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Thread: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosphere

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    Veteran Member Stoneharbor's Avatar
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    Default So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosphere

    OK, maybe no increased sequestration, but what about emission? Isn't that less?

    You can look at these charts every way from daily to a 2-year span. There's normally a drop in CO2 from May through October. But a rise from October through May. It doesn't look at all like the rise in CO2 during the months before May lessened, nor that May has seen an early retreat of CO2 levels. This in spite of drastic reductions in carbon emissions for a couple of months.

    Why no change? Doesn't Man have some control over atmospheric carbon? This is definitely worthy of our attention. Who out there keeps in touch with the climate-change followers? What are they saying?

    https://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/

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    Veteran Member Mr. Wizard's Avatar
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    Default Re: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosph

    This is an excellent point! As I understand the issue, despite the drastic reductions in global carbon emissions due to COVID-19, the consistent atmospheric levels of CO2 shows just how long it stays in the atmosphere. CO2 continued to build up in the atmosphere, despite the reduction in emissions. Experts report that, on average, there was roughly a 17 percent drop in CO2 emissions globally due to COVID. We would need to see about a 20% drop for the remainder of the year to see any appreciable drop in atmospheric CO2 levels. Perhaps, if we get the projected 2nd wave of COVID this fall, we may finally see a drop in the atmospheric CO2 levels. Read this:
    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/s...limate-change/

    https://www.unenvironment.org/news-a...ovid-19-crisis
    Last edited by Mr. Wizard; 06-01-20 at 02:52 PM.

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    Veteran Member Stoneharbor's Avatar
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    Default Re: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosph

    I'm glad you were able to provide some light on this Mr. Wizard. I was unable to read your first link without subscribing to National Geographic, but I did manage to glean from what I glimpsed of the article that it takes months for a reduction in emissions to show any impact.

    The UN Environment article has some good advice on emissions giving a proper perspective.

    What I realized after posting is that a factor few consider (including the two sources you offered) is the impact of sequestration and man's influence on that factor. Specifically, man continues his destruction of forests, and conversion of natural grasslands to mono-cropped annual growths which leave land barren half the time. This has probably continued unabated during the short period of COVID-19 lock downs, and may possibly account for more atmospheric CO2 accumulation than CO2 emissions from machinery and power generation.

    It's been known for years by agricultural environmentalists that there's more to gain in the battle against atmospheric CO2 by maintaining and increasing the levels of sequestration of carbon by the earth's plants than can be gained by cutting emissions, even if we totally rid our societies of all burning of fossil fuels. We need to restore the healthy level of flora that the Earth had before mechanized forestry and mechanized agriculture. That alone would knock way more CO2 out of the atmosphere than any level of emissions reduction can accomplish.

    I like this take on that:

    "...the emissions-reduction strategy has, to date, been a decisive failure."
    "the most feasible and cost-effective approach to carbon sequestration is in restoring the massive sink in degraded grassland soils. "

    from: http://bio4climate.org/downloads/Geotherapy_chapter.pdf


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    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    Default Re: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosph

    Keep in mind that the residence time of CO2 is 800 years. On that scale, the reduction in emissions probably appears miniscule, although measurable.
    Compare the effect of methane: its impact is over 100x more powerful than CO2, but its residence time is a mere 10-12 years.
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    Veteran Member Stoneharbor's Avatar
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    Default Re: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosph

    Quote Originally Posted by Islander View Post
    Keep in mind that the residence time of CO2 is 800 years. On that scale, the reduction in emissions probably appears miniscule, although measurable.
    Compare the effect of methane: its impact is over 100x more powerful than CO2, but its residence time is a mere 10-12 years.
    I don't know much about methane, except as you say, it has a strong impact, if we are talking about "green house effect" alone. I'd love to see statistics on what the methane levels were when foliage was lush and much more mass was contained in earthly herbivores. The methane in the atmosphere must have been even higher in those days than today.

    I don't know what residence time for CO2 you are referring to though. I thought CO2 was something that moved from ocean to atmosphere to land to animals to plants etc., and was just always moving according to the demands of nature. For instance, in atmosphere, how can CO2 linger in the air and resist draw down if a plant is using it via photosynthesis to create carbohydrates? Therefore, if we doubled the photosynthesis of the entire earth in one month by planting more plants, wouldn't that double the disappearance of CO2 from the atmosphere due to the additional plant demand? So I don't see residence time pertaining to atmospheric CO2. I can see that there is such a phenomenon though in oceans and land masses. But it's CO2 in the air we seem to worry about.

