Greenhouse effect worse than forecast
Thursday 21 May 1998
The new findings show that earlier assumptions, used to build the Kyoto agreement between industrialised nations limiting carbon dioxide and other emissions, were too optimistic.
Instead, the sophisticated new computer models, devised to examine how well non-atmospheric sources could absorb the gases produced by the burning of fossil fuels, indicate that, in time, neither the oceans nor forests will be able to "fix" gases which contribute to the warming of the planet.
The findings, published today in two papers in the science journal Nature, show that earlier hopes - that the sea, in particular, might be able to act as a huge "sink" for atmospheric carbon dioxide - were exaggerated.
Those expectations were built in to the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Commenting on the latest work, David Schimel, of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado, said the differences from the IPCC's baseline estimates "has serious implications for policy designed to stabilise the concentration of trace gases in the atmosphere".
A team at Princeton University in New Jersey found that as the ocean began to absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (becoming more acidic in the process), it would also become more "stratified" - so that there would be less mixing between the top and lower layers.
The topmost layers, which are most exposed to higher atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases, would reach a point where they could not absorb any more gases more quickly. That means the ocean would stop acting as a brake on atmospheric global warming.
In the atmosphere, carbon dioxide acts to absorb radiation from the sun, making the temperature higher. While some global warming is essential to life, too much change too quickly could cause catastrophic "climate change" - which some scientists say has already begun.
Another paper by a team at the University of Sheffield, investigating land-based systems' reaction to higher carbon dioxide levels, discovered that while the gas helps vegetation for a while (because plants use it for photosynthesis), "this response will decline".
- 1 Nigel Farage: Me vs Russell Brand on Question Time – he's got the chest hair but where are his ideas?
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Panic Saturday: 13 million Britons spend £1.2bn – while 13 million others across the country live in poverty unable to afford food
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...
£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...