of creationists using holy science(TM) to try to prove their point.

    And for full disclosure:

    Climate change: It's happening

    Ability of humans to cause changes to the climate with of CO2: Unproven (by either faction)

    1. Tim Parker

      xkcd

      http://xkcd.com/164/

    2. James Micallef Silver badge
      Boffin

      Well...

      This "repeatable results gained from rigorously tested experiment designs " is very nice in theory, in practice there seem to be thousands of variables (and we seem to discover more all the time), and pretty much all of those variables are inter-related in a gigantic web. Also, some of these processes cycle through hundreds or thousands of years.

      So yes, I agree that we should bring science to bear on this issue, while accepting that there are very big limits on what we can prove / disprove about ecological systems.

    3. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Happy

      @damocles

      "Ability of humans to cause changes to the climate with of CO2: Unproven (by either faction)"

      Nicely bracketed. I agree with you to a point. I believe we are changing the climate but the "science" as practiced by the CRU has been so poor it's shameful.

      But the lesson of CFC (first production date 1933. Detectable effects on Ozone levels by the mid 70s at the latest) demonstrate that human activity *can* influence something as large as a planets climate.

      Something to keep in mind.

    4. indulis

      There is no body of science which broadly contradicts CO2 caused climate change

      It is actually closer to creationists vs science. With the same tactics being used by climate deniers that are used by creationists/tobacco lobby. Often using the same people that lobbied for the tobacco industry, to deny the science, and to stop changes.

      Seeing a small number of talking heads on TV facing each other off does not indicate the state of science. The scientists working in the climate change field overwhelmingly agree that man-made CO2 is the cause of the majority of what we are seeing in climate change. Those are the facts. There are no facts to the contrary, just hopes.

      Public perception is swayed by spin doctors and publications and broadcasters with a political agenda to push (e.g. this publication, Fox news).

      The IPCC report is a summary of the published science. That's all. So, deny the science all yo like by equating credible scientists- with the weight of research and evidence on their side- with creationist.

      1. Spyware

        The most respected science climatologist does not agree with you!

        Richard S. Lindzen, an atmospheric physicist and Professor of Meteorology at M.I.T. He was the lead author of Chapter 7 of the I.P.C.C’s Third Assessment Report on Climate Change and he recently gave testimony before the House Sub-Committee on Science and Technology regarding the topic of, “A Discussion on Climate Change” …(corrects himself) … “A Rational Discussion on Climate Change”

        "(...)Given that this has become a quasi-religious issue, it is hard to tell. However, my personal hope is that we will return to normative science, and try to understand how the climate actually behaves. Our present approach of dealing with climate as completely specified by a single number, globally averaged surface temperature anomaly, that is forced by another single number, atmospheric CO2levels, for example, clearly limits real understanding; so does the replacement of theory by model simulation. In point of fact, there has been progress along these lines and none of it demonstrates a prominent role for CO2. It has been possible to account for the cycle of ice ages simply with orbital variations (as was thought to be the case before global warming mania); tests of sensitivity independent of the assumption that warming is due to CO2(a circular assumption) show sensitivities lower than models show; the resolution of the early faint sun paradox which could not be resolved by greenhouse gases, is readily resolved by clouds acting as negative feedbacks.(...)"

        Watch: Richard Lindzen, Ph.D. Lecture Deconstructs Global Warming Hysteria (High Quality Version)

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-sHg3ZztDAw

        The Climate Science Isn't Settled - Confident predictions of catastrophe are unwarranted.

        http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703939404574567423917025400.html

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I find your article to be a bit ...

    Confused. Carbon isn't removed from the environment. It's simply cycled through. The biggest problem with ice melt isn't carbon dioxide, it's the ice melt it's self, which rises sea levels and; first sinks places like the U.K. before it plunges it into a deep freeze. The death of the planet isn't going to come from too much carbon, but rather from too little. We have already caused a significant increase in the global temperature. It's now a game of "what is the result". Which we are only beginning to experience. The new ice age is upon us folks. The U.K. will be first.

  28. IR
    WTF?

    Never too much hyperbole

    "This powerful, previously unknown "negative feedback" would seem likely to revise forecasts of future global warming significantly downwards."

    Could you demonstrate how you worked out the "significantly" part? It's nice that you are taking the time to show science done by people that has always previously contradicted your never-changing views on climate change, but leaping to a dramatic conclusion like that makes it appear as if you are biased in some way.

  29. Mike Richards Silver badge

    What's still unknown

    Is how long the phytoplankton lock up the CO2. Once all of the nutrients have been released from the melting ice, the bloom will come to an end and the plankton will die releasing the carbon once again. Likewise if they're eaten, most of that CO2 goes straight back into the atmosphere courtesy of respiration - only a fraction goes into skeletons, muscle and lots and lots of crap.

    Some plankton secrete calcium carbonate exoskeletons which can sink to the ocean floor to form what geologists (with their never-knowingly undersold sense of drama) call 'ooze'; which does remove carbon from the atmosphere and ocean, but many do not.

    On the upside, phytoplankton produce lots of dimethyl sulfide which is linked to cloud formation over oceans and might act to cool the planet.

    Boy, if only this climate malarkey was as simple as a boiling water reactor.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    transient versus persistenc effects of denial

    The carbon-removing effect of dilution iand absorption s transient. The temperature-increasing effect of reduced albedo is persistent. This is obvious on its face, unless you're a global warming denier.

  31. DJ

    Hmmm....

    Almost like someone designed it that way...

