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View Diary: Understanding the real danger of CO2 levels to Earth and life. (102 comments)

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  •  What? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ginny in CO, leevank, Calamity Jean

    The CO2 in the biomass is different the fossil fuels.  The CO2 in the biomass is not ancient an accumulated carbon.  Next year, a new crop will breathe it back in and make a new year of matter.

    Fossil fuels are different.  There are centuries worth of carbon piled up, and we are burning it at a far greater rate than the rate that it was made.

    It is fossil fuel problem.  Do you see the difference?

    Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

    by yet another liberal on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:49:30 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Except for deforestation (4+ / 0-)

      If that's what you were saying.  In that case, yes, there will be a net gain of CO2 in the atmosphere and less ability to reabsorbe each year.

      Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

      by yet another liberal on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 03:52:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Not really, once in that atmosphere there (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ginny in CO, Mindful Nature

      is just one pool of CO2, it doesn't matter where it came from . . ..

      the only difference is the abundance of the carbon 14 isotope (used in carbon dating), which is basically absent from ancient samples - but plants and other life can't distinguish that nuance.

      •  Thanks, I was feeling a little fuzzy. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Roadbed Guy

        The chemistry I took, a long time ago, didn't indicate a CO2 molecule from one source was different from another! (Isotopes aside) The fossil fuels produce a much greater amount than other sources - which is the reason they are such a problem.

        CO2 is relatively nonreactive - part of the problem in breaking it down.

        Oh well, not my target audience ;)   Let alone focus in this kind of teaching.  Very important to be able to translate what the docs tell a patient into something they can understand and use...

        "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

        by Ginny in CO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 05:06:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Technically, this is not accurate either: (5+ / 0-)
          The fossil fuels produce a much greater amount than other sources - which is the reason they are such a problem.
          As can be seen by any of many carbon cycle diagrams easily  obtained from Googling, such as this one, only about 3% of CO2 going into the atmosphere each year is from fossil fuels - i.e., it's only a relatively small proportion of the total flux.

          The problem is that this even relatively minor "artificial" increase gets everything out of whack and the excess CO2 slowly accumulates (by slowly, I mean it takes many decades - which is the point we're not at!) because there are no natural carbon sinks capable of removing it from the atmosphere in total.

          The ocean is doing the best it can in this regard, but like you point out in this diary that opens a whole new can of worms - the acidification thing which is ultimately probably more of a problem than warming.

          •  ugh, "we're not at" should be (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ginny in CO

            "we're NOW at"

            d'ohh!!

          •  The acidification thing being more important (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Roadbed Guy, Bisbonian, Calamity Jean

            than warming is definitely my issue. At least needing as much attention, since the combination makes the whole worse.

            Don't remember right now what search I did that the concept I mangled there came from. The basic issue is our increased burning of fossil fuels is producing a significant amount. That, the other important sources of CO2, and the other chemicals that also contribute to acidification, need to be cut back as much as possible, as soon as possible.  

            Because of the lack, or destruction, of natural sinks, and other ways the normal ecosystem is able to balance the acidity are maxed out. The human body has multiple possibilities - and they can also be overwhelmed quickly.

            "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

            by Ginny in CO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:01:37 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Among other things, ocean acidification (3+ / 0-)

              degrades or prevents the ability of hard-shelled organisms to produce their shells.  All the way down to plankton.

              When banjos are outlawed, only outlaws will have banjos.

              by Bisbonian on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:39:47 AM PST

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              •  Thank you, I had found that Really Interesting (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Calamity Jean

                when I ran across it in checking some info - then couldn't remember it.  Too complicated for what I was trying to do with the diary, but a great add on for comments.

                "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

                by Ginny in CO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 12:16:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

            •  Ocean acidification is probably an easier problem (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ginny in CO

              to address than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

              For example, industrial processes produce large amounts of highly alkaline waste - instead of having that strewn across and destroying the terrestial landscape - why not dump it into the ocean?

              And efforts to fertilize the oceans (to convert dissolved CO2 to vegetation, which unlike the CO2 would not be acidic) with limiting nutrients (iron is the prime but still unverified suspect) have already taken place (from Wikipedia):

              Iron fertilization is the intentional introduction of iron to the upper ocean to stimulate a phytoplankton bloom. This is intended to enhance biological productivity, which can benefit the marine food chain and is under investigation with regards to being a successful means of facilitating increased carbon dioxide removal from the atmosphere.
              Such geoengineering experiments are not w/o controversy however.
              •  Not without controversy? I am shocked! (0+ / 0-)

                I apparently never posted the first answer started.

                Ultimately what we have here is even more reason to wonder why the effort that should be further along to find answers, solutions, etc. is still on AVOID.

                If we could get it moving forward, we might at least be able to mitigate some of the problems, suffering, etc.

                "People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed and redeemed; never throw out anyone. " Audrey Hepburn "A Beautiful Woman"

                by Ginny in CO on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 01:57:56 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

          •  Carbon from burned grass (0+ / 0-)

            That is replanted is carbon neutral.  But you already knew that.  And that's what my comment said even if the wording was nit-pickable.

            Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

            by yet another liberal on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:17:21 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  I suppose some deep level number crunching (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Ginny in CO

              needs to be done to verify that allegation.

              However, if the grass in question was NOT harvested and  burned, the carbon would remain sequestered and not in the atmosphere/ocean.   In fact, the US great plains in their primordial state with lots of perennial grasses (that did burn occassionally for sure, but not on a regular basis) sequestered a huge amount of carbon!