    If I review the option of a 2-year chart of atmospheric CO2, offered in the link in my original post, I see a definite draw down which definitely occurs every year when Earthly warming increases photosynthesis. The drop in CO2 may be from other sources though, like the reduction in power-plant use, and wood burning once Winter has passed. But the CO2 is definitely disappearing seasonally from the atmosphere as far as I can comprehend that chart. I might be misreading it however.

    While we are on it, what residence time were you speaking of for methane? And when it no longer resides, what does it become? How is it consumed or converted?

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    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    Default Re: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosph

    Well, I studied with a climate change expert (lectures, courses, seminars, lots of reading) for 3 years, even housed him for a month at one point, so I've learned a lot... But probably forgotten a lot too, and I'm not sure how well I can translate what I learned.
    Some of the earth's methane is stored in clathrates on the ocean floor. Some is also generated by fossil fuels and by accidental releases. But a large part of it consists of massive amounts of decaying vegetation in the frozen tundra of the Arctic Circle. As climate change warms these regions, you have probably heard of the albedo effect: white snow cover reflects heat, but bare ground absorbs it... so the more melting, the more accelerated the melting and the more gases are released into the atmosphere. Methane is roughly 100x more powerful at retaining heat than CO2, although residence time is much shorter. It oxidizes to produce CO2 and water vapor as it rises into the upper levels of the atmosphere (troposphere? ionisphere?). But since this is an ongoing and gradually increasing phenomenon, it continues to push the level of CO2 higher and higher.

    (Speaking of the Arctic Circle and the thawing of permafrost, here's a breaking news story today, June 4, of a catastrophic Russian oil spill as the result of instability caused by thawing permafrost: https://www.cnn.com/2020/06/03/europ...=1591265708279)

    I'm not sure I can answer your question about the fluctuating levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. You understand that they have been rising since the onset of the industrial revolution and that this effect has been exacerbated by our lavish burning of fossil fuels in the last 50 years (planes, trains, ships, cars and trucks, buses, etc.) Of course there is some coming and going, as CO2 is sequestered in some instances and generated in others, but it does not evaporate or fade away as methane does, and we keep on donating more and more. If we were to to halt all motorized transportation tomorrow... stop burning coal and oil to generate electricity… stop heating our homes with fuel oil or propane… we would still be dealing with 416+ppm for at least 800 years.

    And that is why Near-Term Human Extinction is a thing.
    Last edited by Islander; 06-04-20 at 08:50 PM.
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    Veteran Member Stoneharbor's Avatar
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    Default Re: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosph

    Thanks for all the good information on methane, Islander. I've always been ignorant on it except that it is more powerful at retaining heat by 100 x over CO2. I didn't realize it morphs into CO2 to end it's existence.

    OK, so I get the idea from your words that if there is no net draw down of CO2 from the atmosphere, then is when we could expect it to somehow disappear only after 800 years. That is what I couldn't understand from your earlier post.

    That makes the situation seem bleak. I provided that link to the "Geotherapy" chapter in my 2nd post above though, which makes a very clear argument that pulling all the excess CO2 out of the atmosphere is totally within the capability of a much greener Earth. From that link, it is clear that we could ignore our anthropomorphic CO2 output and the atmospheric CO2 could still be brought down to something like 200 ppm in 50 years if man merely changed how he treats the vegetation on the Earth, essentially increasing it yearly, regardless of what fossil fuels are burned. Whether we believe that this is possible or not, of course, determines whether we apply the technology. But I fully believe that the technology is totally possible to apply and further, that we could more efficiently apply that technology than we could get big business to somehow reduce CO2 emissions. I say, we should follow the advice to increase flora CO2 demand and ignore the advice to decrease CO2 emission. It would only take converting to sustainable agriculture and forestry. The flora would do all the work. Much easier than using polluting factories to make equipment that operates on less, or no fuel, like wind/solar power.

    Even though I presented the argument on an alternative method of reducing CO2 in the air, I'm still not convinced we will ultimately end up with a super-greenhouse atmosphere. What I think may happen over the next few thousand years is that the Earthly wobble etc. that has brought on ice ages in the past is still just beginning the next cooling phase. The impetus is going to be in the direction of cooling of the Earth for the next 80,000 years. How long our CO2 additions to the atmosphere can hold off this cooling, I say, is anybody's guess. We may be wasting our time if we are trying to stop the next ice age. However, we may be able to stop any additional warming of the planet in the near term if we reduce CO2 in the air. Let's give it a shot!

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    Administrator Islander's Avatar
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    Default Re: So far COVID-19 measures haven't sequestered any perceptible CO2 from the atmosph

    QUOTE: ...we should follow the advice to increase flora CO2 demand..." /QUOTE

    Good luck persuading single-minded autocratic dictators like Jair Bolsonaro from destroying the Brazilian rainforest. He's not alone; others are clearing away ancient rainforests in other parts of the globe as well.

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