  32. Someonehasusedthathandle

    Believers gona believe

    Show me a genuine climate change model that takes into account 5+billion years, shows that humanity is the cause and then perhaps you will sell it. (What you can't?)

    Oh and just to point out - ice caps melt, sea levels rise, more methane, tempatures rise, more evaporation(of the now larger surface area of sea), rains more, CO2 is once more "locked" into sea water while being taken out of the atmosphere, temp falls, ice forms at the caps, sea level falls, less evaporation, tempature rises, ice caps melt...... this only breaks if the oceans boil! (wiki carbon cycle and I won't deny this might not be strictly accurate but it's close)

    Over 3000 years the highest tempature in the North Atlantic was 25C roughly 2500 years ago on the surface (http://www.friendsofscience.org/assets/documents/FOS%20Essay/seasurface.GIF), add in that salt levels should stay roughly equal as the ice caps are frozen seawater. So that's 103C without factoring an increase in salt concentration due to evaporation.

    I know fine well someone will sit and pull this apart and I couldn't care less, it's your time to waste. Hope at least someone will sit there and see sense.

    Now can we ditch short term renewable energy and look at an actual solution, too much to ask?

  33. The Prevaricator
    Alert

    I'm still not really sure why I just read all that

    You need to be careful, Mr Page, not to give the honest law-abiding snake-oil salesmen of this world a bad reputation.

    "Debates" as per the above comments are sound proof as to why science is, and never should be, democratic or even on the side of those who shout loudest.

    I do still prefer that you enable comments to your articles. Provides me with much entertainment, reading all this drivel.

    I'll go back to selective hearing mode now.

  34. Secret geek
    Paris Hilton

    So....

    Are we going to fry, drown or choke? Sorry but I'm still no clearer.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    3:30 kempton Park

    All these predictions of the future with expensive missions and computing centres, can no one just tip me off on a winner next week for the flat race?

  36. neil 15
    FAIL

    Why does Lewis write about Science...

    ...when he is clueless about the subject?

    Two quick questions: what happens when you mix CO2 with water? What happens when you change the thermocline and halocline in the high latitude oceans?

    A hint, you generally do not get win win situations like you describe. Seems to me a common thing with deniers, they can only see simple effects.

    Here is a hint, for an ex Navy officer, please go and study some oceanography, or any basic science and you will not sound such a moron (or learn not to copy and paste so much.)

  37. Spyware

    Clean air.

    I'm not going to argue if the climate models are accurate. But I don't think a Carbon Tax will solve the problem, it's just another revenue stream for governments at our expense.

    On the other hand, I do care about clean air. I have asthma, like so many other city dwellers, and my lungs are sensitive to air pollution. So any measure to reduce CO2 emissions by reducing the amounts of fossil fuels we burn has a direct effect on the quality of the air we breathe... which is a good thing for all of us. I hope electric cars like the Chevy Volt or Nissan Leaf become popular, I'd like to buy one, especially since gas prices keep going up. I dream of the day where I can be stuck in a traffic jam without having to smell toxic fumes and breathe deadly carbon monoxide.

  38. indulis

    Just love the speculations completely unconnected to facts

    "This powerful, previously unknown "negative feedback" would seem likely to revise forecasts of future global warming significantly downwards."

    Wow, the science has been done, The Register has spoken! This observed effect will SIGNIFICANTLY affect future global warming.

    Where is the report that says this? Apart from saying that another complex effect needs to be added to an already complex climate model, there is no evidence of long-term effects, either up or down. The effect may be short lived (a few years), or may only help for 20 years, until we exhaust our supply of fertiliser-carrying iceberg trains because we've melted them all.

    Who knows? The Register doesn't- it just does its usual "all good news on the climate change front!" by making up science, not just reporting it.

  39. Bram

    facts vs. theory

    FACT: CLIMATE IS CHANGING

    FACT: THERE ARE ALOT OF VARIABLES AND UNCERTAINIES

    FACT: HUMANS ARE A VARIABLE BUT CANT BE CONSIDERED AS THE SOLE CAUSE YET

    Its funny how many people are preaching science thoery as fact. The fact that the lingo changed from 'global warming' to 'climate change' seemed to ring so few alarm bells.

    The realtity is if there is a global change to climate there is absolutely nothing we can do to stop it. We would have to find a way to survive in a vastly different world or move to Mars.

    Lets try to understand what IS happening rather than talking about what might happen in a few hundred years time

  40. Bassey

    One question

    If, as has been alledged here and elsewhere, the Antartic ice-sheet is expanding quite rapidly, could this not be a contributor to global warming? The expanding ice-sheet would surely provide less sea for the prytoplankton, reducing their CO2 take-up?

  41. 2cent

    Have you got any more ice, my CO2 is warm

    After a 'healthy' melt down, what next ?

  42. Spyware

    The arctic is notoriously variable

    "The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places seals are finding the water too hot. Reports all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, while at many points, well known glaciers have entirely disappeared."

    --US Weather Bureau, 1922

  43. Ooo-wait-BUT!
    Happy

    respected science climatologist ....

    ROFLM(f)AO ... I think I let a bit of wee out too

    what were those other ones? ah yes... Microsoft Works, Civil Engineer, Airline Food, American English, Business Ethics, Military Intelligence, Friendly Fire, Nuclear Defence, Government Accountability (and Planning, Leadership, Efficiency, Frugality etc), Council Worker, Honest Banker, Great Britain (United Kingdom), Happily Married, Politically Correct...

    The list just goes on and on.

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