              In the case that the grass is grown and harvested regularly for energy, in that case I'd be shocked if the process really was energy and carbon neutral.  Just saying, modern agricultural uses a whole buttload of carbon-producing inputs.  And I'm just talking about fertilizer production - haven't even considered the tractors and other machinery involved . ..  .

              •  That's all true (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Ginny in CO

                But I'm just talking about the plant alone.  If the source of carbon in the plant matter is from the air, and next year's crop will breathe it back in.

                However, now you have me questioning my understanding of that.

                Does the plant take up carbon from the soil?  Or just from the air?

                Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

                by yet another liberal on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:44:12 AM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Plant definitely get carbon from the soil (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Ginny in CO

                  there is a large pool of organic carbon in soil, that provides plants with nutrients, etc.  Of course, this came from plants in the first place, so in a stable ecosytem this is probably a legitimately carbon neutral situation.

                  Here's a relevant snippet from Wikipedia:

                  Soil carbon and soil health

                  Soil carbon improves the physical properties of soil. It increases the cation exchange capacity (CEC) and water-holding capacity of sandy soil and it contributes to the structural stability of clay soils by helping to bind particles into aggregates.[3] Soil organic matter, of which carbon is a major part, holds a great proportion of nutrients, cations and trace elements that are of importance to plant growth. It prevents nutrient leaching and is integral to the organic acids that make minerals available to plants. It also buffers soil from strong changes in pH.[4] It is widely accepted that the carbon content of soil is a major factor in its overall health.

                  [edit] Losses of soil carbon

                  Although exact quantities cannot be documented, human activities have caused massive losses of soil organic carbon.[5] First was the use of fire, which removes soil cover and leads to immediate and continuing losses of soil organic carbon. Tillage and drainage both expose soil organic matter to oxygen and oxidation. In the Netherlands, East Anglia, Florida, and the California delta, subsidence of peat lands from oxidation has been severe as a result of tillage and drainage.

                  Grazing management that exposes soil (either excessive or insufficient recovery periods) can also cause losses of soil organic carbon.

                  Thus, my understanding is that if humans want to use/grow biomass for energy (or for food for that matter) - they disturb and destroy this large soil reservoir of carbon (i.e., release it to the atmosphere).   And compensate through the use of fertilizers (which primarily supply nitrogen and phosphorus, but require carbon to produce - e.g., in the Haber process).
      •  The point was the rates (0+ / 0-)

        If you read the whole comment that is.

        Republicans: Taking the country back ... to the 19th century

        by yet another liberal on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 06:15:11 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  There is just one pool of CO2, but ... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Ginny in CO, Calamity Jean, offgrid

        if it's from renewable biomass (that is in fact being renewed at the same rate it's being burned), then it is constantly being recycled.  It's true that you can't distinguish the individual CO2 molecules, but to the extent that CO2 is being produced from renewable biomass, it's being recirculated.  For example, if ALL CO2 production came from renewable biomass, then atmospheric levels of CO2 wouldn't increase over the long term.

        Bin Laden is dead. GM and Chrysler are alive.

        by leevank on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 09:28:57 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, once in the atmosphere it's one pool of (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW

        CO2, but the source does matter.  If we had an energy supply that was almost entirely wind and solar but used biomass to fill in gaps, AND biomass burned in any one year was no more than the amount of biomass that grew in that year, then biomass burning would have no effect on global warming because carbon in to biomass would balance carbon out and there would be no accumulation in the atmosphere.  In the long run we can't burn more biomass than grows, because we can't "borrow" biomass from the future and burn it before it grows.  The only reason carbon compounds are accumulating in the air is that we are digging up and burning fossil carbon that's been underground for millions of years.  

        I ran across a good analogy several months ago.  Sorry I can't remember where, so I can't give credit, but here it is:  Imagine a little girl with four rich and doting grandparents.  She has hundreds of toys, so her parents have made a rule: Only five toys on the floor of your room at any one time.  All other toys must be in the toybox.  She goes to her room, picks up a toy, plays with it for a while, then tosses it on the floor and leaves.  Q: Is she breaking the five-toy rule?  A: We don't know, where did that toy come from?  If she picked it up off the floor, no.  If she got it out of the toybox. yes.  

        Biomass carbon = toys on floor.  Fossil fuel carbon = toys in toybox.  

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Thu Jan 17, 2013 at 02:58:28 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  There isn't any difference in the infrared (0+ / 0-)

      absorption spectra between carbon dioxide emitted
      by fossil fuel combustion and carbon dioxide emitted from burning down forests -- no difference at all.

      There is no difference at all on the expected atmospheric
      residence time between carbon dioxide that is generated
      by fossil fuels and carbon dioxide generated from combustion of biomass.

      Just because biomass is generate by consuming carbon dioxide does not mean that the carbon dioxide generated by combusting biomass does not contribute to infrared absorption when that carbon dioxide encounters infrared in the atmosphere.

      There is no 'good' carbon dioxide and 'bad' carbon dioxide that is distinguishable on the basis of the source of the carbon dioxide emissions being from biomass rather than fossil fuels combustion.   Making distinctions like that has nothing to do with the science of carbon dioxide molecule interaction with electromagnetic radiation in the infrared spectra as it is emitted by the earth's surface from solar heating, or when received directly from the sun.

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